Leaning into Fear

Fear, like joy and sadness is a universal emotion.  All of us have experienced the debilitating effects of fear at some point in our lives.  While the specific fear itself and the cause of that fear differs for each of us, how we choose to handle it defines what role it will play in our life.

Most of us try to avoid things that cause anxiety, discomfort or pain.  Common fears such as the fear of abandonment, the fear of not being good enough, or the fear of failure are oftentimes very deep rooted.  While we may not be able to pinpoint a specific event that caused it, we may see in hindsight that we've allowed it to rob us of many social or business opportunities, caused us to lose precious hours of sleep over it, or held us back in a variety of ways.

Maybe you grew up in a household where there was a perceived or real threat of divorce, leaving you with a paralyzing fear of abandonment that you've carried with you into adulthood. Maybe you now have a pattern of ending friendships or intimate relationships at the first sign of discord because you subconsciously fear that you will be abandoned at some point.

Maybe you have a fear of public speaking which prevents you from attending certain functions or gatherings that would be beneficial to your career or personal growth because the thought of voicing your opinion to a group of strangers is simply terrifying.  Whatever your greatest fear is...what if you tried a new approach to overcoming it?  What if this new approach began with leaning into your fear and taking small actionable steps each day towards it?  Would the benefits of leading a happier and more fulfilled life outweigh the subconscious reason to hold onto that fear?

Alternatively, what if you reframed your fear into something more manageable?  Physiologically, there is little difference between the emotions of fear and excitement.  In both instances your heart rate rises, your pupils dilate, and your breathing changes, yet the two emotions have very different psychological consequences.  What if you approached something that you fear with a feeling of excitement instead?  Suppose you have a fear of heights but you climb to the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean.  Instead of focusing on your fear of heights on your way up, you instead build excitement around the amazing sunset view that you will witness once you reach the top.

Fear takes on whatever shape and size you allow it to.  If you continue to breathe life and needless energy into thinking about your fear, it only perpetuates the cycle and prevents you from leading the life you deserve to live.

Don't let fear paralyze you, let fear motivate you.  When you are feeling fearful, acknowledge the fear but then draw from your inner strength and do those things which are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  Only then are you able to stretch and grow as a human being.

You don't need to start with a monumental feat, just something small in the direction of your fear.  I recently heard that "fear is the only thing that gets smaller as you run towards it."  One of the most poignant quotes about fear has been paraphrased by Les Brown in many of his speeches:

β€œThe graveyard is the richest place on earth, because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”

How many of us will look back on our life and feel regret over not seizing an opportunity when it was presented?  How many of us will feel remorse for failing to say the words that were in our hearts to say when it could have made a difference?  Wouldn't it be better to "live full" and "die empty" as Les Brown says?  Be courageous and face your fear now so that you can live your life to it's fullest potential and die empty of any regrets.