Let’s talk about fear. If I had a penny for the number of times in my life I’ve either uttered some combination of the words, ‘I’m scared…,’ or, thought them to myself – sometimes, while wearing my ‘brave face’ – I’d be a very wealthy woman.
Whether or not we like to admit it, fear is a huge part of who we are as humans. And, for good reason. The fight or flight response to fear is a biological fact. We are designed to keep ourselves safe. It’s why, when we’re faced with the threat of a wild animal, or, even a spider, some of us take ‘flight’ – by running, hiding, standing on a chair, or, calling someone who is less fearful, while others choose to stand and ‘fight’ by either killing or squashing the creature (in the case of a spider), or, catching and releasing it outdoors, back into its natural habitat (I’d recommend the latter approach, by the way).
The reality is – our relationship with fear dictates how we live our lives. Whether or not we realize it, it is fear that helps us decide whether to get up in the morning or stay holed up in the warm, safe cocoon that is our bed. The degree of fear we have around what people might think of how we look helps us decide how to dress, wear our hair, what clothes and accessories we buy, and, whether or not to put on perfume. And, our relationship with fear will ultimately influence whether or not we apply for that job we want though are not quite sure we’re qualified for.
Since fear plays a hand in nearly every decision we make, it’s no wonder it paralyzes us at times. Yet, what is it about fear that can make us feel so stuck?
1: Fear Keeps Us from Growing
Though a healthy relationship with fear can actually help us to grow, an overabundance of fear can hold us back; make us feel stuck. Like the act of damming a river, it stops the flow of growth we are here to enjoy. Humans are naturally curious – we are meant to learn, so that we may grow physically, mentally, and spiritually. By letting fear keep you from taking a course, asking a question, or, speaking/reaching out to someone more knowledgeable than you, you are stunting your mind, body, and spirit’s growth. Like the ancient Chinese practice of binding women’s feet, it’s not natural and no good can come of it.
2: It Sucks the Joy Out of Life
Life is supposed to be fun. We’re here to enjoy our friends, family, our work, and the experiences we get to have each day. Fear can keep us from fully enjoying those things. When we’re afraid, we’re thinking about the possibility of a certain outcome happening, at some point in the future. We can neither be present in the moment nor can we enjoy what we are doing, when we are focused on the future.
3: It Keeps Us from Fully Living
Fear is the ‘best’ excuse in the world. We say it over and over, both to ourselves as well as other people, ‘I can’t do x, y, z because I’m scared of a, b, c.’ We often encourage children to work through their fears. However, as adults, we become complacent, accepting our fears as a part of who we are. And, while in some cases that’s good – I’d never advocate jumping into a pond full of crocodiles if that scares you (and, it should) – when a fear of flying keeps you from taking that trip to Italy you’ve always dreamed of, you’re depriving yourself of an experience that might just change your life.
So, now you’re probably wondering – if fear is an ever-present part of our lives, what can we do about it? How can we get un-stuck?
The first step, of course, is to acknowledge your fears – whatever they may be – and to embrace them. It’s okay to be afraid. Remember, you’re in good company – we all have fears. Every. Single. Human. Being.
Next, decide what you really want. Be sure to take fear, money, responsibilities, etc. out of the equation. If there was absolutely nothing holding you back, what would you do?
Then, cliché as it may be – JUST DO IT! Nike really nailed it with this slogan, because it’s true. You have to just do it – even if you start out crawling, with baby steps. Do something. Whether it’s making a list, making an appointment, sending an email, doing some research, having a conversation with someone – just…do…something! Every action – however small – will get you closer to achieving your goal. And, it may take you a while. However, you’ll never get there if you don’t do something.
To be alive in this world is inherently scary. I encourage you to really think about and try to understand your own relationship with the individual fears that influence you and your life. Then, embrace and push through them, so you can honor yourself and the beautiful soul who resides within you.