Nervousness and Fear

Fear is the mind killer.

Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear

Fear and nervousness are related concepts. They make some people hyperactive and others very quiet. I fall on either side of this divide depending on the circumstances.

However, it is important to separate the two. Fear is an immobilizing force. It makes you hesitate and leads to a spiral of self-doubt. It feeds itself and grows without limit. This is what the Litany Against Fear tackles. It stops the cycle and allows you to regain control of yourself.

Nervousness, on the other hand, is your friend.

When you’re nervous before something important, it means you are invested in its outcome. The nervousness is a side-effect of your concern. It’s a positive experience. In fact, if you pay attention, the physical sensation of nervousness are very similar to the physical sensation of excitement. You can actually reframe nervousness as excitement and achieve positive results. It sounds ridiculous but it’s true.

Here’s my trick to overcoming nervousness.

Before I take the plunge into something that scares me, I dig into my stockpile of nervous moments. In my mind, I run through a chronological list of all the times I’ve been nervous and it’s turned out okay. I try to remember as much detail about each memory as I can. Then, I convince myself whatever situation I’m in is just another item to add to that list.

The more I use this exercise, the easier it gets to run through the list of memories. The details of the memories also become sharper, which helps me to connect this instance of nervousness to a long, ongoing history.

We all have dozens and dozens of examples of nervousness in our memory. Try to put them to good use.