The Enemy Within

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No matter how hard you try, there is absolutely no escape from this enemy.

Be real with me.

Do you have any enemies in your life?

Before you answer though, let’s be really clear about something.

I’m not talking about someone who “annoys you” or someone who you don’t like hanging out with.

I’m talking about a real enemy.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s define an enemy as something or someone who actively opposes your interests.

So, now that we have that definition, here’s the question again:

Do you have any enemies in your life?

If you said “no,” I hate to tell you this, but it was a trick question.

Of course you have an enemy.

No matter how nice or positive of a person you are, believe me, you have one. So do I. We all do.

To make matters worse, this is an enemy who is extremely dangerous and wants nothing more than for you to live the most pitiful and pathetic existence imaginable.

We might have run from this enemy in the past, but as of today, we’re done running.

It’s time to gear up for the biggest fight of our lives.

Introducing the Enemy

So, who or what is this enemy?

It’s something that you and I know very well.

Fear.

Yes, fear is a very real enemy, and there’s little doubt that if left unchecked, it will “actively oppose your interests” in every possible way.

Just to be clear, this is not about healthy fears that stop you from jumping out of your 2nd story bedroom window only using a bedsheet as a parachute (not that I’ve…umm…ever tried that). Like I said, those are healthy fears that keep us alive.

This also isn’t about irrational fears like full-blown phobias.

If you’re wondering what the difference is between fear and phobia, hopefully this simple example will help:

If you have a fear of grizzly bears, it’s very possible that you’ll run away screaming if you ever saw one nearby. However, if you have a phobia of grizzly bears, you might have the same reaction if you were at an amusement park and saw a park employee dressed up in a Yogi Bear costume.

If it’s cool with you, I’m going to leave the phobia stuff for the medical professionals.

What I do want to talk about are our everyday fears that can be reasoned with and dealt with.

And dealing with those everyday fears is an absolute must.

Make no mistake about it, the overall quality of our lives will be determined in large part by our willingness (or unwillingness) to deal with the discomfort of fear.

These are the fears that keep us in a soul-decaying job where we’re bullied on a daily basis because we’re afraid to start over in a brand new job.

These are the fears that keep us in toxic relationships when we know that we should have walked away a long time ago.

These are the fears that keep us in a pattern of wishing for a better life without actually taking the necessary action to do something about it.

Please trust that our best lives will never come by running from our fears.

We have to be courageous instead.

Sounds hard, doesn’t it?

It actually may be simpler than you think.

Feel the Fear

Oftentimes, in my line of work, I often hear people talk about “playing it safe.”

I’ve always hated that phrase, because it’s such a sad way to go through life.

Nothing meaningful in this world’s history has ever been accomplished by “playing it safe.”

Seriously, let’s really think about this for a minute.

Think about the greatest success or achievement that you’ve ever experienced in your life so far.

I’d be willing to bet that it involved some sort of risk, it involved feeling some fear, and most importantly, it involved you still taking action anyway.

That’s what courage is all about: Feeling the fear and still doing the damn thing anyway.

If you’ve ever entered a college classroom in your 30’s or 40’s, that took courage.

If you’ve ever walked away from a toxic relationship and refused to look back regardless of how lonely you felt, that took courage.

If you’ve ever stood up to give a presentation at an all-staff meeting despite the fact that your knees were shaking and your palms were sweaty, that took courage.

If you’ve ever walked into a gym for the first time in years to get yourself back in shape, regardless of how awkward you felt, that took courage.

If you’ve ever opened your heart to someone else after your previous significant other stomped all over it, that took courage.

If you ever looked in the mirror with tears in your eyes and said “I matter” after years of putting yourself last, please believe that took courage.

When it comes to living our best lives, I believe that courage may be the most important interpersonal trait to master.

Why?

Because fear isn’t going anywhere.

There is no amount of hiding, running, wishing, or “playing it safe” that will make fear go away.

The only way to deal with this enemy is by hitting it right between the eyes with the only force in the world that can stop it in its tracks:

Courage.

