I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fear.
These days, many songs, books, blogs and social media posts address the topic of fear as the enemy. But I respectfully disagree - fear is often the beginning of this life's most beautiful moments; it's a vessel for growth if we stand up to it. Our fears present us with a few options: we can run from the problem, allow it to stop us in our tracks, or face it dead-on.
When faced with fear, we have three options.
When faced with fear, you can run to the next safest place. Fear can force you into a box and make you react like its helpless puppet. You might feel safe and comfortable, but only because you’ve allowed fear to dictate how you’ll go about living your life. Fear is in control.
You could also freeze in the presence of fear. Some struggle with daily personal fears and anxieties, not acting on their convictions or dreams. That little inner voice convinces them that they are unsafe, unsure, unaccepted, and unloved. So they do nothing to work toward their full potential and live in constant regret. Fear is still in control.
Fear is an inevitable human emotion. There’s no use vilifying something that everyone experiences every day, so let’s agree to stop calling it a lie or an enemy. Fear is uncomfortable, and we hate talking about our fears because it makes us appear vulnerable and weak. The underlying issue is not a fear problem; it’s a mindset problem. We actually need our fears to stretch us to the point of discomfort.
Fear is an avenue for growth if we face it dead-on. Rather than allowing it to paralyze us or cause us to run away from our underlying issues, we can allow ourselves to be vulnerable and even terrified for a moment in time. When we live in that moment of fear, we can truly appreciate the strength that arises on the other side. Fear causes us to grow - stronger, wiser, and ultimately happier.
Fear is uncomfortable, but it's not the enemy.
There’s a personal story I love to tell when I think about facing fear - one I hope to share with my teenagers someday. Once, when I was in high school, I had a HUGE crush on an older boy. He was a senior, and I was doe-eyed and hopelessly infatuated with him.
One day I finally decided I had to tell this boy that I liked him. I was terrified. I felt sick to my stomach with anxiety all day, but regardless, I texted him to meet me in the hallway after class. Finally I expressed my feelings for him, and while he was as sweet as could be, he told me that he was going off to college and didn’t want a girlfriend.
Needless to say, I was pretty heartbroken, even though I had expected this response. I walked away from that situation feeling both crushed and strong, knowing that I’d faced my fear of vulnerability dead-on even though I knew what the outcome would be. Years later, this friend told me (albeit in more colorful language) that in that moment, I was braver than he ever would be.
I share this story because even though I was terrified throughout the entire process and I knew that in the end I’d have to face rejection, I did it anyway. I didn’t allow fear to cause me to feel regret, shying away from vulnerability. And even though this is a minuscule, puppy-love scenario, I still think about how I felt after that terrifying moment - strong, brave, and wiser than before.
No, fear is not the enemy. Allowing it to win is - and that part is solely up to you. Don’t give fear that kind of control; leverage it to make you a stronger, smarter, more courageous version of yourself.