F. E. A. R.
Written by Michele Dial, M.Ed, LPC
Forget Everything and Run
Face Everything and Rise
Truth? I sometimes make decisions from a place of fear . . . perhaps more often than I care to admit to you or myself. It’s not something I recommend. I strive to be brave and secure and willing to accept the outcome of my authentic choices. And sometimes I get it right, but it’s still a work on progress.
I have heard it said that fear is not real because it only exists in our minds. I disagree. Fear is a valid emotion and can serve as a warning of impending danger. It’s what triggers our fight/flight/freeze response. It can protect us from untrustworthy people, warn us of impending threats to our wellbeing, and potentially save our lives.
But what about the non-lifesaving fear? The fear that keeps us in a job where we’re miserable, but we can’t imagine another more fulfilling and rewarding option. Or worse yet, that we are capable of and qualified for a better job. The fear that holds our tongue when we want to tell someone special, “I love you.” The fear that tells us not to set boundaries and take care of our own needs because someone may not like it, and therefore may not like us.
This fear has the potential to derail progress, potential, and authenticity. At times, this fear is given more power than it warrants/deserves. There are times when there is no true threat of danger, times when the thing we risk encountering (or losing) is not as bad or scary as we anticipate, and times when the gain outweighs the loss. This fear is not helpful; it’s debilitating.
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines fear as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous or likely to cause pain. We’ve covered the danger part. This fear that blocks us from living our lives authentically and wholeheartedly is all about the anticipation of pain and can be equally paralyzing.
“Fear is the brain’s way of saying that there is something important for you to overcome.”
~ Rachel Huber
The fear of rejection. The fear of failure. The fear of exposure, of being seen in all our flaws. These fears all stem from the potential for emotional pain on the other side of the experience. And sometimes avoiding that potential outcome feels so crucial that we choose to stay in our current state rather than attempt to make positive changes. Spoiler Alert: We will be rejected at some point(s) in our lives. We will fail at some of our attempts. And people will see us, as we are, in all our humanness. There’s no getting around it. Even our paralyzed, avoidant behavior can’t prevent it.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
~ Jack Canfield
So what’s with the roadblock? Why do we let fear get in the way of our dreams, our goals, and our peace of mind? When anxiety and apprehension keep us awake at night, even our health is in jeopardy. So how do we get to the other side? We have to go through it. Like most difficult emotions, if we try to sidestep fear, it will continue to hover in the background and loom larger and larger as time passes. Raise your hand if you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So running doesn’t work. We have to turn and face it. But we don’t have to face fear blindly. When we plan our role and contributions, and weigh and prepare for potential outcomes, we have a better idea of what to expect and how to take care of ourselves through the storm. A little investigation and tool building can go a long way.
When we have a sense of what the worst case may be, we can prepare for how to handle that outcome if it happens. We can check the facts surrounding the issue, and determine objectively what other outcomes are possible, and what the likelihood is that our worst-case imagination is the most realistic one. Investigation and planning help reduce uncertainty and increase confidence. And building a network of supportive friends and family will help us weather whatever outcome we experience.
“Sometimes you don’t realize your own strength until you come face to face with your greatest weakness.”
~ Susan Gale
Ever since I realized I have a tendency to make decisions from a place of fear, I have made a conscious effort to make wiser, more authentic choices. If I still choose out of fear, I at least want to be aware and take ownership of it so that I can continue to strive for growth in this area. Because sometimes, even when the thing we feared the most becomes our reality, we still stand to gain gifts beyond measure. When we have ideas worth developing and risk failing, we gain wisdom and insight to keep trying new avenues. When we are vulnerable and risk rejection, but stay true to ourselves anyway, we gain the gifts of authenticity and honor. And when we survive the pain of these outcomes, we gain confidence in the strength we didn’t know we had and learn to trust ourselves.
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
~ Nelson Mandela