Just to be clear, courage is not the absence of fear. There is no such thing as being “fearless,” regardless of what you might have heard in the movies.

Being courageous means one thing only: feeling the fear and doing the damn thing anyway.

Each time that you confront fear, its grip over your life loosens. And each time fear loosens its grip, you get even more freedom to live your best life.

There may be times where “playing it safe” will make sense, but please believe that living our entire lives “playing it safe” will only leave us looking back at our lives with sadness, disappointment, and deep regret that we didn’t do more with our lives when we had the chance.

Do not give the most precious gift that you have (aka, your life) to your most hated enemy.

Choose courage instead.

Inside of the Cave

I read an amazing quote the other day on Facebook and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Inside of the cave that you fear, lies the treasure you seek.” -Unknown

This quote really hit home for me because it’s so true.

Every treasure (finding true love, working in an exciting job, getting back into shape, starting your own business, etc.) will require you to “enter the cave” in order to get it.

Most of you already know this, but for years I dreamed of starting my own blog about making the world a more positive place.

Without a doubt, The Positivity Solution is my personal treasure.

The thing is, in order for me to retrieve that treasure, I had to find the courage to enter the cave that I feared.

Inside of that cave lived my self-doubt, my fear of haters, and every possible inadequacy that I could think of.

“I’m not good enough.”

“No one cares about what I have to say.”

“People are going to laugh at me and say that I suck as a writer.”

Those fears nearly crippled me.

In fact, those fears convinced me to stand outside of the cave for 3 long years before I finally found the courage to enter the cave by hitting “Publish” on my very first blog post.

Three long years.

I’ll never get those 3 years back, and I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t haunt me constantly.

How much further along would The Positivity Solution be if I started this 3 years ago instead of 2 months ago? How many more lives could I have touched?

I’ll never know the answer to either question.

That’s why fear is such a dangerous enemy–it is literally a life and dream stealer. Calling it anything else is naive.

Since then, whenever I feel fear (and believe me, I do very often), I allow myself to feel it and then I do exactly what I have to do.

I enter the cave.

Does it always work out for me when I enter the cave?

Absolutely not.

But each time I feel the discomfort of fear and walk into the darkness of the cave anyway, my courage grows.

To me, that’s the real treasure worth seeking.

The Truth About Fear

What about you? Where in your life is fear stopping you?

Is it about walking away from a toxic relationship?

Is it moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone?

Is it standing in front of a large audience and giving a presentation?

Is it telling your life-long friend that his/her chronic complaining is slowly driving you insane?

Is it telling your secret crush how you truly feel about him/her?

Is it finally standing up for yourself and refusing to be anyone’s doormat?

Is it starting your own business/blog/something else epic?

If so, remember that fear is completely natural and it is okay to be fearful at times.

What’s not okay is allowing that fear to control you and prevent you from living your best life.

The choice will always remain a simple one:

We can either choose our best lives by feeling the fear and walking into the cave, or we can stand outside of the cave’s entrance and wonder what it would be like to get the treasure that we’ve dreamed of.

If you’re still on the fence about which choice to make, hopefully it will help to share with you the biggest secret about our greatest enemy:

It’s not real.

Fear is just a made-up story in our minds about a possible negative outcome in the future.

Seriously, that’s all that it is. I remind myself of this fact every single day when I feel scared.

In other words, our enemy can only exist when we choose to believe that there are the monsters inside of the cave. 

You might feel scared when faced with a big challenge, and that’s okay–you are not alone. We all get scared.

When it happens to you again, feel that fear and remember this:

You are better than you think, you are stronger than you know, and you are smarter than you believe.

Most of all, you are ready to enter the cave, regardless of the made-up stories that your fears are telling you.

The enemy has held the steering wheel of our lives for long enough, now it’s our turn to drive.

Feel free to buckle up, but I promise that the ride won’t be as scary as you think.

Your Turn

Is there an area of your life where you really want to do something, but fear is holding you back? Jump into the comments below and make your voice heard!

