“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.
You must do the thing that you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt, 1884 – 1962 America’s longest serving First Lady, 1933-1945
The 2nd half of this quote is often repeated, the 1st half hardly ever. The 1st half speaks to me because it speaks bluntly of the need to STOP (really stop) and confront your fears. Eleanor Roosevelt was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s First Lady during the Great Depression and WWII – times of great fear, real fear. Times were brutal: think 25% unemployment and no safety nets like unemployment insurance or food stamps. I love inspirational quotes but I like to remain reasonably realistic (i.e. fully prepared for the challenges ahead). Positive attitude always, pink paint over rust never!
A second truth contained in the 1st half of the quote is that growth is a PROCESS: you GAIN strength through every experience. Every disciplined effort has multiple benefits; each time you walk (stumble?) through the crucible, your ability grows, you are able to build your skills, you are better prepared for the next test.
Fear is strongest in the shadows, a weak bully when confronted in the full light of day. Fears are often simply our dark side’s dysfunctional way of attempting to protect us, the ‘bad’ side of the ego trying to stay in power, to hold onto the past, the “comfort” of the safe (ha!), known territory.
I visualize myself at a campfire with my fears snorting and circling in the surrounding darkness. One by one, I call them into the light; embrace them; thank them for their services (they were just trying to protect me after all) assure them that their help is no longer needed and hand them their gold retirement watch! Sometimes I throw a few more logs onto the fire to make it burn brighter, sometimes I dial up a glorious dawn to banish all shadows. Like all affirmations and visualizations as well as like exercise, strength training and any new skill, the more you do it, the better you get and even the masters need to repeat the process occasionally!
“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” – Joseph Campbell, 1094-1987
“We must travel in the direction of our fear.”– John Allyn Berryman, 1914 – 1972, American poet
“Once men are caught up in an event they cease to be afraid. Only the unknown frightens men.”– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author, Le Petit Prince, 1900 – 31 July 1944, vanished while flying his 9th Allied reconnaissance mission off Italy