How Superheroes Taught Me to Conquer Fear

Fear is often the enemy of all types of progress, but it can be crippling when you’re trying to accomplish something big. Here are 3 examples where superheroes taught me how to make progress through fear.

“How to be more courageous” is a blog post that talks about how superheroes have taught me to conquer fear. The author shares their personal experience with overcoming the fear of public speaking. Read more in detail here: how to be more courageous.

Note from the editor: This is a guest post by Steve Kamb. 

“Both the hero and the coward experience dread; what divides them is how they deal with that fear.” Cus D’Amato, legendary trainer

Sweat is dripping from your hands. The pupils have become dilated. Your heart is pounding against the inside of your chest. And what about that thing you’ve been telling yourself you need to do? You can’t seem to motivate yourself to do it. You slink back into the shadows rather of signing up for that class, asking out that person, raising your hand to speak, or putting your name down for open mic. “Perhaps when I’m more prepared,” you reason. “Perhaps next time.” Then you go home and ponder aloud, “What if…”

Fear is likely to be the most potent opponent any of us will ever encounter. Bear assaults are terrifying, but Brett has already taught you how to deal with them!

So, what about the internal conflict that we all encounter on a daily basis? How can we conquer and eventually take action in the fight we have with our own minds and hearts? I’m referring to the dread of public humiliation or disgrace. The dread of letting people down. The terror of failing. Fear is an inescapable part of life. To put it another way, that’s entirely natural.

But it also means you’ll need a tried-and-true, step-by-step strategy to deal with it! Surprisingly, I’ve discovered that a lot of the methods for such a strategy may be learned from movies and video games. So let’s have a look at some guidance from some of our favorite pop culture figures on how to cope with anxiety in a methodical way and achieve our goals.

Take a page from Batman’s book: Defeat Your Fears.

Batman dark knight christian bale surrounded by bats.

The tale of Bruce Wayne and Batman is the best example of confronting one’s anxieties and utilizing them to enhance one’s life.

Remember when a young Bruce fell into a well in Christopher Nolan’s Batman? He came into a swarm of bats that would follow him for the rest of his life. Bruce eventually resolves to channel a power that previously plagued him and use it against his foes. As a result, he was able to put his biggest fear – bats — to work for him, ultimately becoming a symbol for Gotham’s security.

If you want to be the greatest version of yourself, you’ll have to face your anxieties as well.

Bruce had to learn that bats were not inherently dangerous, and that he had the ability to transform them from a source of fear into a symbol of justice. We’re going to look at one of your worries to accomplish the same thing in your own life: I want you to select anything you’re frightened of, large or little. Take five minutes to articulate that dread, stating what the worst possible scenario would be if things went wrong. Then, if the worst-case scenario occurs, write down what you can do to remedy the situation. Are you afraid to attempt anything new? Do you want to start your own business? What’s the worst that may happen if you’re terrified of getting rejected after asking someone out? Perhaps you’ll be politely declined. Or even made fun of. Whatever it is, jot it down! Take a look at your list and weigh the benefits of things going well vs the risks of things going wrong. I’m guessing the upside is a long-term gain, while the drawbacks are just short and not fatal. If you want to make a change and are being held back by dread of the unknown, you must first reduce fear’s influence over you.

 

Jia Jiang, an entrepreneur, was frightened of rejection, so he embarked on a 100-day journey to overcome it (commonly referred to as “rejection therapy”). Every day, he made more outrageous demands of people in order to grow accustomed to being turned down. What’s the end result? Strangers answered yes more frequently than not! If they refused, he immediately realized that his life was not ended and that he could go on to the next task. Jia found himself in some delightfully awkward circumstances, from asking a policeman to ride in his cruiser to knocking on a stranger’s house and asking if he could play soccer in their garden.

Almost everything can be rectified, most troubles are just temporary, and any problem can be handled, regardless of the jump you take. Aside from death or a catastrophic injury, nothing is permanent, and the worst case scenario is generally transient, while the best case scenario may be life-changing.