Shola

Shola

Founder of The Positivity Solution
Author, keynote speaker, and kindness extremist who is committed to changing the world by helping as many people as possible to live and work with more positivity.
Shola
Shola

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Comments

  1. Um… okay. So have you been living in my brain, Shola? Seriously????

    I am in the middle of making my way deep inside the cave. I just spent a week at our corporate office having some very intensive training. My head is spinning with all that I learned, especially with the weight of what I have learned.

    My shoulders are so tight right now with the FEAR of what ‘could be’ that I am having to push myself 100% harder than ever to function.

    Now it is time to let your message sink in.

    What am I so afraid of? I was chosen, from a very large pool of applicants, to be one of 10 candidates for that training. I was referred to last week, repeatedly, as ‘one of the best of the best.’

    Someone in that position should not be afraid, right???

    Deep breaths and THANK YOU. I am going to let your words sink in all day today. And when I forget, I’ll be back to read them again. And again. And again.

    Boy oh boy did I need you today, Shola, and you delivered!!!!

    Hugs to you, my friend! 😉 Kathy

    • Right on, Kathy! First of all, I’m excited (but not even slightly surprised) that you were selected as one of the best of the best from the pool of applicants–you are pretty damn awesome, after all ;). Fear is a tricky beast to tame, that’s for sure. All we can do is continue to make our way inside of the cave and remember that fear is just a story that we’re making up in our heads. If nothing else, when I’m feeling really scared or nervous, I constantly repeat to myself “I am ready.” For some reason, it works like a charm when I don’t feel like entering the cave when I know that I should. I’m so glad that you liked the post and congrats again!

  2. I recently made my way into my cave. I have spent the past couple of months leaving my very toxic relationship. I was filled with fear of the future, of being alone, of what my son would think of me, etc. You name it and the fear of it was there. As I was unpacking from the move, I came across one of my FAVORITE quotes of all time. It reminded me that the best was yet to come. I faced my fears, entered the cave, and found more happiness than I ever thought I could have!

    “FEAR is an acronym in the English language for False Evidence Appearing Real.” ~Neale Donald Walsch

    • Good for you, Valisa! Doing the right thing is rarely easy, but it is so necessary–especially when kids are involved. As scary as it may have been, you felt the fear and did it anyway, and THAT is what true courage is all about. Well played, my friend 🙂 Also, serious props for quoting one of my all-time favorite authors!

  3. Great post Shola, thank YOU! Your words are very inspirational.

  4. Great post Shola…It’s given me a lot to ponder (my favorite thing to do). I’ve been thinking about what I am afraid of, and I can’t come up with anything. I’m sure there is something, but it’s kind of a funny thing…I spent a lot of years dealing with extremely high levels of anxiety. In order to fix this problem, I set about fixing everything that caused me anxiety. Things like removing toxic people from my life, demanding to be treated with respect, etc. Like you said, it’s always a struggle but I find that by controlling my personal environment, I am a happier person. Now, the things that I am afraid of are losing the people I love and whether or not my son will be okay as he moves ever closer to adulthood, etc…Oh, and sometimes I worry about losing my job with this ever changing economy! But I guess that is more worrying than being afraid. Anyway, I loved the post (I always do) and I hope you have a wonderful week! 🙂

    • My deep thinking Spring! I’m glad that this post was successful in getting the mental gears moving ;). I never realized it until I read your comment, but I’ve also spent a lot of time in the past few years slowly removing the things/people in my life that caused me anxiety too. Just like you, I am a much happier person because of it. Fear isn’t going anywhere unfortunately, but we can keep showing up by feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Thanks for reading!

