How to Make Fear Your Friend

This essay, by Zoe Brown, 14, of Bend, Ore., is one of the Top 11 winners of The Learning Network’s new “How To” Informational Writing Contest for Teenagers.

How to Make Fear Your Friend

“The best part about fear is that it’s the only emotion that will bring out your true potential,” says Matthias Giraud, a big mountain skier and BASE jumper. His “ethos” highlights the shift in perspective that occurs when one refuses to let fear dictate one’s limits.

Giraud, otherwise known as Super Frenchie, is an extreme athlete who skis off mountains, such as the Matterhorn for fun. Not only is he an expert at leaping off mountain peaks in the Alps Trilogy — the Matterhorn, Eiger, and Mont Blanc — he’s also an expert on harnessing fear.

“I try to breathe in fear,” explains Giraud, 40, who talked to me from his home in Bend, Oregon. Giraud, originally from Evreux, France, spent his childhood at a ski academy. Now he regularly attempts death-defying feats that seem to require fearlessness but actually he uses fear to his advantage. “You have to listen to your fear, not overcome it,” says Giraud.

Fear is not a bad emotion, says Giraud. Rather than ignoring one’s instincts, a systematic analysis of your environment and the factors involved will help you move into a better place. “It’s not about talking yourself into doing what you’re afraid to do,’‘ says Giraud. It’s about understanding personal limits and accepting the risks.

Once you understand that fear is a result of uncertainty, you can embrace it as a tool, according to Giraud. The action is less “fearful” if you assess the unknown variables and make an informed decision to accept specific risks. For example, on numerous occasions, Giraud has spent a lot of time, money, and effort in planning ambitious expeditions but turned around due to unacceptable risks such as bad weather.

When you shift your paradigm to understand fear is an advantage instead of an obstacle, “fear will unleash super powers,” says Giraud. It can change how you see the world. His philosophy allows one the freedom to set ambitious goals and give opportunities to move out of one’s comfort zone.

“Once you push through your fear enough you are able to reach a place of serenity where your experience and confidence in yourself is high enough that you reach a ‘quiet’ in your mind,” says Giraud. “Breathing becomes easy and you have achieved serenity.”