Have you ever thought about facing a fear of yours, but then never did?
What stopped you? Were you OK with the fact that you didn’t face it?
Partly due to the glorification of courage and heroism in today’s culture, not facing our fears can cause us to feel guilty, or at the very least uncomfortable about our decisions. And yet, do you think that your decisions to avoid potential dangers really are that bad?
I mean, there’s a whole lot of good that can come from listening to your fear! You won’t perform dangerous stunts, you’ll be more cautious, and in most cases, you’ll increase your chances for survival.
Also, it’s important to think about all the fears you DO face on a day to day basis. If you drive, you’re engaging in a dangerous activity. Even if you’re balled up in your room unable to do anything because of fear, you still get up in the morning and risk another day of feeling terrible, right?
Fear acts as a barrier between us and something we want. It’s basically a barrier that tells us, “there may be risks”. There are several actions you can take to break down this barrier, such as:
- Accept the risks
- Learn more about the potential risk to see how real your fear is, or
- Simply ignore the warning
Obviously, ignoring the warning is dangerous. Learning more about the potential risk can help a lot to alleviate fears that are based on misguided notions and incomplete evidence. And then of course, there’s accepting the risk.
What risks do you accept on a day to day basis? And which ones do you refuse to accept? Probably a lot – I mean, think about all the dangerous activities that you don’t do.
So what separates the risks you take from the ones you don’t?
If you’re like me, it’s all about what you care about. If something you really care about is at stake, you’ll take the risk, won’t you? Driving to work or to see a friend – you can handle that. But stuff like skydiving, bull riding… unless you love those activities, it just doesn’t make any sense doing it. Even getting close to a spider – what’s the point? You can always get someone else to take care of the spiders in your house.
Fear stops you from going for what you want. But if you don’t care enough about what you want, then you’ll have a much harder time getting past your fear. That’s the dynamic between fear and love: if you really love something, you’ll step past the risks much more easily.
So what’s the significance of this? Well, let’s say you’re having a lot of issues with fear, either now or some day in the future. And when thinking about the problem of these rampant fears, you can maybe remember a time when you WEREN’T afraid – maybe there was a time in your life when you’d take all kinds of risks, and it was much more joyful to be alive. “What went wrong?” the fearful you might ask. Well, maybe it’s not that you’ve turned into a coward, or a weakling, or are pathetic. Maybe all it has to do with is that you don’t care as much about the things you’re trying to accomplish.
Think about that for a second. If you tried to accomplish something you didn’t really care about, wouldn’t every barrier seem much more daunting, including your fear? Things that never held you back before might suddenly cause you to question your decisions and hold back.
Goals Worth Caring About
But why would anyone try to accomplish something they didn’t really care about? Maybe another fear, or a sense of obligation… or that insistence in their mind that they “really should” want something.
But sometimes, we just don’t want the thing we “should” want. Even though it’s the “normal” thing to want. And maybe not just “normal” in the societal sense like cars, marriage, college, or friends. Maybe we don’t really want the things that have always seemed “normal” for us, either. But as scary as our true feelings can be sometimes, we can’t really help how we feel. Maybe we can drag ourselves to the things we “should” want – but then, things become much more of a struggle.
So what are the solutions to the problem of living life as you don’t really want it? Here are a few:
- Find out what you feel like doing. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if you’d rather go stick your head in a toilet than do the things you feel like doing, just spend some time being honest with yourself about your “crazy” feelings.
- Reevaluate your goals. Why are you trying to accomplish each of them? What do you not like about them? Is there any way you can change your approach?
- Look at your fears. Looking past the risks for a second, what potential, positive goals are waiting for you if you did take that risk? How much do you really care about those goals, and is there anything you can do to change them so that you’ll care more?
Of these, number one is probably the most important. Essentially, it entails giving a little more respect to your feelings, however crazy they seem on the surface. And that respect usually opens a door to being able to think more deeply about why you feel as you do, and get down to the layer where those feelings start to make more sense. And once your feelings make sense, you can start creating goals that make sense, too. And these new goals will have the added weight of your caring behind them, which can help carry you through any fear barrier.
If any of you are struggling with fear right now, I hope these thoughts were helpful to you. If not, or if you have any unanswered questions, drop me a comment on this post, or even an email.
Thanks for reading and take care,