Fear is not a trivial matter. So much of our discomfort, difficulties and misery is caused by fear. It can restrict us, imprison us, cause us to cling to a job, a relationship, material possessions, or it can lead us to react harmfully to others.
It may seem pathetic or unjustified to you, and be the cause of much frustration.
You may be well aware of its root, or you may feel baffled by its very existence. Whatever your situation, read on to find out how you can face your fears head on and gain some control back in life.
WHAT IS FEAR?
Fear is an emotional response to a perception of danger, which evokes certain neuromuscular and chemical reactions in the body. Prompted by something you see or hear, fear can cause feelings that might manifest as sensations in the body or as thoughts and emotions flicking through your mind.
Feelings of fear may be borne out of an accurate perception of danger. They may also be the result of a deluded way of viewing yourself and the world around you. Either way, the level of fear you experience depends on your belief in the perception of danger and your interpretation of the potential harm to your well-being.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEARS?
Fear of rejection, fear of commitment, fear of failure, fear of not being “good enough”, fear of losing your job, fear of death, fear of losing someone we love, fear of getting fat, fear of becoming old…the list is endless!
Your fears are personal. They may feel like they’ve been with you throughout your life. Or they may evolve and transform as you go through life picking up different experiences.
Without judgement, see if you can identify what your fears are. No matter how ridiculous, pathetic or unjustified they may seem to your internal critic, mentally make a note of all the things that you’re fearful of in your life right now.
HOW ARE YOUR FEARS IMPACTING YOUR LIFE?
Fears can manifest in a variety of ways. From downright resistance, cleverly (or not so cleverly) disguised procrastination, control-freak tendencies to perfectionism. For instance, being afraid to ask for a raise; rigid rules around food borne out of fear of putting on weight; ending a relationship to avoid possible pain and rejection in the future; staying in a job you dislike for fear you’re not good enough to be employed elsewhere.
UNDERSTAND YOUR FEARS
In coaching, we do not dwell on the past; rather it is about focusing on the present and looking to the future. However, having an understanding of where our fears have originated can be useful and bring clarity to their existence. For example, a fear of rejection by a current partner can be clearly identified as stemming from a previous relationship break-up. Having this awareness can help us in accepting and letting go of the past, and instead, focus on a current relationship, and being open to it as a brand new experience.
SITTING WITH FEAR
Before you can tackle fear, you need to become your own observer. Notice the next time you feel fear arising inside. How does it feel in your body – is it in your chest, in your stomach? What kind of thoughts race through your mind when you feel afraid? And what patterns of behaviour do you have in response to the fear – is it keeping yourself busy, ‘people-pleasing’, panic, paralysis, running away from something or someone, blaming another, self-doubt or criticism?
We are trying to dissect the fear. In this way, we get to understand it. We are breaking down the experience into different pieces.
And, as uncomfortable as this may feel, try to simply sit with the fear, as you would sit with a small child who needs your help. As much as you may find the fear hateful, embarrassing or painful, it is trying to protect you from whatever it thinks is going to harm you.
It takes guts to meet fear head on like this ‑ and a lot of practice, self-reflection, honesty and self-compassion. But by getting to know and sit with your fears, you are creating space for yourself out of which fearlessness can emerge.
“Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Jack Canfield