“I’m tired of living my life in fear.”
Uncharacteristically, I stood in front of a hundred people at a Neale Donald Walsch workshop and said that.
“I’m tired of living my life in fear.”
For years, fear had been a constant companion, silently by my side whispering guidance: Be careful! Don’t take chances! That will never work! … and so many, many more fearful reminders of the dangers inherent in each new event and opportunity.
Finally I had enough.
Fear wasn’t keeping me safe, it was keeping me in place.
As with any significant life change, self-awareness is a critical first step. With that declaration I began the long journey of learning to face fear and move forward in spite of it, i.e. learning to be courageous. Along this journey I realized that being courageous is a component of my life purpose. This realization brought even more benefit, but that’s a blog for another day.
Becoming Fearless, the Path to Fear-less
Am I totally without fear now? No, that’s a long journey, one filled with small steps forward and a few giant steps back. But my overall progress has been forward. Once I declared my intention to stop living my life in fear, I gained control over the process for becoming fearless. It allowed me to face my fears head-on, acknowledging the role fear had been playing in my life.
Armed with that understanding, I’m now better prepared to make conscious decisions—to move forward with an idea despite the cold fear of failure—or to give in this time and succumb to it.
This blog wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t moved on in spite of my fears of rejection, criticism, and humiliation—after all, who am I to write about personal growth? Six books and six-hundred articles later, I recognize the significant personal growth resulting from that short declaration at the Walsch workshop and my ensuing journey of study and reflection.
The rejection and failure I feared didn’t occur. I’ve met many wonderful people, learned much about myself and the psychology of people, and broadened my analytical, intuitive, and people skills. Along the way I’ve also formed strong spiritual beliefs, which are comforting and ground me to the fundamentals of life.
When doubts and fears return—they do at times—I take comfort in Marrianne Williamson’s inspiring words, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”
Psychologists call this the fear of success, which you might think is an oxymoron—who would fear succeeding?—but it’s quite common.
Getting to Know Your Fear
Fear doesn’t feel good. Our bodies react to fear with significant biological change—rapid heart beat, muscle tension, dilating pupils—preparations for fight or flight, the body’s survival instinct. This is appropriate if you’re being threatened with physical harm, but most of the time our fears grab us when considering an opportunity that takes us out of our comfort zone. Even watching the evening news and hearing of the latest potential threat to health, happiness, and financial well-being can spark the fear. Our bodies aren’t built to deal with constant exposure to fear—it takes a toll on us.
Tips for Countering Fear and Becoming Courageous
Judith Orloff, M.D. describes the process of transforming fear to courage in Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform your Life. She describes fear as the ultimate negative emotion, and positions fear as the direct opposite of love, which is the ultimate positive emotion.
To counter fear, Orloff suggests:
- Avoid over-use of stimulants such as caffeine, which feed the energy of fear.
- Learn brief calming techniques, such as slow breathing and meditation.
- Connect with your spiritual beliefs, and other sources of loving feelings.
Adding to that list, I’ve found these tips helpful:
- Face the fear head-on. Give it a name, say it out loud, i.e. “I’m afraid this blog post about my fear-less journey will be ridiculed, with derogatory comments about me being a wimp.” Saying it out loud seems to give me ownership and control, and seems to ease the path to moving forward. If I can live with the worst result I fear, going forward is easier.
- Keep a Fear Log, a list of the things feared in the past and whether they came true. I usually recommend a written log, though mine is in my mind. Reviewing the log reminds me how seldom my fears materialize, how much energy I’ve wasted worrying, and the many opportunities I’ve squandered.
- Do the math. What we worry about is that something will happen AND if that something happens, the result will be very bad. Statisticians recognize the odds that two things will occur is less than the odds that either one will occur. Often, something we fear will be a negative result turns out to be a blessing in disguise. So if there’s a 70% chance that something that I fear will happen and a 50% chance it will turn out to be a bad thing, the odds that the event will happen AND it will turn out bad are .70 X .50, a 35% or only a 1 in 3 chance that what I fear will occur AND it will be bad.
Life with Less Fear
My life is richer and fuller when less fear-driven. I seldom watch TV news, though major tragedies still have a way of grabbing my attention for longer than is healthy for me. Instead of watching TV news, I selectively read about world events which is less fearful as my mind is more in control. I even think of fear as my friend at times because when I feel its icy grip I know that something good lies just beyond—if I have the courage to keep on.
Is Fear Your Life Companion?
What role does fear play in your life?
What have you learned to do to push past your fears?
If you’ve learned to push through your fears, please share how you’ve benefited?
How have you grown?
What have you accomplished that you otherwise wouldn’t?
Featured Image courtesy sxc.hu user belovodchenko
Are you afraid of the dark image courtesy Flikr user Lucia, CC Attr. Lic.
Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform your Life