  5. Jocelyn Kee says:

    I am 8 years in the Company as Group Human Resource Manager. I was the first manager to hold the Group position. Because of “office politics” I was not promoted to Senior Manager. Recently they recruited someone as General Manager for Group Human Resource. That person do not have any experience in HR. One month in the Company and he created chaos and all the Managers, General Managers and the staff were so angry with him. Why do I remain in the Company? There is no doubt I love my job and the all the staff. But why do I have to all of the nonsense and receiving attack after attack? The answer is because I am 56. My fear is that who will employ a 56 year old lady when they can hire a younger person and pay less. This is my greatest enemy. But I am proud to say, today I received an email from one of my staff “We all understand what is going on and we still respect you as our head of GHR although currently you are not” Isn’t that beautiful Shola?

    • That is beautiful, Jocelyn! It’s great to hear that your staff still love and respect you as their leader. As for the fear part, my former boss is in his 50’s and he recently left his miserable job to find a new one where he is MUCH happier. After years of telling me that he is “too old” to start over, I reminded him that “a year from now, he’ll wish that he started looking for a new job today.” No matter how “old” he thought he was, he was still too young to be dealing with the abuse of his former boss. He’s been in his new job for 6 months now and he loves. Just something to think about, my friend :).

  6. In my case, the fear is not stopping me from doing anything: My fears are currently inactive. (My definition of “fearless” is living with inactive or dormant fear)

    I dont posses fear anymore, it’s more like…dread. Or, anticipation.

    When you give your all, and have no where tot urn because everyone has let you down, you have no other option but to sit, and wait patiently for the worst to come.

  7. Definatly needed this at this point in my life, I have just obtained a new role within the transport company I work for and the role I will be doing is completely new, things I have never done before and the contract I am doing it for is an extremely big worldwide customer and I am PETRIFIED of making a mistake, did I leave the cmfort of my current job for no reason, will I excel at this role a lot of thoughts running through my head.
    Now I will grip those fears in 3 and ahalf weeks time as I walk in the door of my new job and face them head on

  8. You are truly a gift. I have read your other blogs on bully bosses and followed you here. I have many caves. Fear of judgement, critism, authority figures, confrontation, etc. I have been dealing with my boss for 7 years. He keeps information from us that we need to do our jobs. He doesn’t like us to ask too many questions outside of our group. He was extremely upset when i ccd his boss on a request that had not been resolved for over a year and a half. On a separate matter, i sent out an email outside of our group clarifying my bosses policies. Again, he was very upset, said i was undermining his efforts, and would like to meet with me to review my priories. Tomorrow my plan is to meet him and tell him to knock it off. My fear is making up stories of the problems the confrontation will create. My experience is telling me I am a competent and capable manager. We have a strong HR and union. When I’ve confronted him in the past, he changes his behavior. Tonight i will pray for courage. I am glad I am benefiitting from you sharing your experience in your cave. I believe it will be ok. Thanks so much.

  9. speak your mind says:

    Thank you.

  10. Hi Shola, I’m arriving late arriving to the conversation as I just recently found your wonderful blog. This post about Fear is my favorite one of the dozen I’ve read so far. [Incidentally, I found your blog while Googling for some essays/blogs about working with complainers – your entry on that was the 4th or 5th hit I ran across.]
    I keep a journal in my desk at work and when I glanced through about 2 1/2 yrs of entries, the topic of Fear jumps out. I capitalized Fear just now on purpose! LOL. Fear of incurring other’s disapproval – my supervisor, co-workers, other folks at my P.O.W., an institution of higher ed. Fear of trying new things, learning new skills because I might look foolish and incompetent. Fear of speaking my mind when I don’t agree with something. Fear of getting out there and talking to other people/depts. on campus to try to find ways to work together. (outreach is kind of a big thing around here. We do a good amount of it already, but there’s always new partnerships to be explored). Probably the most common Fear for me is fear of disapproval, so your entry on “You Have Nothing to Prove” was very eye-opening! Fear is something I want to start being more aware of and exploring here at work and in my personal life. I’m also embarking on a journey of watching the urge to complain at work. I work with some hardcore complainers and it’s too easy to join in in order to “fit in” and be approved of (see what I mean about approval-seeking behavior?) Anyway, I just wanted to express my appreciation for your blog and I look forward to combing through and reading the updates that will soon be coming to my email.

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