ROTTERDAM – Dear readers, we’re out our last challenge today. Day 30 is a reward for my hard work in the form of a shave.
So, let’s get started:
Fear can be a good thing. It’s a biological instinct that prevents us from doing stupid things that might kill us. Unfortunately, fear is not always rational and not always healthy. Thus, our heart races when we’re getting on a plane but not when we’re driving, even though we have a far greater chance of dying while behind the wheel. And while fear works to prevent us from physical pain, it can also hold us back from the chance at both the pain of a crushed ego and the exhilaration of victory and success.
Overcoming is a large part of becoming a Modern Man. Not to toot my horn too early and start analyzing the bigger picture already (that’ll take a post of two of CONCLUDING REMARKS), however, overcoming fears, anxiety, and insecurity seems to lie at the very core of these 30 Days: the inner spiritual and mental journey, and the physical discipline will lead to the externally directed expression of Manliness.
Fear is a barrier on this journey.
The Manliness of Overcoming Your Fears
According to the Art of Manliness, there are several aspects of manliness to be found in overcoming your fears. I have highlighted the most interesting.
Fear is irrational. No one can ever be fully rational in their choices and behavior. But every man should strive to live with reason and ratio as his guide. Fear is a primal instinct, not a function of higher brain faculties. When we logically think through our fears, we often find that they have no real rational basis.
For a large part, the argumentation of the loss of manliness is based upon the fact that we Men lost our touch with our nature. Most of the rediscover-your-masculinity trainings and camps take place in the wilderness where a man can be a “Real Man”.
The idea of primal instinct (to hunt, for example) is being played with in the broader genre, so to say. I will write a bit more about this genre of modern masculinity in later posts, however, there seems to be a strange paradox present: on the one hand we have lost touch with our nature. We should trust our primal instinctual masculinity more and not have it oppressed by societal standards (that are incidentally increasingly feminised). On the other hand, we should overcome our primal nature to become a civilised man of Reason and Rationality (the Enlightenment standard).
Fear is cowardly. (…) if you want to start overcoming your fears, it’s helpful to call a spade a spade. Don’t say, “I’m not doing this because I’m nervous,” say, “I’m not doing this because I’m a coward.”
This is not meant to be harsh; I actually find it quite helpful to frame my internal debate this way. Because who wants to be a coward? A man seeks to be brave and courageous.
How To Be Courageous is summarised nicely in this article from the Art of Manliness, informing you on how to be physically, intellectually, morally, and greatly courageous.
Fear pushes you from the driver’s seat. A man is a captain of his own destiny. He makes the choices and chooses the roads that lead him to his goals. A man ruled by fear abdicates his captainship to his fear. He gives his fear the steering wheel. Who is the master of your life, you or your fears?
“Control” and a sense of agency also have strong recurrent presences in the Art of Manliness. In fact, it occupies a central place in the narrative of Becoming and Overcoming. After all, it is very necessary to assume direct and complete control over your will and actions if you are to overcome the inhibiting forces that keep you from being Great.
Overcoming your fears
Now, there are several ways we can go about it.
Change your perspective on fear. Is the pain you experience while working out a negative thing? Or is it just the feeling of your body getting stronger? Fear is only a negative thing if you believe that it is. You can choose to think about it simply as the “pain” your body experiences as your character develops and expands. There is very little growth where there is no pain and work.
(…) Every man should try to scare himself a little every day. (…)
Kill the fear with logic. As we mentioned above, fear is not a rational thing*. The solution is thus to kill it with logic. The best way to do this is to ask yourself this question: “If I do this, what is the worst that can happen?”
What’s the worst that could happen if you asked someone out and they said no? You didn’t have a date then, you don’t have a date now. Nothing has changed.
*yes, it can be.
.. both refer back to the issue of control mentioned above. Fear is controllable because you can control yourself. You can control yourself because you have control over yourself. You are in control, therefore the sole responsibility of your life choices comes crushing down on your shoulders. Which is great if you’re doing well and especially depressing if you’re not. In a way, it magnifies both your success and your failures making you 100% accountable for both.
In an individualist society, this narrative is engrained in its very core. The idea that perhaps we do not have complete control makes many anxious whilst the idea of having control is a responsibility many of us actively try to evade with counter-productive coping mechanisms. Those who have bought into the narrative face the consequences of it either way.
I try to consider my agency in relation to the subject position I find myself in and act accordingly. I don’t believe I have absolute control over my own will, but I wonder what that does to my sense of responsibility. After all, I am still accountable for my own actions…
Change your perspective on risk. The root of our fear is our fear of trying something and crashing and burning. What if I get rejected? What if I fail? These are short-term risk assessments. Yes, there is a chance that you will fall on your face. And if you don’t take the risk, you’re guaranteed not to face failure.
This is very sensible. In modern societies we deal with risk by excessively overcompensating for it. These societies are called risk societies. An example of such an overreaction is the way we’ve been dealing with terrorism since 9/11, for instance.
Statistics are always a sensible way of dealing with risk calculation. We have irrational fears of accidently falling off high buildings, getting hit by lightning, or getting eaten by a shark while more people die annually of slipping and falling on their wet bathroom tiles.
Act courageous. Teddy Roosevelt overcame his fears by acting as if he were not afraid. Do the same.
“There were all kinds of things of which I was afraid of at first, ranging from grizzly bears to “mean” horses and gun-fighters; but by acting as if I was not afraid I gradually ceased to afraid.”
Think about the great men of history. Our own personal fears and challenges can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. But with the proper perspective, they can seem rightfully manageable. The next time you you feel paralyzed by a fear, think of the courageous men of the past. Think of Edmund Hillary ascending Mt. Everest, the Freedom Riders meeting a crowd of angry Klansmen, the astronauts sitting in Apollo 13. You’ll soon think, “Dammit! And here I am unable to make this flippin’ phone call!”
Memorize this quote (from T. Roosevelt)
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Great Men were not afraid, so why should you be?
There’s no need to feel the fear, just do it.
I think Shia LeBeouf recently informed us about that…
Today’s Task: Conquer a Fear
Pick a fear you’ve had for some time. Something you need to do, something you want to do, but you’ve been continually putting off. We think we stay safe by playing it small, but our unconquered fears sit like a weight on our shoulders. They’re there when you wake up and when you go to bed. They keep whispering in your ear that today is the day to go for it, and you keep ignoring the call. The weight of your unconquered fears builds slowly, almost imperceptibly, but it grows each and every day, slowing down your progress and cluttering your mind.
JUST DO IT!
Man-meter: JUST DO IT!!!!