You may acquire a new job, live with friends, borrow money from others, and play chess in the park to get money. There is always an option, and there is always a way out. Always.

Take little steps, like Bob did.

Do you recall the film What About Bob? Bill Murray’s character is crippled by worry throughout the film, and he needs to remind himself to take baby steps in order to do anything:

 

The same is required of you!

If you have stage fright, stepping up in front of a crowd of thousands of people may need a change of clothes. Why don’t you begin by practicing in front of a mirror? After that, try chatting to a few members of your family. After that, rehearse in front of your employees, on a street corner, in a room of 50 people, and so on. Steps in the right direction! Before going on, make sure you’re comfortable with each level.

Let’s imagine you suffer from “approach anxiety,” which prevents you from talking to someone you’re interested in (this particular fear paralyzed me for years). Many men, I’m sure, can relate. Instead of going all in, which I could never quite persuade myself to do, I practiced chatting to strangers I knew I had no interest in – an old person in line for coffee, people waiting for the bus, the waiter, anybody.

There’s nothing to lose and nothing to fear in these conversations since there’s no risk of rejection. You’re only expressing yourself. Once you’ve gotten used to it, you can push yourself further outside of your comfort zone until you realize that approaching someone you’re interested in could result in the same thing: a great conversation, a bad conversation (so you know what you need to work on), or a refusal (perhaps they’re in a bad mood or not that fun to talk to).

It’s just a matter of time until you find out!

 

Develop mental toughness.

Whatever we want to accomplish with our lives — whether it’s trying something new, continuing our quest for someone to share our lives with, hoping to make it as a musician, or actually seeking to become Batman — there will be ups and downs along the way. When things don’t go as planned, we’ll struggle, make mistakes, and suck and get irritated.

Fortunately, there are particular mental and physical strategies for recovering from these setbacks. I’ve hopefully persuaded you to fail even more. I’m now going to let you to suck even more.

There’s a pull from inside that encourages us to stay with the things we’re decent at or can’t humiliate ourselves with throughout the day. I’d want you to do the exact opposite. I have discussed the fear of the unknown, as well as the fear of failure. Now I’d want to dispel another concern we may have: the dread of seeming ignorant or inept at anything.

Consider someone who excels in their field: a professional athlete, a world-class musician, or a prolific artist. They were terrible at that pastime at one point in their life! It may have been five decades ago, but they all began at Level 0 regardless of their natural skills. Michael Jordan didn’t have the ability to dunk from the foul line since he wasn’t born with it. Louis C.K. wasn’t born with a sense of humour. These men were all terrible for a long time before they improved. They got to where they are because of their determination to push through the “suck” and put themselves out there.

We all start at “suck,” no matter what we’re trying to learn on our trip. We could feel like an intoxicated giraffe taking our first few steps on a dance floor. A dying cat could sound like the first note we play on a violin. In a martial arts lesson, our initial punch may seem to be a query. That terrifies us! We’re so terrified of failing at anything, of being judged a failure, that we frequently choose a less difficult road, avoiding the difficult activity totally!

We marvel at our favorite songs without considering the many rewrites and modifications that went into their composition. The Iron Man outfit is seen in all of its splendour, but we don’t witness the 50 failed prototypes Tony Stark went through before mastering it. We witness a player make a flawless no-look pass, but we don’t recognize the hundreds of hours he spent in the gym refining his skills.

Our favorite heroes all began at zero with their specific duty, then worked hard to become a little better, then a little better, then a little better, and then a little better, until finally being pretty darn excellent. The good news is that no matter how bad we are at anything, we can only grow better at it, and every little success or progress (or failure) demonstrates that, like everything else, we WILL improve.

