“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” ~Steven Pressfield
It is common for fear and resistance to increase (sometimes to epic levels) when you get closer to your true purpose or calling; whether the fear is related to a personal project, being open and vulnerable in a relationship or accepting your dream job. The fear being referred to is not the fear that gives you cues to run for safety, it is the manufactured fear from memory or imagination. The kind that keeps you from taking that final step to creating the life you truly desire.
The upside of allowing fear: when we sit on our edge, we get the opportunity to grow and change. We learn that fear is just a feeling and will go through us in about 90 seconds if we simply allow it. Karla McLaren, Author of The Art of Empathy and The Language of Emotions posits that fear has gifts. It focuses us and hones our intuition. She states “fear stops you – not to immobilize you but to give you time you need to gather yourself and your resources.” The internal question to ask when fear presents its scary head is “what action should be taken?” Sometimes the action is rest or play; not push harder.
The downside: It feels scary, vulnerable and causes us to doubt ourselves. Most of us haven’t been taught how to cope with fear and we assume something is wrong.
From an evolutionary perspective, there is a part of our brain called the reptilian brain that developed to broadcast fear. The purpose was to keep us safe from lions, tigers and bears. Fortunately, most of us are no longer being chased by large mammals. However, we are still living and reacting as if we are. (Refer to the last person who blithely cut you off in traffic.)
How to stare down the 3 a.m. (irrational) fear monsters:
1. When fear takes over your calm ask “what am I most excited about?” The reframe is instantly freeing. Focus on what you will get or feel after you do what frightens you.
2. Research others who have sat on their fear edge. Feel free to borrow their brilliance. How did they do it? For instance, check out Liz Murray, who was homeless and an addict at 15 yet won a scholarship to Harvard and is now a bestselling author. Or Ralph Lauren who was a clerk and high school dropout. And Jim Carrey who lived in poverty and worked in a factory and now makes a few dimes. If your concern is that you are a non degreed, single mother with no work experience, find others just like you who are creating, writing and otherwise living out their passion and talent.
3. Accept being perfectly imperfect when meeting your goals. Expect to suck or fail at times. You will live up to your goal regularly and allow yourself to be perfectly human.
4. Get comfortable with people judging, not accepting, nor understanding AND still loving them. You can choose not to see yourself through anyone else’s eyes. What they see is their story. You don’t have to subscribe to it. You can lean back and let it all pass by.
5. Adhere to a “no chicken out” rule. Even if you present to an audience and flop. YOU DID IT. This affords the opportunity to watch old stories unravel. The ones we create based on past events or were handed down to us about how to be, think, feel and act. These stories do not have to be your future. So don’t live as if they are. This is how you can look at the fear in the eye and wink.
Heather Tydings-Goldfarb is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Martha Beck Certified Life Coach. She can be reached at 301-712-9015 ext. 1026 or firstname.lastname@example.org.