Letting Go of Fear
Fear helps us distinguish a death-defying act from a reasonable achievement. It keeps us safe. But is there such a thing as “too safe”? Have we allowed fear to overtake our lives and have now settled for a life less than ordinary?
“You’re not supposed to be good at things the first time you try them, or the second, or even the 20th.
I’m not even talking about grand fears like “quitting your job and starting that business that you’ve always dreamt of.” I’m talking everyday fears like “not taking a dance class because you’re afraid to make a fool of yourself.” But really, what’s the worst that can happen? Dance classes were created to improve ability. They are here for progression, and what is life if we aren’t progressing?
In the act of self preservation, we fear trying new things. We fear making a fool of ourselves, but nobody judges us harder than we judge ourselves. You’re not supposed to be good at things the first time you try them, or the second, or even the 20th. Mastering a craft takes time, effort, and discipline. So go and try that salsa class, art class, or enter that contest that intimidates you.
It’s funny because we are scared of what others will think of us, but realistically, they are silently praising us. They are thinking, “I wish I was brave enough to go up there and try that.” By pushing past these fears, we are setting an example for others. We can be the catalyst for bravery.
There are times when we are an overly polite society. The other day in the change room at my local gym, I went to walk around another woman and she apologized. I didn’t think it was odd because I would do the same, but then I realized, why? What is she apologizing for? She wasn’t blocking the path, she was just there… she was apologizing for merely occupying space in a public area.
In our over-politeness, we may try to skirt around others’ feelings. We are afraid to tell our friends what we actually think of their toxic partner/job/habits because we don't want them to be angry with us. There is a time to speak up though, and we know the signs. Sometimes a little perspective is a necessary wake up call.
“We can take all of that energy and transform it into something positive.”
Another inhibitor is that we mistake excitement for a feeling of anxiety. I didn’t quite understand this until just recently. This past summer, I presented my first public talk. Afterwards, a woman came up to me and praised me on my speech. She told me how beautiful and inspiring it was, and she said she could tell I was really nervous. I kind of stopped when she said that last statement, because I didn’t feel nervous, not even a little. It was only recently in a yoga class when my instructor passed on a piece of information about how feelings of anxiousness/nervousness basically mirror excitement that I put the idea together. They have similar effects on the body: jitters, sweaty palms, dry mouth. Try replacing “anxiety” with “excitement” and see what you get. “My palms were sweaty due to my anxiety,” or “My palms were sweaty due to my excitement.” We can take all of that energy and transform it into something positive.
Fear is a necessary, healthy emotion that has been a part of human existence since the beginning of time. It stops us from irrational acts like jumping off of a building, but it doesn’t have to stop us from personal growth.