Fear is a prison. Fear is a liar. Fear is a poison. Indeed. Fear is also a motivator. A sign-post. An opportunity. It is not fear that is the root of all our disappointments and discontent. It is our relationship with it, how we respond to it and how we allow it to consume our being. It is often fear that leads us toward averse reactions when confronted with something or someone vastly different from us. It is fear that holds us back from taking risks, chances that could very well affect our livelihoods, our happiness, alter our experiences greatly, but our ability to play out what-if scenarios in our heads stop us in our tracks.
Every time we feel hesitant to do something we want to do, that’s fear. When we feel ourselves making excuses, finding reasons to opt out or avoid something entirely, we are allowing the hypothetical future to affect our present. We chose fear. Fear won. F*ck that noise. Seriously. We’re not talking about deciding whether or not to drive on the railroad tracks or attempt something truly dangerous that we’re not yet equipped to do. It’s simple, everyday things, small decisions that can lead us on our most chosen path, rather than relegating ourselves to sameness, to our comfortable box we’ve grown so accustomed.
This can be seen in our approach in yoga poses. When there’s hesitance, we’ve determined the outcome in our minds and that becomes our self-fulfilling prophecy. “I’m going to fall, I’m not strong enough.” The pose says, “Damn right.” We’ll keep repeating the same patterns until we bring full awareness to the thoughts that generated the behavior patterns, choosing then to mute that naysaying voice, and re-entering the challenge with a different, clearer mindset, without expectations or assumptions, with complete trust in our ability to handle the result.
That’s all fear is, an inability to trust consequences. Who really cares about falling a few inches from the floor? We can never entirely avoid rejection or failure, so instead we must embrace these facets of life as signals we’re learning, striving, living! We should all return to that golden age as children where we weren’t yet privy to embarrassment and humiliation. We said, felt and did precisely what our truth told us to do. Until one day, the what-if section of our psyche was born, and we’ve been white knuckling our way through life ever since.
For years, I was completely run by fear. I didn’t acknowledge it, certainly didn’t try to project it, but that’s the truth. After my first real heart break, I didn’t open myself to new relationships for years. I followed a pragmatic college and career path not because my heart was compelled to work in human resources, but because that path was comfortable, predictable, safe, with secure foreseeable outcomes. How exciting. For years, I wanted to write, to express myself creatively, but I talked myself out of it time and time again. I’ve jumped out of airplanes but allowing my heart to be vulnerable sent my ego into deep self preservation. “If you don’t attempt these risky things,” it said, “you’ll never fail, you won’t lose.” No shit. When you don’t play, you can’t possibly lose. You also can never win.
As always, the ever wise and brilliant Osho reflects on fear with razor sharp insight, “ Whenever there is fear, never try to escape from it. In fact take hints from fear. Those are the directions in which you need to travel. Fear is simply a challenge. It calls you: ‘Come!’”
It took me being fed up with myself to then break free into a newer, more courageous me. After years of never being open to new people, men in particular, I gave myself a stern talking to and decided to let go, trust myself and see what happens. Within days, partly through strokes of fortune and partly because of my new intention, I met the person I’ve loved and grown with for 7 years. After crying multiple times in the shower from pervasive dissatisfaction at work (we spend over 50 hours a week earning our living, the time and energy is hugely important, not to be wasted), I decided to get certified to teach. And after years of teaching and practicing yoga I finally gave myself permission to write, without expectation, without hesitation.
My intent in sharing this is not to say that when we take risks, there’s always a reward. The lesson is empowerment. The benefits I’ve experienced from relinquishing my fear have been mostly internal. I’m so much less bored, spend less time criticizing myself, and far less time wondering how my life will turn out. For years, it was much of the same. Now, life is new every single day, potently alive with possibility, with opportunity to try, to learn, to love. This isn’t to say you must sing karaoke, bungee jump, or find some extreme representation of fear and tackle it. Spend less time fantasizing how life could possibly be and start creating it for yourself now. Dreams manifest into a reality when the dreamer becomes aware they are the orchestrators of their happiness, their confidence, their belief and love in themselves.
This is personal. What do you want to do, who do you want to connect with, where do you want to go and who do you want to be? What is stopping you? Don’t let the answer be you. Be the reason you are happy, successful and in love with life. Let today be the day we say goodbye to what-ifs, to could-have-beens, to if-onlys and to any other pattern of excuses we've used to keep us boxed in. Love and accept yourself fully, approach life with reckless abandon, trusting yourself to absorb the lessons along the way. When you recognize fear, give it a little smirk, say thanks for the motivation, then give it the middle finger and don’t look back.
Photo Credit: Derek James Robinson