A common emotion, fear helps us when we’re in real danger. If we’re driving in bad weather, concern makes us respect the poor road conditions. When we’re passing a group of shady people, suspicion keeps us alert and motivates us to move away from a bad situation.
The problem is when fear becomes a stop sign instead of a warning. Fear can stop us from leading active lives where we participate in fun events and new adventures. People might worry about airplane crashes or shipwrecks so much that they don’t travel.
Fear often involves death, loss or some kind of ending such as the maximum entropy of the universe. Who hasn’t worried when a loved one doesn’t arrive home at the expected time? Who hasn’t felt anxious when the elevator stutters and seems to stop working? These are natural fears. We care about who we have in our lives and we prefer to be in control of our experience.
What about how we want to protect our egos and our social standing? We have a real need for others to accept us. We’re afraid of losing face, looking stupid and being embarrassed. Sometimes we dread others’ anger, rejection or judgment so much that we don’t say what we think.
This is my fear.
For me, 2013 is the time to face my social timidity and make this the year of my voice. I’m not a natural speaker or writer. I’m more comfortable being quiet and keeping my thoughts to myself, the words deep in private journals far from eyeballs. But just because it’s comfortable, is it right?
Sometimes the right thing for your life is the terrifying thing. Be open to your purpose. Where do you feel guided?
For me, I felt a calling to write and speak this year, despite how these things unnerve me. This is why I started this blog. Sitting in silence on the couch is safe. This blog seems dangerous. Speaking my mind seems dangerous. What if I speak and people hate what I say? What if I write this blog and I waste people’s time? What if, after I speak and write, people stop loving me?
Are you comfortable with how you deal with fear in your life? If not, here are some ideas so you can change your relationship with this feeling.
Simple acknowledgement of the feeling breaks its lock on your mind. Saying these words shifts the control from fear back to you. You can start making decisions again. Gather your thoughts and get your mind back. You’ll start seeing fear for what it is—a feeling—despite how it wants to disguise itself as fact.
My friend Shoshannah told me about this quote from Frank Herbert that she uses before she starts a martial arts sparring match.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” (from Dune, Good Reads)
A deep breath brings calm back. Breathe in, hold for a moment, breathe out. More oxygen allows you to think. Fear can make our hearts race and our breathing fast and shallow. Slower breathing brings back an easy rhythm to follow. You’ll return to being centered in your body.
Ask for strength, help and guidance. God will bless you. You don’t need to say a perfect prayer to a concept of a higher power that you completely understand at this moment. It’s OK to be scared and unsure. Your prayer will still be heard.
People who accomplish things aren’t always fearless people. They feel fear too but they go forward anyway. We can be like them.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” (Good Reads)
Keep your goals in mind. Think of all you have already lived through. You can do it. Have faith and go for it!
What do you fear that you’re working to overcome? What gives you courage? Tell me about it in the comments!
Special thanks to Tim Carson for inspiring this blog post and to all my friends who confessed their fears during my research!