Fear is a natural occurrence in humans and other animals. Without fear, we don’t survive. We step off curbs in traffic, burn ourselves in fires, and try to pet bears.
Fear exists to keep us safe.
But because of this, we are all prone to interpreting our fears equally. And that is a problem.
For years, I was unhappy with my job. Not my work, but my job. And I was afraid to leave. Leaving felt dangerous. Dangerous the same way that trying to cross the freeway on foot felt dangerous. What would people think? What would they say? What would I do for income? How could I “abandon” my patients?
It’s funny to look at these fears in print, but they were very real. And they kept me in an environment that became traumatizing for me (little “t” trauma here, check out last week’s post on trauma/Trauma). And when an opportunity came to leave that environment for a different one, and then the opportunity fizzled, I literally felt doomed.
My fear kept me trapped, and in victim-mode.
Would I have lost my life and limbs by leaving? No. Not at all. But did it feel that real? Yes, 100%.
This is an extreme example, but one we see play out in all sorts of situations. We are afraid to try something new, to start a new business, to date again after a divorce, or to ask for a divorce in the first place.
And when fear happens in these types of situations, where there isn’t a threat of bodily harm or survival, we often don’t differentiate this fear from fear that does threaten bodily harm. We just feel fear, and steer clear.
And this keeps us from taking action. Action that might lead to great things. Action that might grow us as humans, bring us new important connections with other humans, action that leads to a better life.
Where does this show up in your life?
What opportunities are you missing out on, dreams left unfulfilled, because of fear?
I invite you to look at something small in your life that you have been afraid to do. It could be reaching out to a friend you haven’t talked to in an awkwardly long time or giving some feedback to someone you work with. Imagine the worst-case scenario that is realistic. Maybe the friend hangs up on you. Maybe the person receiving the feedback shouts at you. How likely is that to happen? And what is a more positive outcome here? Is your friend glad to hear from you? Does the person accept the feedback and ask questions that help them to grow?
Can you start to look at fears in this light, and make different decisions?
Because in my journey, what I have learned thus far is that the people you are looking up to, the people acting boldly that you admire? Many of them are doing things afraid. They are afraid to go up in front of people, afraid to publish their book, afraid to be known as “the expert.”
And they are doing it anyway.
They have learned that fear is not always dangerous, that we can’t always make it go away, but sometimes it just needs to come along for the ride.