As bleak as it may sound, many of the things we do in life are governed by fear. This potentially paralyzing force, which causes us to be afraid or feel anxious or apprehensive about a possible or probable situation or event, often stands between self-advancement and the choices we ultimately make.
Fear has been referred to as mankind's oldest and strongest emotion and it is known for its mind-crippling effects. It can prevent people from advancing in life and profoundly limit quality of life; such is its devastating impact. However, it can also be used to ones advantage.
By positively channelling fear by viewing the fearful circumstance as an opportunity, or challenge worthy of accomplishment, the situation becomes one of anticipation and focus, and ones awareness of the importance of the event becomes heightened. A pro boxer, for example, would be nervous prior to a fight, but this nervousness tinged with obvious fear can be used to push out the adrenaline and focus completely on the task at hand.
Same thing with bodybuilding: a competitor who has established a negative mindset - a state where fear could be considered the victor - will not look their best on the day of the show and this will show in their onstage demeanour and overall energy levels.
Even in daily life, fear can rear its ugly head and prevent us from making that crucial choice that could enhance our lives for the better - not asking for a promotion could be one instance. It is clear that controlling fear is important if success on many levels is to be realised. But how can this be accomplished?
It seems banishing negative thinking is the first major step. If one thinks negatively they are likely, if confronted with a hard choice, which involves a degree of fear and anxiety, to choose the easy option based on their existing level of doubt and uncertainty (characteristics of a weaker mind).
Being fully aware of what you want and unwavering in the belief that you will attain it is the key to overcoming fear. With this kind of attitude, nothing can stand in your way.
One man who uses fear to his advantage, and who has full control over it as it relates to bodybuilding performance, is Anthony Catanzaro. Anthony has dealt with a high degree of fear for most of his life and has found the secret for overcoming its limiting influence.
As a successful model, bodybuilder and businessman, Anthony practices what he preaches (as far as controlling the mind for optimal performance is concerned) every day of his life. In the following interview he shares his thoughts on the subject of fear, and gives his advice on how to overcome it to be the best you can be.
[ Q ] How does fear affect the bodybuilding athlete?
Just like any athlete who is pushing him or herself to be the best, fear sets in because there's always that chance they will be beat. That is the most important thing to overcome: the fear of negativity.
[ Q ] How would you overcome negative thinking?
I visualize how I want the outcome to be. Even if the cards are against me I never think negative, nothing is over until it's over. You have to trick your mind into believing the impossible as this will open huge doors for you in the future.
[ Q ] Describe how fear has affected you over the years? What have you done to counter it?
I lived my whole live in fear to be honest with you. I remember being 10-years old and crying at the end of my driveway waiting for my father to come home from chemotherapy treatments. We lived in Long Island and he would take the train to the city for treatment. I was always afraid he wouldn't come home. I also experienced my mom dying from cancer. So I grew up a very nervous kid. I was so bad that my father had to get me out of school some days. I was more than a handful.
But now that I look back at all of my childhood fears, I understand why I was like that. I never had anyone who was positive in my life so living in fear was natural. When I began lifting weights at 15-years old, my confidence grew and I was no longer afraid. I owe my life to health and fitness!
[ Q ] That is a big turn around in your life. Do you have to constantly work at maintaining a positive outlook to overcome fear?
Yes. The devil always fights you the hardest when he knows God has good things in store for you. I still have my bouts with fear and this is normal. I still have many issues to overcome. I may not be able to overcome all of them, but as long as I am open with them, they can't harm me.
Negative thoughts are in your head and they can't stay there if you share them with your loved ones, they kind of weaken. It's like when I was a kid crying for my dad, my mother would yell at me instead of talking to me about it. Don't get me wrong, I loved my mother and she was the greatest. But her lack of knowledge in that department hurt me as a child.
Parents should never neglect their kids. Children are a blessing and there's no such thing as a bad kid or a problem child. The problem lies in the parent's belief system and the knowledge they possess on how to help.
[ Q ] What are some of the best methods for coping with fear leading up to a competition?
First off, understand that everyone in the show is nervous, they feel a lot of the same things that you do. Too many people are afraid to admit their fears, or even cry for that matter. All that is saying is that you hide behind your feelings. God gave us emotions for us to show, not to hide behind them. This is the number one cause of people who have nervous breakdowns: they hold it all in.
When I'm on stage, or preparing for a show, which I am right now as a matter a fact - I'm four weeks away from competing - I put my mind where it needs to be and I don't focus on who is going to be there, and what if I lose, or will I be ready the day of the show. All of this is what I like to call a "destructive mindset."
Click Image To Enlarge.
A Destructive Mindset Is Just As Bad
As Evil Spotters Beating You With Plates!
I'll wake up every morning and fill my mind with positive feelings like: "I'm going to be the best that day," "I am the best, I'm not nervous at all," "I'm ready," and that day I will be the most ready.
[ Q ] You speak of a destructive mindset. What impact can a "destructive mindset" have on a competitor?
It will destroy your performance onstage. Arnold used to psych out the other competitors backstage because he knew that they had weak mindsets. He, on the other hand, would laugh if they tried it on him. His mind was always on the prize. You must believe 100% that you are 100% ready, and that you will be 100% on the day, or else you have already lost. Remember, Lou Ferrigno in Pumping Iron? Arnold beat him before he even got to the pump room.
[ Q ] What are the harmful effects of fear? Are there any positive effects associated with fear?
