Fear is one of those four letter words that sends me into a fetal position under my desk. When I feel it, I want to ignore it, shame myself for feeling it or even worse, dive in carelessly by “pulling up my big girl panties.” I can tell you that none of those strategies have served me very well. I have made reckless mistakes, hurt myself physically and lost some friends. In fact, when I avoid my fears, I become stuck. I cannot move forward in my life.
Being stuck is not my idea of a full and happy life, though. Fear is part of the human experience so I need to make friends with fear. Easier said than done. Fear has many faces. It is the feeling I get walking down a dark alley knowing that I am not safe. Fear is also that emotion that shortens my breath, makes me feel nauseous, and causes my voice to squeak at the beginning of a speech. Like all our emotions, fear is complex. How can I make friends with something that makes me feel, well, fearful? Where is the gift in that?
From Karla McLaren’s wonderful book, The Language of Emotions, she states, “fear arises to orient you to change, novelty, or possible physical hazards. Fear focuses on the present moment and your immediate surroundings. Fear stops you – not to immobilize you, but to give you the time you need to gather yourself and your resources.”
Fear causes us to pause so we can observe and consider what we might need to be safe. Fear may warn us of danger ahead. Fear is also a whisper, a fluttering of butterflies in the stomach. If we ignore our fear of the dangers ahead, we could be dead. Yet if I acknowledge the “butterflies in my stomach” feeling, I find I can do new things that I would not have done before. Fear is my protector, communicating to me that I need to stop and assess my next step, be it running away from a dangerous situation or taking three deep calming breaths.
The next time you feel fear, pause and ask yourself what you need. Listen to that quiet voice. You may need a friend to smile at you in the audience while you give your speech or you may need to take a taxi back to your hotel despite your desire to walk. Whatever that voice tells you, listen to it. Thank it. Fear has your back. Fear is your BFF (best friend forever) and she will never steer you wrong.
INVITATION: What do you fear doing? Why? What is fear telling you to do? Share your insights in the COMMENTS section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to hear from you.