Our fears can be divided into two categories: innate and learned. Innate fear requires no prior life experience, though there’s some debate as to which fears are truly instinctive. Some studies suggest that we are born with only two innate fears, the fear of falling and the fear of loud sounds, while others suggest we might also be born with an innate fear of creatures such as spiders and snakes.
Learned fears are those fears we obtain through direct experience of a threat, or through social means, such as verbal warnings or observing others. We don’t have an innate fear of dogs, but if a child is bitten by a dog, they may carry that learned fear for years if not forever. And while most of us have never had a fearful encounter with a shark — and possibly haven’t even seen one — we often grow up thinking that sharks are dangerous because that’s what people say, or because we watched Jaws.
Fear itself, whether innate or learned, is not necessarily a bad thing. Fear is a survival mechanism and has helped keep humans safe since we first walked the Earth. It is part of our evolution: Fight-or-flight is better than doing nothing — and far better than paralysis — in a dangerous situation. At the same time, however, fear can hold us back or stop us from achieving our goals. Sometimes, it’s a barrier to happiness. When that happens, we must try to overcome our fears and find courage. It may not be easy, but help is on hand: Over the centuries, many famous figures have given us their sage advice about how to conquer the fears that stand in our way.
Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
– Bertrand Russell
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.
– Marcus Aurelius
Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.
– Lucio in William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.
– Dale Carnegie
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward it is not a compliment to say it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word.
– Mark Twain
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
– Marie Curie
I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.
– Rosa Parks
Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.
– Babe Ruth
Expose yourself to your deepest fear. After that, fear has no power, and fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.
– Jim Morrison
Don’t fear failure. Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.
– Bruce Lee
Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.
– Judy Blume
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
– Nelson Mandela
What we need to do is say, “What’s the smallest, tiniest thing that I can master and what’s the scariest thing I can do in front of the smallest number of people that can teach me how to dance with the fear?” Once we get good at that, we just realize that it’s not fatal.
– Seth Godin
Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
– Steven Pressfield
The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.
– Stephen King
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