Facing Fear: Giving It the Finger, and Letting It Give Me a Hand

(Originally posted April 19, 2013)

I’m really good at being afraid: of heights, of being a “bad mother”, that everything is just going to go wrong today, and so on, and so forth.

Then there are times when I do just the thing I’m afraid of. In the late ’90s I noticed that when I went hiking, I took FOREVER to walk downhill because I was terrified of falling and getting hurt. So I started to study aikido, a Japanese martial art similar to judo which involves a lot of rolling around and falling down. I figured I might as well learn how to fall properly so it wouldn’t be as scary. (I did aikido for 8 years, and it was scary every time I fell down or got thrown, but I learned that I could force myself past that fear, at least for a little while at a time. Plus I got to meet some really great people, which was a greater reward than I could have hoped for.)

For me, it’s hard to face physical fears, and it’s even harder to face emotional fears. I’m afraid to be vulnerable, to share my opinion with other people, knowing that at any moment I might sound like an idiot. I’m afraid to ask for help because what if people think I’m weak? I’m afraid that people will figure out I really have no idea what I’m doing.

Fear can be a hindrance at times, but it can also be a tool. Its job is to motivate us to protect ourselves. It reminds us that we’re worth protecting.

So, writing this blog is scary for me. I’m afraid that people will read it and think it’s crap or that I’m arrogant for thinking I have something to say. One part of fear tells me not to make myself vulnerable to criticism, but another fear tells me that if I don’t do the things I really want to do, I’ll be wasting opportunities to really be myself.

It’s scary being myself. If I pretend to be someone, and people don’t like me, that’s okay because it’s just a facade or a role I’m playing. But if I’m being myself and people don’t like me, then I think that there must be something wrong with me. What I’m finding in practice is that the more real I am about what I think, how I feel, and who I am, the more comfortable I feel being with other people, and they in turn seem more comfortable around me.

I don’t expect every person I interact with to like me. We’re all on our various paths, and we’re going to resonate with some people more than others. But being myself, as scary as it is, makes me more likely to surround myself with people who “get” me and appreciate me. It’s meant a lot to me the people who have taken the time to read my blog and comment on it.

So, fear: friend or foe? I say friend as long as you follow the fears that lead you to a bigger, fuller life. If the fear urges you to shrink your comfort zone, hide your real feelings, or pretend to be someone you’re not, acknowledge its attempt to protect you, then let it go. When fear comes along with a sense of excitement and possibility, let it stretch you to become even more the person you really are.


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