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Fears: We all have them and we all want to overcome them. However, conquering your fears is much easier said than done. By fear, I don’t mean a fear of spiders or the dark; I mean the hard truths that you come to realize about yourself after long nights of reflection. 

Maybe you’re scared to create that blog you’ve always dreamed of, you don’t apply to your dream internship because you’re afraid of getting rejected, or you’re nervous to take on a bolder sense of style outside of your comfort zone. Regardless, we all have fears that we’re too scared to face. 

We often don’t realize that the barrier stopping us from taking these risks is fear. Fear produces a fight-or-flight mode response; you either put up your guard as protection, or run away.

Most of us are guilty of being massive overthinkers. I don’t just mean constantly thinking about that one time you said, “Thanks, you too!” in response to your waiter’s, “Enjoy your meal.” I mean staying up until 2am, curled up in bed and revisiting old and unpleasant memories – or the flash of, “What ifs,” that you run through your head and create a million reasons NOT to do something. 

We are guilty of being bad storytellers. The stories we tell ourselves are an overwhelming exaggeration of what is actually the truth. Those nights where we find ourselves overthinking, neck deep in made-up stories are blurry and unclear. It’s unclear what parts of these stories ring true, and which are simply half-truths created as a result of the manifestation of our deepest fears. It’s easy to get caught up in this momentum, however it’s just as easy to lose sight of yourself and your truth in the process. 

In defining our fears, we empower ourselves by regaining control of the narrative. We rewrite our stories to recognize our own strength, courage and wisdom developed from that experience. In defining our fears we can see clearly, and can recognize the situation for what it actually was and how our overthinking may have contributed toward inflaming the already painful wound. The greatest moments of self-growth come from pushing ourselves to experience things outside of our comfort zone. 

The brain has the power to create powerful narratives that have the potential to produce both good and harm, and we are the drivers.

Have you ever reminisced about a memory that made you feel extremely good or extremely bad? The memory is so strong it leaves you physically affected with a raised heart rate or tears in your eyes. You can vividly recall this memory and feel the physical sensations with such intensity. Yet, you can’t even remember what you ate for breakfast yesterday. This has to do with neuroplasticity and connections within the brain.

Neuroplasticity allows our brains to make changes through growth, and more importantly, reorganization. This is extremely powerful because it means that we have the control to create and maintain strong connections within the brain that dramatically impact us in some way, and dissociate the ones that are unimportant to us. It’s just a matter of how we respond and react to external events like fear. As psychologist Catherine Pittman states, “The circuits must be hot in order to rewire,” essentially stating that in facing our fears, we are bringing attention to old memories and experiences that may have contributed to creating this irrational fear. 

In defining our fears, we take the first step in facing them and healing the wounds from the past. Doing this, we are able to live in the present without fear of the past weighing us down like unwanted baggage. Although doing something that scares you may cause temporary discomfort and unease, maybe it’s worth a try?

Maliha Bhutta-Khan is a Kinesiology student at McMaster University. Her drive for creativity intersects with her passion for community and social advocacy. She loves to drink a good cup of coffee while she indulges in activism literature or is busy writing spoken word. Aside from writing, she is an entrepreneur and the co-Founder of the youth non-profit Stay Woke (@staywokeevent).
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