As an attention-deficient teenager with selective hearing and a tendency to zone in and out whenever the mood struck, one surprisingly riveting Biology class sticks out like a sore thumb in my messy labyrinth of memories. Studying the “fight-or-flight” response, we learned that in the sudden occurrence of a potentially harmful event in which the body feels threatened in some way, our sympathetic nervous system releases a hormone preparing us to defend our survival by either fighting back or escaping the situation via the easiest route possible.
Personally, I pride myself on my capabilities to fend for myself utilising both responses equally well in my favour. But lately it seems that the “flight” setting in my brain has settled into autopilot mode, taking permanent residence as my go-to reaction.
So what happens when the fear that was once primarily used to protect you begins to form itself into an impenetrable barrier, eventually holding you back completely from achieving your goals and dreams? What happens when it comes to the point where even the thought of stepping a foot out of your comfort zone terrifies you completely into submission?
When I think of what confident and ambitious fifteen-year-old me would say if she saw herself now as a twenty-four-year-old millennial who is perpetually “figuring things out”, I wince at the thought of her ruthlessly hurling the C-word in my direction.
Content because I’ve allowed myself to be defeated before even starting. Content because I’ve allowed my ability to flee to take the place of an actual response when it is especially required.
However, as millennials, it is only expected that we have emerged as a rather careful generation, born into an era where every outcome can be planned almost to a T. With countless information at our fingertips and research being the easiest and most accessible it has ever been in mankind’s history, we’ve somehow trained ourselves to be meticulous in our planning, tweaking it to near perfection. But in the process of outlining our future steps and strategizing for the most tactical outcome, some of us have forgotten to take the actual step forward.
Settled comfortably in our padded air-conditioned bubbles, we plan and devise without realizing that everything is unpredictable; that we might only make the first step or none at all before real life takes over and throws us in a completely different direction.
Realizing that you have to overcome the fear is a crucial step in ensuring that it doesn’t consume you. As clichéd as it sounds, if you seize the good opportunities that life throws at you, despite any doubts or misgivings, there will never truly be any regret because you’ll never be left wondering about what could have happened.
So instead of outlining your next step in Sharpie and measuring the square within an inch of its life, invest more time building yourself up. Start telling yourself that everything and everyone begins at the bottom, despite a lucky few who are privileged enough to jump the queue. But more often than not, tell yourself that if you don’t start now, you’ll still be at the same place that you were yesterday; taking a step forward today ensures that tomorrow you’ll be one step closer to where you want to be in the future.
Surprisingly, the most valuable advice that came from a good friend recently was that “Even if there is only one tiny thing that you can accomplish today that will get you nearer to your goal, even if all you can push yourself to do is the bare minimum, just do it.”
If you’re blessed enough to be surrounded by people who support you and believe in you, then good for you. But even if you’re not, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. Grab hold of the fear, thank it for protecting you and getting you through life so far relatively unscathed, but refrain from feeding it any longer. Make it your personal mantra to stop creating problems for yourself by overthinking and speculating on things which you have no control over.
A potent quote by Gina Barecca reminds us that in contrast to healthy fear which protects our survival by allowing us to be afraid of actual life-threatening danger, “imaginary fear offers straitjackets instead of lifejackets and nooses instead of safety nets”.
So, fifteen-year-old me, I’m proud to tell you that I’m finally on my way to becoming the person I’ve always wanted to be.