We all have seemingly irrational things that we’re scared of. Sometimes I think I have more than most. We human beings are terrifying: we make fun of people, we compete, we bomb civilians, we reject; we hurt one another. It’s a scary world. If I spent my life thinking about these things 24/7, I’d live in a tormented state of fight-or-flight.
Instead, I turn it off, tune it out, escape and shield myself from it. Can you blame me? Until it creeps in ... and I learn (again and again) that I have to make friends with the fear, even little bits of it, to keep it from ruling my life.
In order to be successful, happy, fulfilled, whatever you want to call it, I need to work through the fears. These are the fears that I attempt to confront daily to transform fear into a friend:
1. Missing out.
There are so many ways to use my time. What if I missed out on an opportunity to connect with someone, or to extract more meaning from life?
2. Launching things before I’m ready.
I always worry I haven't researched or prepared enough before I start something new, but once I begin, I have to trust that the Universe will guide me.
3. Asking for help.
Seeking help can feel like I'm admitting I'm inadequate, but everyone needs help in this world.
4. Pressing “send” on a blog post.
Will the readers like it? Will it be massively edited and rewritten? Will it resonate the way I intended? These are all small concerns compared with my desire to spread my message to a broad audience.
5. Not presenting a genuine version of myself.
As much as I want to believe in something greater, that everything happens for a reason, and people are really good at heart, sometimes I have to fake it until it is proved again that these things are true.
6. Persisting during the lows.
When I'm scared, sometimes the last thing I want to hear is anything related to personal growth. This is an important time to flex the confrontation muscles.
7. Everything being meaningless.
The world is really big. Why is this even a relevant article? Are there any second chances for humanity, or are we doomed to our biological ends? I must overcome these nagging thoughts that haunt me.
8. Everything mattering.
Recycle. Floss. Be positive. Pick up the kids. Eat your greens. Purify your water. The small choices we make can have an immense impact on our health and well-being, but there's a point when they devour the process of living and turn it into a series of maintenance actions.
Apologies often feel like an admission that I was wrong, which implies that I am inadequate in some way for not having made the correct decision or action. I must master my ego and understand the value of giving up. True giving up is realizing there is nothing to give up.
When you realize that your judgment of others is actually judgment of yourself, it can cause moments of intense anxiety. Perhaps this is why so many people become what they despise.
In spite of these fears, it's possible to lead a life of satisfaction and fulfillment. The fear isn’t going away. Fear evolves as you evolve. Facing the fear to create, live big, and thrive requires training of your friend-making muscles. It’s a daily practice to befriend fear. My training routine goes like this:
1. Name signs of fear, like a stiff neck, inability to focus, or thinking too much about the future or the past.
2. Ask myself whether the fear is warranted. The answer is almost always “no,” otherwise I’d do something about it.
3. Decide how I would treat the best, most loving and accomplished version of myself. I ask myself, “How would I respond if I discovered that that version of me is scared?” When it gets hard to find the best version of myself, I substitute someone I love.
4. The hardest step: Give yourself what you need. Forgiveness, faith, compassion, introspection, or love are all great choices.
With my training routine, I’m becoming more of who I want to be, which gives people implied permission to be who they want to be. It’s a ripple effect of acceptance, of not hiding the weird parts of ourselves, of using fear as a catalyst for transformation.