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Why courage is not the absence of fear?

We can look at courage and fear from a mathematical perspective. However we use these two elements, the result will always be 100. Courage + fear = 100. This is why courage is not the absence of fear. It works when courage is 30 and fear is 70, when courage is 50 and fear is also 50, or when courage is 67 and fear is 33.

This makes me think that both courage and fear are present at the same time and together they create some sort of balance.

If I look back at the experiences I’ve had, I don’t think I’ve ever looked at them this way. When you are in the center of the situation, what you feel is not courage but fear. That’s the truth.

For example, when I spoke in front of people for the first time, I didn’t feel courage. I felt the fear I had. But, at the same time, if I look at the opposite pole of fear and at the things that gave me a positive feeling, they appeared after I knew why I wanted to speak in front of people and what I wanted to say… at least at first.

Then other things appeared. I started paying more attention to what I was saying to those in front of me and to the way I was saying it. I started paying more attention to the interaction I was having with them. Finally, I reached a point where I understand that the lower the intensity of fear was, the more freedom I had to pay attention to the things that mattered.

As much as courage is not the absence of fear, I believe courage means having the freedom to make decisions without fear holding you back. Or without fear making you blind about those decisions.

If we take a look at the mathematical approach I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I don’t believe there’s a situation where either fear or courage is 100 while the other is 0. As the title stands, courage is not the absence of fear or vice-versa. Instead, I believe there are situations where fear is greater than courage or courage is greater than fear. But there is never going to be an absolute extreme.

You’ll never be only brave and you’ll never be only afraid. Even though, when you think of fear you can say ‘I was so afraid I couldn’t do anything’.

Why do you think courage is not the absence of fear?

The way we look at things impacts the intensity of our fear and courage. That’s why it’s really important to know why we do what we do because knowing it will somehow guide our perspective.

Let’s say you’re afraid of speaking in front of people and you can’t say a word when you have over 20 people in front of you. You simply freeze and the feeling of fear is so powerful that it doesn’t really matter how big the desire of public speaking is.

At that moment, if you have more clarity regarding why you want to speak in front of people, you won’t feel fear as much and that clarity will help you at least make one more step forward.

Having clarity means:

  • Knowing WHY you want to speak in front of people;
  • Knowing WHAT you want to say to those people;
  • Knowing HOW you want to say it;
  • Knowing WHEN and WHERE you want to speak in front of people.

These are important information that you have to know and know really well. Otherwise, all that fear that you have (which is purely emotional) can’t really be guided. The fear is still there and I don’t think it ever goes away – that’s why courage is not the absence of fear.

If you look at neuroscience and the studies behind neuroscience, you’ll notice that our brain has two components: the emotional and the rational.

When it comes to fear, it is purely emotional. Oftentimes, our fears are unjustified which means they lack the rational component. To lower the intensity of fear, we have to learn to guide the emotion with something that’s rational. Therefore, we have to use the rational component to guide the emotional one.

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I believe that we’ll always have moments in our lives where we’ll be more afraid than courageous. All those moments should be seen as opportunities and benefit from them, especially when the intensity of fear is not that high.

After all, the ability to overcome your fears is part of a behavior, which is part of a habit: the habit of facing fears.

I truly believe that exactly those moments when the fear you feel is not that powerful are moments in which you have the opportunity to advance towards your fears and create yourself the behavior of doing so, which will become a habit later on.

This habit will help you in moments such as:

  • Delivering a presentation to your boss;
  • Asking the loved one to marry you;
  • Having a difficult discussion with a friend.

When it comes to uncomfortable situations where the feeling of fear is also present (in a lower or higher dose), it’s really important to go towards it instead of running away from it. It’s not like after three years of being afraid to speak your mind to someone who has a higher authority than you, you suddenly stop fearing and you deliver a two-hour presentation to your boss and he’ll be amazed. That’s not how it usually works.

Therefore, it’s important to make small steps and try to cope with the feeling of fear in small doses. Eventually, you’ll encounter situations where the intensity of fear will be greater than anything but you’ll be able to guide it through your past experiences and with the help of the rational component of your brain (with all the information you gathered there).

This is how you end up being courageous.

It will happen in time and it’s better to make small steps instead of diving right into a situation where the intensity of fear is beyond your limits, get stuck, and decide that it’s better to quit.

Just remember that courage is not the absence of fear.

With love and optimism,

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