You often read quotes and hear self-help gurus saying that fear is not real, that it is just a product of our thoughts and that it is a choice. However, even if fear is just an irrational product of our maladaptive thinking, its experience is very much real and affects us on both a physical and psychological level.
Physically, fear might feel like racing heart beats, fastness of breath, muscle tension and anxiety. Fear has far reaching impacts: it causes distress, conditions our life, lowers our self-esteem and steals our dreams. It can be one of our greatest enemies and a barrier to living a full and happy life.
Most people would tell us to “just face our fears”, to “just do it” as if it would be an easy task to achieve. Although well meaning, this advice can disregard the hold that fear has on us.
Because, let’s face it, if we could, we would have already “just gotten over it”.
The truth is that confronting our fears can be very scary. Both denial and procrastination are natural defence mechanisms that we unconsciously adopt as humans to avoid acknowledging and facing our weaknesses.
It took me over three decades to face some of my biggest fears (as I previously mentioned I’m still a work in progress).
The biggest fear in my life?
Here is my story…
Since I was a child, and for most of my life, I tried to shrink who I was. I aimed to be less needy, less sensitive, less opinionated.
I was scared to be too much and, therefore, push away the people I loved: my parents, my friends, my partners.
Yes… I wanted to be loved, so for many years I sacrificed my true self to make the important people in my life happy.
Also, being everything I really wanted to be involved rejecting what my education taught me to be. According to my culture and upbringing, being in the corner quietly and not “shine” too much was the right place for my gender. So telling myself I couldn’t be everything I wanted to be was the best lie I could tell myself to avoid my fears and unhappiness.
Sometimes it is our light and power that scares us the most, and not our darkness or weaknesses.
For years I felt like I was standing on top of a cliff. Facing and embracing who I was felt like jumping in the empty and dark abyss… you don’t know where and how you land.
And then, one day, I woke up fed up of fulfilling other people’s needs and expectations. I decided that my thoughts, feelings and my opinions mattered and I chose to take up space. I gave myself approval to be myself which at times upset people.
In the end, I chose me!
I chose me after many attempts to find myself in the heart of those who wouldn’t or couldn’t love me.
So I decided to take that step forward and I leapt from the cliff I stood on for years.
I don’t have a magic formula to give you to overcome and face your deepest fears. But what I can promise you is that fear disappears after the fall.
Sometimes we believe we can stay safe by avoiding our fears but what frightens us persists in our lives. Despite our attempts to ignore them, fears will continue to be present in our wake and sleep.
Avoiding danger gives us the illusion of safety, however, it is not any safer than being exposed to it.
In fact, it’s a decision you’ve been making until now.
The thing is … not making a decision (avoiding) is still a decision in and of itself.
So I guess it’s up to you….
Really, you have two options: set yourself free or continue to live in the limbo of your fears. And truth is that to overcome fear, the only way out is through.
In case you choose courage, I recommend your first step:
Whatever your fear is, say it out loud and acknowledge that it exists.
By naming and acknowledging it, you shine a spotlight on a path that will lead you to a journey. Hopefully you will realise that in you, lies the strength to overcome the biggest of your fears.
Sometimes in life, we need to make a decision. And that decision may just be the door to a better life. Maybe we will succeed… maybe we won’t. But we’ll definitely learn. Just keep in mind that anything can happen.
Facing our fears is a constant battle of our life’s journey.
I believe that most decisions in our life offers us an opportunity to choose love over fear. Whether it is loving ourselves or others, …because love is “Love”. But this is another topic that deserves a separate post…
FCUK the FEAR!
Watch the video in the Brain Guru section on overcoming fear by taking emotional risks.