One of America’s great leaders, Franklin D. Roosevelt, once said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This mantra is etched into American hearts and American history. But, what is our obsession with fear? Why do we actively attempt to deny panic while eternally chasing courage?
Fear resides within everyone. Its very essence equalizes our world. But ask yourself truthfully, what can fear do to you? I believe that fear is simply avoiding interaction with something right in front of you.
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Are you going to perish from the effort of facing your fears? Are you going to be physically hurt from the exertion? If not, then you are simply fearful. Could it be that you are afraid to face the possibility of weakness? Maybe it is the anxiety that you will not perform to the best of your abilities.
Facing your deepest fears may result in a bruised ego or injured pride, but that cost may be worth paying. Maybe you will be embarrassed in front of many people. Perhaps you will perform poorly. But to grow and achieve, you must cross that line. There is balance between fear and courage: believe that if you are willing to suffer this time, then you are working to improve your future.
I freely admit that my first competition was terrifying. I’ve grown so much since then. That first competition was in a shooting school. I attended classes many years ago to learn about handgun safety. After a few sessions, I set an initial goal of becoming the best female shooter in the school. It took me 3 months. My next goal was to continue learning and achieving until I turned 50-years old. One benchmark within this goal was to become the best shooter, regardless of gender, in the class. That goal took me 6 more quarters to achieve.
As a final exam, each student was required to shoot a myriad of targets in multiple positions. The targets ranged from bowling pins to paper plates. In practice, I was very accurate. But, I had no speed. Standing on the line during that first competition, I remember feeling the fear of pressure for the first time. It was my first time shooting against another competitor, and he happened to be the best shooter in the class. I faltered under my fears.
I knew that I could do better. So, I re-enrolled in the course and spent the term practicing with a BB gun and cans. I purchased used bowling pins from local bowling alleys and hauled the pins to the range. I practiced shooting bowling pins for hours.
I learned so much about overcoming fear during those early days of competition. To begin with, prepare to the best of your abilities so that you are confident within yourself. Try not to make the mistake of looking at other competitors or wondering what they are thinking, seeing or doing. Think about playing your own game and challenging yourself rather than competing against other athletes. You will find internal strength and rise to face each test.
There is a Chinese word that, in English, sounds like Shing Ping. It means “having harmony in your heart and having no axe to grind.” Whether in competition, or in daily life, you should not fight to win or to beat someone else. Fight to achieve the best of your abilities. Battle to do a job well.
Fear and doubt still cross my mind at inopportune moments. But, having confidence in my practice and dedication will always allow me to take a deep breath and face new challenges.
© Vera Koo with Elizabeth Clair.
Vera Koo is a first-generation Chinese American woman. She’s a wife and mother, author, entrepreneur and retired competition shooter. Along with Vera’s fantastic memoir and life story, "The Most Unlikely Champion," she writes her column, Vera Koo, at "Women’s Outdoor News." View all posts by Vera Koo
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