We all encounter fear regularly in our training, and, arguably, if you don’t, you won’t progress very much. We know that type of fear and we know how to use it. A physiological reaction to perceived threat. The urge to turn or run away. Or limbs locking up near the edge of a high wall. This is fear of physical harm, and it is justified. Moreover, it’s useful. It’s a physical signal that there is risk involved in what you’re about it do, so be careful. This we can call Proper Fear.
Proper Fear. This is the fear the practictioners talk about a lot. And we all have our ways of overcoming it, or using it to our advantage. One aspect of this kind of fear is that you can talk to it, face it with logic. Facing a new jump that fills you with fear, you can mentally catalog every jump you’ve done of a similar distance, every balance at similar height, as proof of your ability to do this one. You can take note of the fatigue in your legs, and judge if it’s time now, or if you should come back. Then, breathe in, breathe out, empty your mind, and if you’re ready, the jump jumps itself.
But there is another kind of fear. The other fear is different. It’s not tied to a particular circumstance, nor to bodily effect. It’s a general, pervading fear. Fear that you’re not good enough, fear that you look stupid. Fear you’re too fat or clumsy or old to be doing this and that everybody knows. We’ll call that one ‘Stupid Fear’.
It’s not restricted to the moments before and around a jump or new challenge, like Proper Fear. It can be constant. It’s what stops you from going out training when your better angels are screaming in your ear to get outta the damn house and move.
The nagging worry of Stupid fear usually appears in a form similar to “What if people see me training and judge me to be inadequate?” You might as well ask “What if I get attacked by a pack of zombie dwarf rabbits?” In both hypotheticals, it’s highly unlikey to happen, and will cause no damage if it does. People are usually only thinking of themselves, and any judgment they come to will be more of a reflections of themselves than on you. And if they do? So what? What’s the damage? None.
Proper Fear and Stupid Fear don’t have much in common. I think a problem can be when we treat them the same way.
In the case of Proper Fear, the question is “Can I do this?” And often, the answer will be no. Or more accurately, not yet. Because we need to grant the premise of the fear; there is a risk to our safety, so we need to assess it accurately.
But with Stupid Fear, if the question is “Can I do this?” it refers to training or progressing at all. And the answer is always yes. I know I can get out into the world and move with confidence and more importantly with joy. But that’s the wrong question. That question grants the premise of Stupid Fear. A premise which has no real worth. When facing Stupid fear, the real question is… “Yeah, so what?”
Truth is, failure isn’t actually scary. I fall on my arse and laugh like a banshee about it. I scrape my shins. I fall in puddles, and get filth in my clothes and hair and walk home looking, and grinning, like a maniac. I’m not saying I know how to avoid Stupid Fear entirely, but I do know what works for me. Move. Run and jump and skip, and yes, fall sometimes. I’ll tell you this, if you’re moving, Stupid Fear can’t keep up with you.