Do you consider yourself fearful or fearless? The truth is that most of us are fearful in some areas of our lives and quite fearless in others. Some adventure junkies who challenge themselves physically are afraid of committing to a relationship or expressing a different viewpoint from their friends while other people who shun physical challenges are not afraid to stand up for strongly held beliefs regardless of the consequences. Many women who are afraid to ask for a well-deserved pay rise are fearless when it comes to protecting their children from harm.
We are all afraid of different things and we react to fear differently depending on our personality, the environment we grew up in and our life experiences.
Fear is often given a bad rap, but if you learn how to listen to your fear, it will become a true friend to you in the following ways.
Fear looks after you by letting you know when you’re in danger. Sometimes your fears aren’t real (like the monster under your bed!) but your instinctive primitive brain doesn’t have the skill to differentiate. That’s why you need to listen and “talk” to your fears so that you understand the real level of threat you are facing.
Dismissing fears out of hand and pressing on regardless is foolhardy. Understanding what’s at the root of your fear enables you to assess the real risk you are facing and to identify what could go wrong. If you decide to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, you’ll be doing so having identified and prepared for all possible outcomes and any consequences you might face.
Fear teaches you a lot about your attitude towards life. Do you choose the safe option or do you choose situations that challenge you? Perhaps you withhold yourself from your partner because you’re afraid he/she will let you down? Perhaps you are afraid to stand up for yourself because you’re afraid of being rejected or perhaps you’re afraid to try something new because you’re afraid of failing.Why do you consistently choose one way of living instead of another?
By examining your fears and how you respond to them, you’ll learn more about yourself.
Fear lives where possibility exists. Every area of your life including your relationships, career, financial situation, personal goals and dreams all start off as a simple idea. To turn these ideas into reality you have to put legs on them by taking action. But guess who joins the party as soon as you start doing things to bring a dream to life? Yep that’s right. Fear comes trampling in with huge muddy boots determined to stop you doing anything new or different. This is because fear’s job is to protect you, and from fear’s perspective anything new or different always poses a risk.
Steven Pressfield writes in his book The Art of War: ‘Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.’ He also writes: ‘The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.’
Every successful person goes through times when they feel overwhelmed and want to give up. Fear of failure is a great ally when you’re so far out of your comfort zone you feel you’re on a different planet. There have been times when I’ve desperately wanted to walk away from a situation because everything felt too hard, but fear of failing pushed me forward and kept me going.
When you overcome your fears and achieve something you didn’t think possible, you become stronger. As you keep achieving in spite of fear, your confidence grows to the point where if something new and frightening appears in front of you, you can look back on your past experiences and trust yourself to cope with what you’re facing.
If you want to create a life that makes you feel great and makes a difference to others, fear will walk with you every step of the way. Treating fear as a friend to be consulted rather than an emotion to avoid, will help you make smart decisions aligned with what’s important to you.
Feeling fear is an innate part of being human. In the end, it’s your choice whether you allow yourself to be overwhelmed and limited by your fears or learn from them, overcome them and be the person you really long to be.
If you found this article useful and would like to learn more about how to face your fears and overcome them, check out the chapter ‘Superheroes Feel Fear’ in my recently published book Superhero Me: How to feel great about yourself and make the world a better place.
Learn how to work with yours fears rather than letting your fears control you.
Image by Jakub