This week there has been a recurring theme that keeps popping up in discussions between Kristian and I, interviews for Friday Fat Black and feedback from our athletes. The prevalence of the issue has gotten my attention enough to dive into it a little bit.
When I was a younger buck (read: mid-20 something, thinking I was invincible; 6 foot-tall-and-bulletproof) I thought that fear was something to be ignored. That it was a sign of weakness.
In fact I tried really hard to distance myself from fear as much as possible. In my arrogance I decided that to show ‘toughness’ was to treat fear with disdain. I looked at fear as a weak emotional response, and I payed it zero respect.
Now, I know that this was wrong, because fear is actually a VERY powerful and very necessary emotional response.
I say powerful because fear can either scare you into action, or it can scare you into inaction.
To paraphrase author James Frey:
“You can panic, curl up in a ball, hide under the bed, cry, lash out, run, be paralysed, or become useless and unproductive. Or….You can take a deep breath and say: Fuck it, and take the first step forward.”
When something scares you enough that you decide to take affirmative action, a tiny little molecule of confidence begins to form. The more affirmative action you take, the bigger that confidence grows. It continues to grow the more you step forward and when you have developed enough confidence to turn around and stare your fear in the face, really cool things begin to happen.
I could be wrong here but a lot of triathletes get into long course racing because it scares them.
It’s sounds paradoxical, and it is. You are so intimidated by something that you are willing to part with hard-earned money, put yourself through weeks, months years of dedicated training – basically change your life (for the better in most cases) just to face the fear of swimming, riding and running for a long bloody time.
The fear of that event (which is really fear of the unknown) shapes your confidence enough to learn how to swim properly, or ride on busy streets or run longer and further than you ever have. Or change how you eat, how you sleep, how you communicate with your family.
You see the power that your fear can have?
Sometimes though, for so many different reasons, the confidence born from fear gets so great that we become comfortable with things. Maybe the thrill of the challenge dies off a bit and those things that scared us become too familiar, too easy to control. Personally, I have let this happen quite a few times, and I am sure many of you have too.
It’s easy to let confidence turn into comfort. That doesn’t mean we are weak, it’s simply human behaviour to seek comfort.
Unfortunately comfort and this sport don’t always mesh. This isn’t an easy sport. If it was, more people would do it and less people would be intimidated by the enormities that it possesses.
When we become too comfortable with things, we begin to lose confidence. Think of it like a muscle, something that can be flexed and developed, or something that can wither and become useless. That comfort leads to poor decisions because we think it’s ‘all good’. We relax the grip a little bit. Maybe miss a swim here and there, maybe take the run a bit easier. Maybe grab that pastry at the coffee shop.
The comfort that too much confidence creates pushes us into a place where progress is halted. It isn’t ideal. Not for life in general and certainly not if you want to better yourself as an athlete.
Enter fear again (and if you are not careful, its cousin: mediocrity).
When you find yourself in this predicament then you MUST find something, anything that scares you into action again. It’s a massive motivator.
If you fear a certain swim session (usually because it hurts) or a particular climb, or a long run, then you need to get out there and face it. Stand right there and take it on. Find that first step.
It doesn’t even have to be related to the sport itself. Lately I have been seeking daily things that scare me a bit. Things that I usually avoid because they are either too comfortable or too intimidating. I start small and I build form there. And with it, I grow my confidence. And if I continue to do this daily, then I hopefully will avoid a level of comfort I don’t ever want to be in.
Of course this means I could be doing some crazy stuff…..And that makes it even more exciting. Especially when I know that the more confidence I develop in one part of my life, the more it will spill into other parts.
You cannot ignore the things that scare you. If they are there in your space, then they aren’t really going to go away are they? They will crawl into other areas of you life and hold you back; keeping you trapped inside your insecurity and own personal torment.
It’s not a nice way to live. It’s not a nice way to train or race.
Don’t ignore your fears. Acknowledge and respect them. Make your Fear your Confidence.