learning from comedians: dealing with fear

dealing with fear, part 1

“A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me; I’m afraid of widths” –  stand-up comedian Stephen Wright

Perhaps the single most commonly admired attribute of stand-up comedians is their  demonstration of courage and management of fear – preparedness to stand alone in front of an unknown, potentially hostile, and sometimes huge audience – risking failure: not amusing them, not being liked, being heckled or boo-ed off. This is a visceral and quite fundamental fear, which feels like it’s about one’s very survival. Not for nothing is a bad comedy experience on stage termed ‘dying on your *ss’.

You can employ exactly the same strategies that comedians use for dealing with fear, reducing stress and increasing your confidence, even though you may be applying them in quite different situations. So you can begin with the same overview:

1) Distinguish between causes of fear which you can do something about – like being criticized, for example, or looking stupid, being seen naked – and those things which you cannot alter – like knowing that you’re going to die one day, or being unfriended on Facebook.

2) Take action to diminish the incidence of things you can do something about – be less of a pain towards other people, accept you’re stupid and stop  worrying about it, keep your clothes on at all times….

3) Take action to diminish the effect on you of factors that you can’t eliminate or significantly change – look after your health better, get on with the things you know you want to do before you die, take out life insurance so that at least someone will benefit, do Google+ instead of Facebook….

fear categories 1






And by the way, the difference between these two categories is not always distinct – there are probably lots of things that you tend to think you can do nothing to change, but you probably can – like lack of money: is that something you can change, or something you have to try to limit the effects of, or is it more likely a bit of both? What about fear of spiders? Fear of The Void? Fear of daytime TV? Much of our fearfulness is based on mis-evaluation of potential risks or dangers, and/ or mis-evaluation of our ability to respond to those.

Like a comedian, to overcome fear and to be a confident human being, you need to know your strengths and your weaknesses. You need to be able to make the most of your positive qualities, and to minimize the effect of your limitations. You don’t have to be brilliant at everything – how boring would life be if everyone, or indeed anyone, was perfect at everything they did? Indeed, perfectionism is recognized as one of the greatest destroyers of self-confidence; don’t set impossibly high standards for yourself to try and fail to meet.

“Comedy is defiance. It’s a snort of contempt in the face of fear and anxiety. And it’s the laughter that allows hopes to creep back on the inhale.” – Will Durst

This thread continues with:

–          overcoming fear by reducing risk

–          overcoming fear by changing thought patterns: coming soon…