When you hang out with people who are committed to personal growth, it's not uncommon to hear them cheering each other on toward "fearlessness" as the ultimate goal. Personally, though, I don't think fearlessness is a reasonable goal—or even a healthy one.
I’m sure the intention behind the "fearless" movement is a good one. At this point, though, it's become a cliché—a sound bite that fails to encompass the deeper relationship between us and our fears. Indeed, without a deep examination of fear, the quest for fearlessness itself is likely to leave one paralyzed, holding back on actions until that ever-imminent moment that fear is overcome.
The vision of fear as the "super-antagonist" of our life neglects the crucial role it plays in survival. Fear is a protector and guardian. When it gives the call that quickens the heart, it's worth considering the message.
Of course, fear is not reserved for the threat of physical danger. Experiences that merely echo past hurts or anxieties can trigger all kinds of fear responses. But there is a message in that fear as well. It is giving us perhaps the most useful information for choosing our actions courageously and directing us to the hurts we would be wise to resolve.
So much of what is promoted in self-growth circles encourages us to boldly go forward, always reaching toward expansion. But like any moving object, we need brakes. Fear is our brake mechanism. Learning to use the gas and the brake in tandem is the only way to reach your destination safely.
So, I've been rethinking fear. I've given up the idea that it is something to be exorcised or removed from my life. I'm focusing instead on mastering my fear—finding the situations in which I can use it to my advantage. It's an integral part of my toolbox for living a beautiful, connected, and fulfilling life. It holds a valuable place alongside love, courage, empathy, and gratitude.
In this dance with fear, I've learned a few tricks that help me take the lead.