The word “fear” can bring up strong reactions. In American culture, we are often taught to avoid fear, to be fearless, and we may find it hard to talk about what we are afraid of. Yet, fear can teach us a lot. It speaks to us and teaches us about ourselves and what is important to us.
Thankfully, we know that every single human being on the planet has fears. Each of us live with fear and this is a totally normal part of life. So, let’s acknowledge for a moment, that we all share that reality – we will always have fears. It’s okay! What might not be okay for ourselves and our growth, is to let the imagined fear–all the “what if’s”, and the stories and judgements–cloud us and get in the way of what we want.
Fear is one feeling that truly can serve us and protect us. We are driven by fear not to do things that will physically harm us – we learn not to touch the hot stove because we’ll get burned. Our bodies tell us when we are truly in danger or need to stop because a car is coming at 60 miles/hour around the corner of the street we are about to cross. Fear will tell us not to bungee jump off the cliff (unless you may be an adrenaline junkie!) Fear prevents us from physically harming ourselves and sometimes speaks to us through our gut instinct – that feeling in the stomach when we instinctively know something is not right.
Yet, on the flip side, fear can also hold us back at times, stunt our growth, and limit us from becoming our truest selves. That nervous, excited feeling in our gut, may actually be telling us that we are on the right path. Because frankly, when we make a big life decision, are going down a new path, entering a new job, new relationship, about to embark on a new beginning or into completely unfamiliar territory, even changing a habit, we are going to feel fear. This is okay and normal. Fear is speaking to us to remind us that we are alive sometimes, and entering new territory – literally and figuratively. That feeling is the yellow flag to check in and say, “hey is it really safe and okay for you to take this step right now?” The only way to know if that fear feeling is guiding and serving us or holding us back is to invite her in for tea – like you would with a concerned friend.
My fears have stopped me from taking action when growth was simply right around the next corner. Fear-based decisions were often my default in the past. I made a number of decisions based on fear that prevented me from benefiting from growth-oriented experiences, and risks that were presented as opportunities for learning. I learned and am still learning (always will be learning this lesson, actually!) that the gift of fear can be a way to course-correct and grow and expand.
This is when fear comes to visit me:
- when starting something new and unfamiliar
- when letting go of an old pattern, belief or thought that no longer serves me yet is super comfortable to hang onto for a little longer
- when feeling insecure or less than confident
- when taking a risk that I know is good for me, fear will challenge me with that small voice,“ Are you sure that you can do this? Is it safe? Do you really think you can do this?”
Here are a few ideas to befriend fear
Acknowledge the fear, because when she comes to us, she is seeking attention. Give her some TLC. Befriend her. Let her know that you hear her, that you acknowledge that she wants to protect you. Acknowledging fear can lessen and diminish the power that she brings over us. You can take charge and guide that fear. When we let fear take over, we are now in a fear-based mode of living and decision-making – fear based decisions can create those blocks that get us stuck or hold us back.
Ask questions. Speak to that fear and probe a little to listen to what she truly has to say. She might actually help you realize where the fear comes from and discover something new about yourself. Perhaps it is time to let something go – a thought pattern, a belief, an idea.
Give her some space to reveal something to you – be curious about what she has to say. Rather than resist, ignore or pretend her away, let her take up some space for a bit. She needs some reassurance. Face your fear in a loving way to recognize that you appreciate her, and yet you are going to ask her to chill out a little so that you can make a conscious based decision instead of a fear based decision.
Breathe and Listen to that voice of fear, and pay attention. Maybe you might learn why and where that fearful voice is coming from. Listen, yet do not give her too much power. Because if you give her power, she grows into a strong force that you may easily succumb to and allow to lead your life or make a limiting decision or even prevent you from living the life that you want and desire.
My intention is to calm my fears, appease and soften their own loud voice by reminding them, I am okay. I might say, “Thanks for being here and trying to protect me. I appreciate that you have come to help me, and I will ask you to be my cheerleader right now instead of stopping me from stepping onto the path of potential expansion, growth, curiosity, and/or desire.” Or if that fear is truly getting in my way to protect and redirect me to avoid a “not so good choice” I am about to make, I will listen and ask more questions. Be curious and probe a bit.
Like a good friend who wants to give you strong advice, even though you know what is good for you, let her know you’ve got this. You know, you may have that loving and supportive friend in your life, who frankly, you rarely agree with, or feel compelled to heed her advice or follow her, “this is what I would do” thoughts. Yet, you don’t boot her out of your house. Instead, you listen and take it in, and respectfully let her know that you appreciate her love and concern, and reassure her – “I’ve got this. I know what is best for me right now. I am making a conscious-based decision.”
Go make friends with your fears because they are a part of yourself that need lots of TLC and love!