The fear of the tiger: Overcoming life’s overwhelming problems

PEDDLER OF HOPE - George Royeca - The Philippine Star

In 2021, a remarkable woman carried the weight of the Philippines on her shoulders, accomplishing an extraordinary feat by lifting 127 kilograms in her final clean and jerk lift. Hidilyn Diaz etched her name in history as the first-ever Filipino athlete to bring home an Olympic gold medal, a triumph that symbolized the collective pride of an entire nation.

Yet, Hidilyn’s journey to conquering the grandest stage in sports was anything but easy. During her childhood, she carried baskets of vegetables to aid her farmer father, a testament to her family’s enduring financial hardships. These obstacles might have deterred many, but Diaz, fueled by determination to surmount these challenges, refused to let her impoverished upbringing shackle her dreams. Instead, she transformed her humble beginnings into a powerful motivator, using them as a springboard to propel herself toward her goals. Despite the looming fear of lacking access to quality training facilities and equipment, she remained steadfast in honing her skills and developing her strength.

She also confronted the problem of being a woman in a field traditionally dominated by men. Her path to the Olympics was riddled with gender biases and stereotypes. In the face of adversity, she embarked on an arduous journey, tirelessly training and evolving into one of the finest weightlifters in her class. Through her dedication, Diaz shattered the misconceptions and demonstrated that women are more than capable of excelling in this demanding sport.

Her story serves as an inspiration, a beacon of hope for all who dare to dream and are willing to confront their fears head-on.

Problems, whether substantial or trivial, are an inevitable facet of life. Whenever I find myself grappling with what appears to be an insurmountable challenge, an age-old saying comes to mind: “The fear of the tiger is bigger than the tiger itself.”

I am comforted in knowing that this saying holds a profound truth – our imaginations and apprehensions about a daunting situation can often loom larger in our minds than the actual situation. The human psyche tends to magnify and exaggerate the difficulties we anticipate, creating a barrier.

Our brains are hardwired for survival. From our hunter-gatherer ancestors who had to constantly be on the lookout for threats, our minds have evolved to instantly identify and react to perceived dangers. This instinct was crucial back in the days when a rustling in the bushes could mean a predator lurking nearby. Fast forward to the present, and while we no longer have to fend off wild animals, this evolutionary trait is still very much alive within us. As a result, our mind can sometimes overreact, turning everyday problems into colossal tigers.

For instance, imagine you made a mistake at work. The initial panic, the what-ifs, the potential consequences all play out in our head, often blown out of proportion. Instead of seeing it as a single error, our brain visualizes a potential job loss, financial struggles or even broader life failures. The tiger in the bush has been replaced by the tiger in our minds.

As history and personal experiences consistently demonstrate, humanity possesses astonishing resilience and adaptability. Regardless of the magnitude of the challenge, the human spirit, when fortified with determination, can confront and conquer any “tiger” that crosses its path.

Angkas has encountered its fair share of challenges and obstacles throughout its six years of operation. We’ve weathered multiple shutdowns, each time standing in solidarity with our dedicated bikers, fervently advocating for their rights and the pursuit of a decent livelihood. In this journey, I came face to face with the harsh reality of our bikers’ lives – often marginalized due to their economic status, and frequently overlooked by society.

Angkas wouldn’t be the champion for the rights of motorcycle riders and passengers it is today if we had not embraced the challenges we faced, but more importantly, if we hadn’t addressed each one of them with courage.

Fortunately, just as our minds can amplify problems, they also hold the power to break them down. The key is to cut problems into bite-sized pieces. The process of compartmentalization allows us to dissect a big issue into smaller, more manageable parts. By addressing each part one at a time, the overwhelming sensation diminishes, and solutions become more apparent.

Consider the act of climbing a mountain. If you stand at the base and look up, the task seems impossible. But, if you focus on the trail just ahead, step by step, before you know it, you’ve reached the summit. Similarly, every problem, no matter how complex, can be broken down into smaller tasks. By solving one issue at a time, you gradually chip away at the bigger problem until it’s entirely resolved.

It’s essential to remind ourselves of past challenges we’ve overcome. Think back to a problem you faced years ago that seemed insurmountable at the time. With hindsight, you’ll likely see it was never as severe as it felt. This realization can be a powerful tool in reinforcing your belief in your own abilities.

Our resilience, forged through past experiences, serves as a testament to our inherent strength. Each time we confront and conquer a problem, we’re not just finding a solution but also reinforcing our own self-belief, crafting a more robust mental armor for future challenges.

Whether you’re an athlete grappling with a scarcity of opportunities, an entrepreneur navigating the legislative arena or an employee who has made a costly mistake at work, we all find ourselves staring the “tiger” right in the eyes. However, it’s crucial to always remember one thing: it’s not the size of the tiger in the fight, but the size of the fight within the person facing the tiger.

Our problems and fears may appear insurmountable, casting long shadows of doubt and anxiety. Yet, it’s vital to recognize that these challenges are not unbeatable giants. The true key to overcoming them lies within, where we can harness our inner strength and summon the courage to confront these hurdles directly.

By shifting our perspective and redefining our relationship with fear, we unlock the potential to not just face our fears but to emerge from the encounter stronger and more resilient than ever.

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