 

I want you to choose an activity in which you are completely inept and make a video of yourself doing it. After that, attempt to work on the item you’re bad at for 5 to 10 minutes every day:

  • Cooking? Make a horrible dish RIGHT NOW.
  • Drawing? Make a sloppy stick figure RIGHT NOW.
  • Dancing? IMMEDIATELY start dancing about your flat like a fool.
  • Do you do any kind of strength training? RIGHT NOW, do your first uncomfortable push-ups.
  • Do you want to learn to play an instrument? First, warn your neighbors, and then BE HORRIBLY HORRIBLY HORRIBLY HORRIBLY HORRIBLY H

Fear can be paralyzing, whether it is fear of failing or fear of seeming ignorant while learning. “The darkness is darkest right before the dawn,” Harvey Dent of Gotham observes in The Dark Knight. Even if it isn’t factually correct, you understand Harvey’s point: When you’re tasked with life-changing assignments, it’s going to stink and be difficult before you get to the part that’s worth fighting for. I’ve been learning to play the violin for the last 18 months, and I’m embarrassed to say that I’m still not very good. I’m simply a lot better than I was before!

Beast Mode should be enabled.

Have you seen the film We Bought a Zoo?

In it, Matt Damon’s character meets his wife by summoning just 20 seconds of bravery to approach her, despite being a nervous mess before to and thereafter. He would not have met the love of his life if he had not taken those 20 seconds to move beyond his comfort zone. “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of incredible bravery,” Damon’s character stated. It was just a matter of twenty seconds of self-embarrassing courage. And I assure you, something amazing will happen as a result.”

The notion is also reminiscent to what was written about the Berserkers in Norse mythology. Berserkers were Norse warriors who were said to drive themselves into rages and then fight in a virtually uncontrolled, trance-like frenzy, a trait that subsequently gave origin to the English name berserk.

Mike Tyson 90s punch out video game.

If you’ve ever played a video game, you’re undoubtedly aware that the notion of a “temporary power up” has a long history in the industry. It’s Star Power in Super Mario Bros. and Punch-Out!! “HE’S ON FIRE!” from NBA Jam comes to mind. Boom-shaka-laka!

Why can’t we have our own Berserker/Beast Mode, as Norse warriors had their Berserker mode and Matt Damon has his “20 seconds of courage”? Rather than spending your 20 seconds of bravery or Beast Mode to fight, why not utilize it as a brief window of invincibility during which you can do anything? You may be afraid before, and you can be horrified after, but you must do what you must within the 20 seconds in between.

Your little act of bravery will aid you in overcoming real-life obstacles. Allow me to elaborate:

  • Do you have a fear of trying anything new? There’s no need to be concerned. Then turn on Beast Mode. In just 20 seconds, sign up for a class and make your commitment before you have a chance to back out. Suddenly, you’ve joined up and must complete the task!
  • Do you have a reputation for being a softie? Are you someone who never speaks out for yourself at work? Go into Beast Mode! Take 20 seconds the next time you meet with your supervisor to really stand up for yourself and express your thoughts. Gather the guts to start talking about receiving the increase you deserve. You may as well keep going after you’ve arrived at the workplace and the talk has started. After the meeting, you are free to pee your trousers.
  • Isn’t she a pretty girl in the coffee shop? Normally, you’d say nothing to her and then go home and punish yourself for the rest of the day for not saying anything. Give yourself 20 seconds of confidence instead! Be nervous before and after, but use those 20 seconds to say something like, “Hey, I need to go back to work, but I noticed you across the room and thought you were pretty attractive.” “Do you mind if I buy you a cup of coffee?”

When you’re in Beast Mode, amazing things can happen. You’ll develop emotionally, physically, cognitively, and socially if you’re willing to put yourself out there – even if it’s just for 20 seconds. When the 20 seconds are over, you’ll have all the time in the world to be afraid.

 

Our Limits Are Where We Grow

Frodo and Samwell in hobbit lord of the rings.

I’d want to leave you with one more profound lesson from one of history’s greatest tales. Sam and Frodo set off on an expedition in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring, heading for the elvish town of Rivendell (and ultimately Mordor). Sam takes a quick photo of a scarecrow only a few kilometers from his house:

“This is it,” Sam says.

