Owning Fear: 3 Things I Learned From Eleanor Roosevelt

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“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, I lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along.” -Eleanor Roosevelt


1. Courage

I found my heart racing last night on an evening walk with my dogs.  It wasn’t because I was walking up a hill or because the walk had been long, it was because the night was so dark and I cursed myself for not bringing a flashlight. The time change, while bringing new light to my mornings, had certainly brought more darkness to my nights.  I trudged on, but my fear was real.  And I will face it again this evening – although I will remember a flashlight – to be sure.  Courage. 


2. Strength

Several years ago, when I had moved into my first house, I spent months fixing it up with paint, wallpaper (give me a break – it was the 1980s), new curtains, area rugs, knick-knacks, and more. It was a teeny, tiny two story house, only 900 square feet, two bedrooms, one bath, living room, dining room, and a very small kitchen.  It was an absolutely perfect first home. Perfect for my little family, husband and wife, one-year old and the wanting and expectation of another baby. The stairs were beautiful two-tone wood and I loved them, I simply adored this house. I spent several days painting the stairwell. The walls been painted a dark forest green and I wanted it light and airy, happy. The ladder I used had been made specifically for use on stairs.


When I had to reach the furthermost corner with my corner brush and roller, I didn’t even think about the height. I just thought about the work I needed to complete.The ladder was sturdy, I knew I wouldn’t fall but as I painted, as I covered that one last dark green corner, a bead of sweat began to drip slowly down my face. I was actually dumbfounded by that bead of sweat.  It wasn’t hot, I hadn’t been working hard, I was using a paint brush, for Pete’s sake, not digging a ditch. It was then I noticed my racing heart.  I was experienced something I never had before. It was real fear, I hadn’t even acknowledged the first signs of it. I had just plugged along completely unaware of my body’s physical reaction to being so high up on a ladder. The sweat began to pour, but with every ounce of personal strength, I finished the job before I climbed down that ladder. I had never experienced a true phobia and I denied it, ignored it, mostly because I had not recognized it. Sheer will got me through it.

3. Confidence

Fear can be gripping, it can stop you in your tracks, or it can sneak up on you and throw you completely off your groove. When we are faced with unfamiliar situations, our first reaction may be to turn and run or to stand tall and work through it. Whatever the reaction,there must be a lesson and understanding. Why had I been afraid? How can I manage the situation differently next time? Was it all on me or had another party caused my response? Again, what could I have done differently?  The fact that I faced fearful and unknown situations proved that I could survive them and confidence will reign the during the next similar or fearful situation.


Can fear truly be controlled? Will whistling a happy tune, holding your head high detract from the fact of fear? Can we smile through it and hope for the best? Is that the same as facing fear? Letting go of cold-calling fright, learning to negotiate your salary or next big deal, holding your own – the more often you do the thing you fear, doing it better each time, the better you get at it and the ultimate overcoming is when you seek out what you originally feared, loving the challenge, embracing it as incentive to do more, and to do it better.  

Turn your liability into an asset

What you fear is a liability; make that liability work for you. Turn it into an asset – move it to the other column. Instead of it being something that holds you back, it becomes something that empowers you – you have learned, you have grown.

Own it, don’t let it own you.



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