What ‘Divergent’ Taught Me About Fear

christina canters divergent fear

Have you ever felt like this?

I sure have. In fact, I had a little freak-out just a few weeks ago. What the hell am I doing? I thought. Where am I going after New York? How long is my money going to last? Do people even want to listen to my podcast? Have I made a huge mistake?

Just like the heroine Tris in Divergent, I felt like I was about to jump off a ledge with no way of knowing how I was going to land.

Unlike Tris, however, I had the option to phone a friend.

“Do you have quantitative proof that your target audience isn’t listening to your podcast?” my friend Shah asked when I called him via Skype, slightly frantic. Well, not really. “Is there a chance that you’re just making this up in your own head?” Possibly.

It was precisely what I needed to hear to bring me back down to earth. Never underestimate the power of a fellow entrepreneurial Aussie who has experienced all this before!

A lesson on fear

This whole experience reminded me of an interesting lesson from Divergent, in which ‘fear’ is a recurring theme.

In the film, the protagonist Tris undergoes brutal physical and mental training as part of her initiation into the ‘Dauntless’ faction of society. In one mental test, she is forced into a hallucination, in which she is faced with her deepest, darkest fears, like an attack by a flock of birds and entrapment in a glass box filling up with water. Her success as a member of Dauntless depends on her ability to deal with these fears.

Here’s how most Dauntless cadets would face the fear challenge:

Some would freak out and let their fears overwhelm them. Even the toughest, biggest and baddest candidates would emerge from the test mentally broken. Others who were more successful used their problem-solving skills, sourcing tools to help them face and fight the fears.

Tris, however, dealt with her fears differently. After initially struggling and on the verge of panic, she calmed herself down and whispered to herself: “This isn’t real.”

And as if by magic, her fears disappeared. (As a bonus, she passed the mental test with flying colours.)

Christina Canters Divergent
“I’m trapped in a glass case of emotion!” (Wait…wrong movie…)

Maybe this isn’t real?

Just like Tris, I was facing fears that I didn’t know how to combat. However, my friend Shah made me aware that these fears, in fact, aren’t real. I had no valid reason for them.

So often when we fear something, we create stories in our heads of all the terrible things that will happen, and then that fear grows and grows to the point that it engulfs us and renders us useless. Sometimes, it is possible to fight the fear by plunging into it head-on. But a more helpful approach would be, like Tris, to think: what do I actually fear? and is it even real?

I still face fears every day. It’s only natural. But as I learn to deal with them, it gets easier to determine which ones are valid and which are just the result of my own chaotic mind. Looking at the big picture, I am incredibly grateful to be living overseas, to be doing what I love and to be meeting amazing people. Reminding myself of how fortunate I am to have these opportunities really helps to find clarity and diminish my made-up fears.

So if you’re not making a decision or not taking action because of fear, ask yourself ‘Is this fear real?’ Or even better, ask a trusted friend or mentor for a fresh perspective. Believe me, it helps!