10 Signs Fear Is Running Your Life (And How To Get Back On Track)
Lissa Rankin, M.D., is the New York Times bestselling author of "Mind Over Medicine," "The Fear Cure," and "The Anatomy of a Calling." She is a physician, speaker, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute, and mystic. Lissa has starred in two National Public Television specials and also leads workshops, both online and at retreat centers like Esalen and Kripalu
Most people in our culture are riddled with fear, and it's running the show in our lives, taking the wheel in most of our decision-making. But the funny thing is, most people don't even know it. This is partly because, in our culture, we tend to dress up "fear" in the more socially acceptable clothes of "stress." And stress … well, hell, stress is practically a badge of success in our culture!
We've been taught to think that fear is for sissies. We see it as a weakness, something we should hide from others and deal with alone in dark nights of the soul. But fear shouldn't elicit shame or stay hidden. Now more than ever, our fears need to shamelessly take center stage so we can let fear illuminate everything that is in need of healing in our lives and finally be free.
As I wrote about in my new book, The Fear Cure, fear is sneaky, and it shows up in all kinds of disguises. But until you see it for what it is, it's hard to have the right relationship with fear.
How can you tell if fear is running your show?
1. You find yourself striving in vain for an impossible-to-achieve standard of perfection.
When you're afraid (of criticism, failure and rejection), you'll kill yourself trying to be perfect. Of course, the mask of perfection also separates you from what you most want: real intimacy, to be known, loved, and accepted for your true self.
2. You settle.
When you're afraid to take risks and go for what you really want, you convince yourself that your less-than-juicy life — your relationships, your job, the dismal state of Mother Gaia — is as good as it gets. When fear runs the show, you forget how to dream. You compromise in the name of being "realistic." But settling isn't realism; it's a devastating symptom of the fear that what you hope is possible really isn't.
3. You say yes when you mean no.
When you're afraid to disappoint people or get rejected if you don't say yes, you'll fall into fear-based, people-pleasing, self-sacrificing behaviors that lead to resentment. But when fear is no longer running the show, you say no when it feels self-loving. As they say, "No" is a complete sentence. This doesn't mean you won't devote yourself to generosity and service. It means the service stems from a genuine love-based (rather than a fear-based) motivation.
4. You say no when you mean yes.
When you're afraid, you're unlikely to take risks. You'll feel the yearning to start your own business, go out with your dream girl, take that bucket list trip, have a baby, or take an art class. But you'll say no because you're afraid to fail, afraid to succeed, afraid to get rejected, afraid to stir things up, afraid to get out of your comfort zone. When you let fear cure you, you'll start letting your soul take the lead, taking leaps of faith and saying yes when you yearn to.
5. You numb yourself with alcohol, drugs, sex, television, or excessive busyness.
Fear causes inner pain, a soul sickness that can show up as depression, anxiety, restlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, frustration, sadness, loneliness and fatigue. In order to avoid this inner pain, you engage in addictions and other numbing behaviors. This only puts a temporary Band-aid on the pain, while increasing feelings of low self-esteem that just increase the inner pain.
When you're not afraid to be quiet with yourself, to face your inner demons, to heal from the core, you'll no longer need alcohol, cigarettes, overeating, workaholism, painkillers, or other numbing distractions. You'll have the courage to do the transformative work that leads you to freedom on the other side of your journey.
6. You procrastinate.
When you're afraid of putting yourself in the arena because of fear of failure, success, uncertainty, judgment, criticism, or rejection, you'll tend to stand on the sidelines where you feel safer. When you face fear head on, motivation replaces procrastination. You're not "going for it" based on a fear-based need to "make it happen." Instead, the natural inclination toward love and service generates inspired action that pushes you toward that which wants to be born through you.
7. You get paralyzed.
When you're afraid, you avoid making the decisions your soul knows you must make. Your intuition tells you it's time to leave that toxic relationship. Or quit that soul-sucking job. Or set boundaries with your mother. Or go to rehab. Or speak up about the integrity breaches at work. But you're terrified of the uncertainty.
