Fear is the primal instinct that lets you know when you may be in serious danger. If you are walking in an unsafe area and notice someone following you, or if you are swerving your car to the side of the road to avoid hitting another one, fear kicks in and provides you with the adrenaline your body needs to fight or flight.
Fear shows up in other ways that don’t indicate literal physical danger but rather an emotional reaction to something that feels just as scary.
Both types of fear have their place in protecting you and may serve a needed purpose. The second type of fear, however, can sometimes stop us in our tracks for reasons that don’t serve our highest good.
I’ve had plenty of experience with fear in my life. At times it has alerted me to life-threatening situations I was able to avoid, because my instincts got me the heck out of there. At times it has prevented me from developing and growing in areas of my life I desired to improve as well.
Years ago, I had an intense fear of public speaking. I knew I had great ideas on paper and wanted so much to be able to share them by presenting at work or in other group events. Whenever I attempted to speak to even a small group, I would literally break out in hives and have trouble breathing.
My mental fear turned into a physical response. After being embarrassed by it a few times, I stopped trying. I had no idea why I had this fear. I could relate it all the way back to when I was chosen to read at my First Holy Communion in front of my church filled with hundreds of people. I could understand an 8 year old being afraid, but as an adult I had no excuse.
When this fear stopped me from growing in an area I really wanted to pursue, I decided enough was enough and enrolled in Toastmasters public speaking training. I learned quickly you don’t get away with anything in Toastmasters. You are not allowed to hide and are expected to have some type of speaking role at every meeting.
The first night I was assigned to be one of the main speakers, I was sick to my stomach. But, I knew this was the perfect space to make friends with my fear. I made light of it by telling my fellow members I was glad we were down the street from the local hospital, because there was a good chance I would pass out and need an ambulance.
I got a little laugh from the group, and afterwards the other speaker admitted he was glad I was so honest, because he felt the same way.
I made friends with my fear by laughing at it and found out an important lesson – vulnerability connects people. I made it through and now, although I still get nervous public speaking, I actually enjoy the challenge and don’t have such a negative physical reaction.
I once read, “If your dreams don’t scare you, than they are not big enough.” The presence of fear whether you are in real danger or just imagined can be your friend. Without it, you have no idea when you need to run away from a person or place OR whether you need to run towards a path of great opportunity for growth.
Is there something in life you want to do but stop yourself because of unfounded fear? Is your fear one of the fear of failure, of what other people think, making an ass out of yourself, or not being good enough?
Try making friends with your fear. Thank it for showing up in areas of your life where there is an opportunity for tremendous growth. Use the energy of fear to push through your comfort zone into a new territory.
After all, comfort zones are nice but nothing ever grows there.
Maureen Keyte is a Certified Personal Coach and Professional Writer with a passion for helping others through life transitions in order to become the best versions of themselves. Her writing has been published in several regional and national print and online publications. She is also a grant and marketing writer for non-profit agencies and businesses that focus on empowering women and young girls. Contact – Website – Facebook – LinkedIn – Pinterest – Twitter
Photo Credit – Ambro