Paper Tigers: Facing Your Fears with Tenacity

person climbing on mountain

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” – Amelia Earhart

I am blessed to share a name with the brilliant, famous aviator Amelia Earhart, who was tragically taken from us too soon! Being such a boss babe, it turns out Amelia also had quite a few very poignant sound bytes when it comes to motivation. 

One of my favorite Amelia Earhart quotes has to do with tenacity. It’s been mentioned a lot over the years in various motivational articles. While this is a good quote as such, people need to read the entirety of it to get its full meaning.

As this famous Amelia Earhart quote reads on BrainyQuote:

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.”

Most of this quote is straightforward, but there is one phrase that particularly stands out. What are “paper tigers,” you ask? According to Wikipedia, a “paper tiger” is something that appears threatening, but isn’t in reality. It’s a literal English translation of the Chinese phrase zhilaohu: being made of paper, it won’t withstand real challenge.

What sort of paper tigers do you face in your daily life? You can’t let fears get the best of you. We may even try to rationalize them at times. But, what you should do instead is think through why you have certain fears. 

For example, say that you have a fear of heights. As long as you practice safety, that fear is a paper tiger, right? That fear of heights could prevent you from doing a lot of things, especially flying!

I’ve always wanted to fly, myself, for example, but the idea of being tens of thousands of feet in the air is absolutely horrifying to me. Pretty ironic that one of my all time heroes literally is the most famous aviator of all time, huh? (I did eventually gather up the courage to fly, and I was sick to my stomach both times, and I’ll never fly again unless my life depends on it!)

Yeah, I’ve collected quite a few paper tigers over time. My worst paper tiger? It’s the fear that what I do will never be enough. 

I just want to work at something all of the time. But, there’s the fear that my work won’t be consistently productive. It’s the fear that the words I write won’t resonate in the way I wish them to. There’s the worry that I will make decisions that will be financially disastrous in the hopes that they will pay off, eventually. 

These paper tigers held me back for too long. As it turns out, these are the same paper tigers that I know other writers and artists keep staring at day after day.

Fortunately, I do keep deciding to act. As Amelia said, “You can do anything you decide to do.”  So, I continue to pour out all the words I can as they come. While I’ve certainly wavered and hesitated for weeks and even months at a time, I’ve never given up on getting my words out there. 

Yet, my tenacity has often wavered in the face of these paper tigers. Fortunately, you can beat them by challenging those fears and blow them away. The process of defeating them and taking control of your own life, as Amelia says, is its own reward.

What paper tigers are staring you down right now? Sure, things have a way of looking bleak and unable to be overcome at times. But, remember, there is always a way out, even if it’s not obvious at first.

The first step is to recognize the real impediments to your success. Once you have your fears set firmly in your sights, you can learn how to overcome them. After all, most fears are simply nothing but paper tigers.

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.

One thought on “Paper Tigers: Facing Your Fears with Tenacity

  1. I agree with you! We spend so much time thinking about wanting to do things, but the biggest leap forward it to actually do it. I’ve seen Amelia Earhart featured on Soaring in DCA. I feel you about the fear about how the things we do is never enough. It is frustrating but we need to take a step back and reflect on what we have done :).

    Nancy ✨

Comments are closed.

Back To Top
%d bloggers like this: