Josh Irby

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Five Reasons to Face your Fears

How does fear manifest in your life? Do your palms get sweaty? Does your face turn red? Do your hands tremble? Does your heart beat faster?

We all know the sensations of fear. Most of us organize our lives to avoid them. But what if facing your fear is the best thing you could do?

Photo Credit Powderruns (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit Powderruns (Creative Commons)

Here are five reasons to face your fears this week:

1) To Know Yourself

When I was a teenager, I was deathly afraid of public speaking. The fear traced back to a children’s play at our church in which I played an archeologist. I had one line. When my moment came, I started laughing uncontrollably. I never did deliver my one line.

After that point, when I stood in front of a crowd to speak, I could feel the laughter waiting to burst out. I did whatever I could to avoid that situation.

The summer after my first year in college, my sister opened a weekend concert venue for high school kids in our area. She asked me to emcee. I really wanted to say ‘No’—it was a much simpler answer. But the next weekend I found myself on the stage welcoming guests, introducing bands, and entertaining the crowd.

I discovered something new about myself—I like speaking in front of people.

When I tell people now about my fear of public speaking they can’t believe it. Speaking is a big part of my job. But there was time when that skill was hidden beneath fear.

2) To Develop Courage

Courage is a muscle. It grows when you exercise it. Every time you face a fear, you gain strength for the next time fear rears its head.

During World War II, the Nazi war machine unleashed its wrath upon the people of London. Starting on September 7, 1940, the Luftwaffe bombed London for 57 nights in a row. They destroyed one million homes. They killed over 40,000 civilians. London was left in ruins.

The Germans thought this Blitz of London would break the will of Winston Churchill and the British people and cripple them with fear. However, it had the opposite effect. The bombs only strengthened the courage of the 8 million Londoners. By facing the German artillery and surviving, fear lost its power.

One year into the bombing, Winston Churchill said this before the London County Council:

“We ask no favours of the enemy. … On the contrary, if tonight the people of London were asked to cast their votes as to whether a convention should be entered into to stop the bombing of all cities, an overwhelming majority would cry, ‘No, we will mete out to the Germans the measure, and more than the measure, they have meted out to us.’ … We will have no truce or parley with you, or the grisly gang who work your wicked will! You do your worst! – and we will do our best! Perhaps it may be our turn soon. Perhaps it may be our turn now.”

3) To Do Something Important

If you dream of doing something important in this world, you will need to face your fear. All significant work is frightening.

Think of the Apollo 8 astronauts waiting to blast off for the moon.
Think of Columbus setting sail for the unknown.
Think of Galileo presenting his astronomical discovery.
Think of the first time author mailing off her manuscript to publishers.
Think of the aid worker boarding a transport plane for the war zone.
Think of the new parents during their first night at home.
Think of the budding musician stepping onto his first main stage.

If you want to leave a mark, you have to face your fear. All important work is hard. You cannot succeed without the courage that comes from consistently facing fear.

4) To Enjoy Life

Fear nearly ruined my relationship with my wife—twice—just as it was getting started.

The first time was the night we met. I had heard from my family about this tall, beautiful girl who loved music and traveling the world. So, I gathered my courage and conspicuously showed up an event I knew she attended—a  songwriter’s circle at her church. When she walked in my stomach dropped to my toes. She was beautiful and confident. At six-feet one, she commanded the attention of the room. Fear told me to run. I gulped and crossed the room to introduce myself.

The second time was six months later. We were dating and starting to get serious. Fear was taking over my mind. One night, driving to pick her up for a date, I decided to break up with her. For moral support, I called my Dad. The weekend before, I had brought Taylor home to meet my family. I wanted to ask his advice on my break-up plan, but I never got the chance. From the moment he picked up the phone, he went on and on about how great Taylor is and how everyone loved meeting her and how lucky I was to be dating her.  I never told him my plan.

I realized I had no good reason to end the relationship. The decision had come from an amorphous feeling of insecurity driven by fear. I wanted to run because I was afraid.

We stayed together. Six months later we were engaged. This December, we will celebrate 10 years of marriage. Fear can prevent you from discovering a life of joy.

BONUS: In 2007 I wrote a song about the experience and recorded it with some awesome musician friends. It’s called “All I Fear.” Maybe you can relate. 

5) To Help Others

Fear forces us to fixate on ourselves. It produces selfishness.

We don’t give money to our needy neighbor because we are worried about our own financial future.
We don’t adopt the child trapped in the foster system because we are afraid how it will affect our other children.
We don’t sign up for the mission trip because we might get sick or the plane could crash.
We don’t reach out to the new family in town because we fear what they will think of us.

Fear keeps us self-centered. It prevents us from helping others. But when we face our fears, we find a beautiful world of purpose, service, and joy. The life you long for is hiding on the other side of your fears. (tweet that?) Will you run away or will you break through?

What fear will you face this week?

[box]This post is part of Grit month on the blog. If you’re new here, make sure you check out other grit related posts[/box]

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About Josh

  • Loved your post. And you gave me many reasons. First of all, I can resonate with this. Most things I do afraid. Fear is an intruder who won’t leave. And so I had some choices to make. I could live a smaller life, keep standing on the sidelines watching the game. Or I could do it afraid.

    Secondly when I read this, there was another avenue you took to convey your distaste of fear. You sang about it. Great job but the way.

    Thirdly, you pointed out something I don’t think I ever thought about. You said fear is selfish. That’s something I’ll be processing today. Since you see people afraid of all kinds of things, being afraid doesn’t seem more than an aggravation. Something we try and push aside to get to other things. But to say fear is selfish. Well, who wants to be selfish?

    Great post, Josh.

    • Joshua Irby

      Thank Anne. You know, I really had not thought a lot about the connection between fear and selfish until writing this post. I notice that fear makes me pay way too much to myself. It is hard to be obsessed with yourself and aware of the needs of others at the same time. I want to think about it more too…

  • Powerful, and helpful, insights, Josh. Thank you! (Great tune as well)

    • Joshua Irby

      Thanks Mike.

  • Awesome! Josh it’s so good to meet you. It’s such a pleasure to read somebody who can really write and pack a punch!

    • Josh

      Thanks Bob!

  • Excellent post, Josh. It’s time for me to face my fears.

    • Josh

      Do it Joan. Do it.

  • Fear keeping us self centered, keeping us from the life we long to lead- the life we long for may be just on the other side of the fear door we hide behind.
    Josh great words to shake up our excuses.


    • Josh

      We are all like Orange Juice. We need to be shaken every once in a while.

  • troy mc laughlin

    Great insight and practical on fear Josh. Glad you got the girl 🙂

  • Laura Robb

    Wow, so true. I just decided this week I need to face some writing fears and quit waiting to make progress. That’s the only way to move forward and build courage for future challenges!

    • Josh

      Go for it Laura. You’re a great writer.

  • Ian

    Josh, excellent post. I particularly like the last point about it being selfish. Yes, when fearful we become self-absorbed about our fear & stop “seeing” what’s going on around us. Often it’s when we reach out, the fear is broken, simply because we’ve stopped focusing on ourselves.

    Well done.