What you'll discover on the other side of fear, though, is that uncertainty is the gateway to possibility. When you don't know what the future holds, anything could happen.
8. You become a control freak.
When you're afraid, you feel the need to micromanage everything. You mistakenly think you live in a hostile, random universe that's out to get you unless you grab the wheel with both hands and steer your life toward what you want. You don't trust that it's a purposeful universe, that life is intelligent, that everything that happens helps you grow your soul, even if it's not what your ego wants.
When you make the journey from fear to faith, you trust that it's a friendly universe. Then you can relax. Surrender to the flow of life, accept what is, let go of the handle, and enjoy the exciting ride. That's when life gets really fun.
9. You muzzle yourself.
When fear is operating you, you'll avoid speaking up. You won't stand up for what you believe. You won't let your voice be heard when your integrity is being threatened. You won't tell people when they hurt your feelings. You'll be too afraid to ask for what you really want.
When you let love lead, you start respecting and appreciating the divine voice that flows through you, and you invite it to be heard. As a result, you'll attract those who resonate with your truth. You'll find your soul community.
10. You get sick.
Fear isn't just an uncomfortable emotion that holds you back from following your dreams. It also triggers stress responses in the body that put you at risk of disease and make it hard for the body to heal itself. Fearful people are more likely to get heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory disorders, chronic pain and even the common cold. They're also more likely to experience milder symptoms, such as insomnia, low energy, obesity, dizziness, headaches, backaches, decreased libido and gastrointestinal distress.
This isn't meant to frighten you. It's meant to wake you up, give you hope, and inspire you to embark upon the journey of transformation from fear to freedom.
So how do you cure fear?
First, it's not so much about curing fear, which can be your friend! It's more about letting fear cure YOU. When you develop the right relationship with fear and uncertainty, fear can be the finger pointing toward everything in need of healing in your life. Here are a few things that can you can do now.
1. Focus on what you appreciate.
Love can transmute fear almost instantly when you open your heart and allow yourself to feel gratitude. Close your eyes and think about a child you love or a beloved who touches your heart. Remember a time when you felt wrapped in the arms of Divine love, when you were touched by a synchronicity or a birth or a miracle and you just knew you were loved and protected by a nurturing universe. Let yourself experience that memory of love and connectedness. Watch fear dissolve in the moment.
Meditation is a well-studied and scientifically-proven way to reduce fear, improve your health, ramp up your courage, and tune you into the frequency of real life magic. If you've never meditated before, try downloading the free "Prescription For Courage" kit at TheFearCureBook.com. It includes guided meditations meant to calm your nervous system, boost your faith, rewire your fear-based worldview, and help you transform your fear into fuel for awakening.
3. Question your beliefs.
Every time you have a fearful thought, question it. What's true about that thought? What's not true about that thought? The minute you question your thoughts and beliefs, you start to create distance, allowing you space to take a witness position to your thoughts. This starts to loosen fear's hold on you right away. For specific techniques to help you question your beliefs, check out the free resources at Byron Katie's The Work.
4. Trust the Universe.
Einstein said, "The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe." When you believe it's a hostile universe, life is scary. But when you trust that you are held, loved, safe, nurtured, and protected by a guiding intelligence that is ALL LOVE, you can relax.
Whether you ascribe to any specific religion or just consider yourself "spiritual but not religious," anything that facilitates your trust in a friendly universe helps you let go and surrender, making your desires and problems an offering to the Divine in whatever way feels authentic to you.
5. Find your soul tribe.
It's REALLY hard to make this kind of radical transformation alone! Find other spiritually-inclined, courageous beings who are making brave choices to be their most authentic selves. And limit your exposure to people who let fear run their lives (without judging them).
If you make this journey alone, you'll feel terrified — and crazy. But when you see the magic that starts to happen when others live their lives this way, it will inspire you to stay the course, even when the journey gets challenging. You'll also have way more fun letting your freak flag fly when others are flying theirs with you.