“What is this?” says Frodo.

“If I take one more step, I’ll be the farthest I’ve ever been from home.”

Those that went in and out of the Shire on a daily basis have undoubtedly strolled by the scarecrow a thousand times without giving it a second thought. The scarecrow, on the other hand, meant a lot to Sam. It marked the boundary between his comfortable, familiar existence and the possibly perilous, unknown experience that lay ahead of him. It was a tangible landmark that he could point to and say, “This is where I went above and beyond and accomplished something I never believed I could.”

It frightened him, but it also transformed him.

I’d want you to consider where the scarecrow is right now in your life. Is there a mountain trek you’ve promised yourself you’ll complete but haven’t yet attempted? Is it getting out of the nation and putting your preconceptions about other cultures to the test? Is it learning a new instrument, meeting a new acquaintance, or going to an event that makes you nervous?

We may wander instead of taking charge because of safety and the “familiar.” They advise us to stay away from things that make us uncomfortable, to stay away from things that make us afraid. Staying in a “comfortable” career or a “pleasant” relationship that has run its course. Rather of inspiring us to go beyond the scarecrow, they confine us in our hobbit caves and inside the Shire.

What occurs beyond the boundaries — what goes beyond the scarecrow — is critical to growth. The unknown is where change occurs, and if we don’t go looking for it, we’ll never find it. If you want to develop, you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s where the most interesting things happen.

Try. Push. Reach. Do not be terrified. Remember that Wayne’s lack of fear is what keeps him weak and imprisoned deep inside the pit prison in The Dark Knight Rises. “Make the climb…as the youngster did,” a fellow prisoner suggests. Without the use of rope. Then dread will come back to haunt you.” Wayne and we both need to let go, take a chance, and face the fear in order to rise into the light and achieve our objectives. “Courage is being terrified to death, but saddling up nevertheless,” in other words.

So go ahead and switch to Beast Mode and watch what happens. It’s possible that you’ll succeed, but it’s also possible that you’ll fail. And failure may turn out to be the finest thing that has ever happened to you.

I’d be thrilled to hear from you. What is something you’ve always wanted to accomplish but have been afraid to undertake? It might be large or modest in size. What is one tangible move you can take now to overcome your fear?

 

Let us know what you think on Twitter by replying to @artofmanliness and @SteveKamb. We’ll choose five winners at random and give them a copy of Level Up Your Life (which was just launched today!). It’s a handbook for doing all of the things you’ve always wanted to accomplish and living an exciting life. We’ll choose the winner within 24 hours of this post’s publication. It’s 1:15 p.m. CT on the 13th of January, 2016.

Let us know what you think on Twitter by replying to @artofmanliness and @SteveKamb. We’ll choose five winners at random and give them a copy of Level Up Your Life (which was just launched today!). It’s a handbook for doing all of the things you’ve always wanted to accomplish and living an exciting life. We’ll choose the winner within 24 hours of this post’s publication. It’s 1:15 p.m. CT on the 13th of January, 2016.

Level Up Your Life: How to Unlock Adventure and Happiness by Becoming the Hero of Your Own Story, by Steve Kamb, is now available in bookstores and online. He is also the founder of NerdFitness.com, resides in New York City, and aspires to be Captain America one day.

 

 

Watch This Video-

The “good superhero movies” are a way to conquer fear. They teach us that we can do anything if we put our minds to it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do we conquer your fear?

A: I have no fear.

What lessons can we learn from superheroes?

A: The most important lesson we can learn from superheroes is that they are all people with flaws, who battle various problems in their lives. They are not perfect and cannot solve every problem themselves. Theres always someone stronger than them out there to help them take down the bad guy or save the day. Life will never be easy for any superhero but it helps when you have a support system of friends and family by your side cheering you on!

Why is conquering fear good?

A: Conquering fear is a way of demonstrating progress in life. The more you are able to conquer your fears, the closer you are coming to living an ideal, successful and fulfilling life.

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