Fear is a feeling we usually try to avoid at all cost. In fact, we fear it! We do whatever it takes to not even get close to this feeling.
Those of us who have lived through some fearful events can agree that once we actually go through these scary experiences, we realize that the mental images were far worse than the actual event itself.
This does not, however, make us any less fearful of fear.
What is fear, anyway?
Fear is a primal feeling arising from when we feel threatened, and can have physical symptoms such as sweaty hands and an increased heart rate. Fear can be a useful feeling when it comes to keeping us safe, but what actually often happens is that we are fearful of any or all future events.
What if my partner leaves me, what if I get fired, what if people will laugh at me? All those what ifs are not actual events, but something we project into the future.
In this case, we are not really feeling fear, but rather worrying about feeling emotions such as humiliation and discomfort in the future.
Fear vs. Worry
When we worry, we are not feeling those emotions in the present moment, but are fearful that we might. You know…one day.
But sometimes this worry can feel a lot like fear. You hesitate going forward, you want to crawl under the covers and hide from the world. You’re not sure if you should be putting yourself out there because there’s always a risk of failing and looking “like an idiot.”
On the Upside...
Fear can teach us so much. Recently I have started to view fear as a gift, because I’ve realized that it has taught me so much—here are five of the many things you can learn from fear.
1. Fear means growth.
Fear tells us we are moving towards the outskirts of our comfort zone. We are doing something unfamiliar, we are taking on new challenges and learning new skills.
This means we are growing, and growth means that once we get beyond the uncomfortable bit, we will be bigger, better, and brighter than before! So when you feel fear approaching, say Thank You, because it’s a message telling you you’re about to become an even greater version of yourself!
2. Things are never as bad as they seem.
This may seem obvious, but it still can stop us in our tracks. Our imagination is usually a bit too vivid, and our worst-case scenarios can go above and beyond the worst that could actually happen.
In most cases, the thing we fear is never as bad as we think it will be. When we are trying to make a decision to leave, to quit, or to do something new, we lack the perspective to see further than the familiar front yard. And everything unfamiliar is automatically scary, right?
Wrong. If you look back on some of the scary things you’ve had to do in the past, were they really so scary? Or would you now say 'what was so scary about this?!'
3. What's the best thing that could happen?
If we are to start imagining the future and creating events in our heads (because essentially that's what it is), why wouldn't we rather think about the most awesome thing that could happen? The best case scenario instead of the worst?
Why are the negative scenarios called being realistic and the positive scenarios hippie-fluff? In fact, both are equally likely to happen, wouldn't you agree?
Obsessing about worst-case scenarios shifts our perspective to notice and find “evidence” of this negativity unfolding in our lives, and we steer ourselves into the worst-off direction.
Focusing on the best case scenario will ease feelings of fear, AND move you into a positive direction. Our thoughts have tremendous power to create our personal universes, so make sure you create a good one!
4. We are always stronger than we think.
When we go right at it (and through it), fear can teach us so much about our personal powers and strength. There is no other feeling like the triumph you feel when you realize you did not get defeated, when you realize that instead, you actually made or did it!
You succeeded, and even though not every try is perfect, who cares?! You made the leap! This will build your confidence, broaden your comfort zone, and make you play on a whole new level of what is possible!
Think of your yoga practice. Sometimes it can also take us to the edges of our comfort zones, only to make us realize that we are so strong! We CAN stand on our hands, even though we sometimes doubted it.
Yoga can provide a concrete example of growth, and really demonstrate that when we move past fear, we can do amazing things. ~Kaisa Kapanen
5. Fear is part of life, and does not need to be eliminated.
Maybe the most important lesson is this: we do not need to eliminate fear from our lives. We can welcome it, we can cope with it and we can proceed in spite of it!
The best decisions in life are rarely the easiest ones. Or, rather, they should feel easy within, but often come with some level of fear. To leave a long term relationship is not easy, but if you know it's the right thing to do, you know what you need to do. Quitting your job and following your gut will not come without fear, but it will come with big rewards.
Next time you are fearful of a new pose, or a new chance in life, approach it with the knowledge that the best possible results will come forth, that you are stronger than you think, and that it's OK to feel fear. It only means you are moving towards becoming even more awesome!
Wishing you a fearless 2015!