Being a speaker I get to listen to many, many speeches at schools and conferences. I have to say that out of all the speeches I have heard this year, the most impressive have come from head boys and girls in schools. I have been blown away by their eloquence, confidence and ability to get their point across without any waffle. They have all been a fabulous advertisement for their schools!

There was one speech, however, that stood out because it was so simple, yet sincere and profound. It touched me and left enough of an impression for me to share it with you. The core of this 18 year old head boy’s message was that change is difficult. When you move to a new school it is hard. There is so much to get used to. There is much to fear that is new. But with fear comes growth. He mentioned that starting at his high school he was the only boy who came from his primary school and he was Afrikaans starting in an English school. Now that was hard! He then opened up his heart and listed at least ten things that he still fears. They varied from not being fit enough, to not fulfilling his potential, to not getting the marks he needs to take the next step in life, and so on. He then briefly explained that it was these fears that make him grow, galvanise him into action and energise his plan for his life. He simply ended by saying, “I love my fear.” It gave me goose bumps.

I am reminded of a book I read once by Don Greene called, Fight your Fear and Win. In essence, there are times when we need to walk into our fears to conquer them and grow instead of running from them. In our striving to keep our children happy, we often allow them to walk away from difficult and challenging situations, instead of up-skilling them and encouraging them to be victorious. There is a time and a place for children to get hands on experience at ‘doing the hard yards’.

When kids get the opportunity to overcome something through their own personal experience they grow in leaps and bounds, in ways you cannot imagine and could never orchestrate if you tried. True confidence and self-assuredness comes from within, not only from parents and teachers telling a child that they are good at something, that they are a valuable member of a team, or that they are special. It is only truly discovered and ‘owned’ in the moment of actually facing challenges and triumphing – in that instant of realising they are bigger and more capable than they thought they were.

We need to ensure that our children have opportunities to face their fears, to pit themselves against the world in big and small ways, and age-appropriately, where possible. You just have to think of the incredible growth and sense of ‘I can’ that children get when they learn to walk; climb a jungle gym; ride a bike; get their pen licence; somersault into the pool; make new friendships; remember their lines in a school play; try out for a team; master a new routine in ballet or karate; sell a full list of raffle tickets to all the family friends by asking them by themselves; moving to a new school, or getting their driver’s licence. For many, many children, these are all big mountains to climb, but climb, they must.

One of our roles is to help our children to embrace their fear and to see the value in it, so that they too can one day say, “I love my fear.”

PS. With thanks to John Fourie, head boy of KES VII in Johannesburg for the inspiration for this article.