Fear can cause damage physically and mentally. Remember, the mind fails before the body, so if your mind isn't right, you can call it a night. Fear can also work in your favour. It keeps you on your toes and releases adrenaline, which stimulates the fight or flight syndrome - boxers undergo this before they fight.
[ Q ] What are some specific instances where fear could impact a bodybuilder? What could they do under these conditions to eliminate it?
If you're a bodybuilder that lives with fear, you will never reach your goal because you are fighting emotion and stress. Now stress has to be the worst thing for the mind as it destroys people's lives and drives them to live off balance. Keep your eye on the prize like I always say.
If you want to get rid of your fear, you must come to terms with it. Don't be afraid of it, or hide it in a closet. That will only harness it to become stronger. You must always face your fears, and believe me everyone has them.
[ Q ] How could one use fear to their advantage?
I'll never forget the first time I was out on stage at the 1996 Mr Fitness contest. I was backstage getting ready to go out and do my routine. I was never on stage before; just for modeling and local hot body contests and things like that, but nothing like what I was about to do.
I remember sitting down backstage and feeling nauseous beyond belief - this came out of nowhere. Fear was setting in and I was thinking back to all the times my father had to come and get me out of school, all the times I was living in fear as a child and all the negativity I grew up with was attacking me at that moment.
I remember then looking up at the ceiling and praying for my mom to help me and to give me strength. I then immediately began having thoughts of the hard workouts I endured and the dieting and all of the sacrifices I made to get here. I immediately got myself off that chair and said, "It's time to go to work."
I went out there and blew the audience away with my routine. You see, if I left my mind in that scared place, I would have thrown up or not even been able to go out there. But I changed my mindset, just like changing the channel on TV. The mind is the most powerful tool we have. It can be your friend or your worst enemy.
[ Q ] Regarding your backstage strategy of psyching yourself up, do you do a similar thing today? In four weeks what will be your strategy?
I'm taking a bunch of supplements now that I never used. I never used creatine and I'm also taking a real good protein powder by BSN called Syntha-6 and BSN Cell Mass for creatine. My goal is to make myself believe that I'm actually taking growth enhancements when I take the supplements.
My body is not used to taking anything, so when I take my whey protein, I actually make myself believe I'm taking "miracle grow" for muscles. The mind will believe anything if you allow yourself to believe it.
The mind is not programmed, you program it just like a magician can make a child believe in magic. I will begin to make myself believe I'm getting bigger and harder by the hour. Come show time, I will feel like Ronnie Coleman. Crazy, but the mind is my tool and I have to use it to my advantage.
[ Q ] What could trigger fear in a bodybuilder?
I get emails all the time about guys who have insecurities and they are always worried about how others look at them. They are afraid of going to a gym because they are overweight, and they are afraid to live their life to the fullest because of the simple fact that they feel they don't belong.
The worst thing you can do in life is not doing something. Imagine going through your whole life saying "I could have, should have."
This is nothing more than fear. Fear to change, fear to grow or fear to lose. You have to take chances in life. Nobody is going to just give you a great body. You have to earn it. There is no room for fear and negativity. Be confident. Don't let anything or anyone stand in your way.
[ Q ] What would you say to the bodybuilder who is despondent because they feel they don't have what it takes?
Your mind is what will make you or break you. If you feel you don't have what it takes, then work on what you need to do in order to get there. Every champion had to go through hell to become a champion. If you believe you're a champion, then you will be. If you don't see yourself as a winner, then you will never win.
Even if you do you will only set yourself up for a loss. The bigger they come the harder they fall and nobody hits harder than fear. It is in all of us, you just have to learn how to harness it into fire!
[ Q ] A German proverb says "fear makes the wolf bigger than he is" Exactly how can we make fear our friend?
Fear is like a weed that grows next to a flower. It chokes the flower and tries to eliminate it so that it can grow. This is fear, it doesn't just happen it grows inside of us you have to pull it out from the root by talking to others about it and not hiding behind your feelings.
Fear will always be with us and as long as we have emotion, we will have fear. The mind is complex, but the soul isn't. Use your feelings from your soul to get you out of a jam like that night of my show, look up and pray for help and ask God to come into your heart and fight your battle for you. You might be hearing that little voice like I did saying "lets go to work." A wise man once said,
[ Q ] What advice would you give to a competitor who gets nervous standing onstage?
Like I said, everyone gets nervous on stage - everyone. It's OK, because the guy who is not nervous is not taking it seriously. It's like this: if you were in a card game and you were betting $10,000 on a hand, you would be much more nervous than if you were betting 10 bucks. You have much more to lose and this is what will keep you sharp.
Don't get caught up in the hype onstage about who is cheering for who - it does not matter. The judges know who the winner is and don't care how many cheers or attention a certain competitor gets from his family, friends, or whoever.
Keep your eye on the prize. Trust in God, he created you to be the best you can be, and remember your only competition is yourself.
Fear goes through everyone and everyone has a dark side, so don't think you're the only one.
Like ROCKY says in his new movie coming soon:
"It's not about how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit! How much you can take and keep moving forward. If you know what you're worth, go out and get what you're worth. But you got to be willing to take the hit!"
| Rocky Balboa
Rocky Balboa comes to theatres Christmas of 2006. View the trailer here.
Fear has been discussed, debated and analysed for centuries. The greatest creative and political minds have acknowledged the profound effect it can have on human emotions and the potentially paralysing influence it has over all we do in life. Indeed, fear is something we have to live with, but it can also be controlled and used to ones advantage. The choice is yours.
Below are several legendary quotes that illustrate perfectly fears degree of impact.