A Practice For Recognizing Your Fears & Beginning To Work Through Them
It is important to explore the parts of yourself from which you may have disconnected, including your fears. This may seem a little contradictory. Perhaps, but as clichéd as it may sound, it is only by facing our fears that we have the chance to conquer them. You may not even be aware of some of your deep fears unless you go exploring within yourself, like rappelling into a cave of your subconscious.
For instance, when I started doing my practice, I had no idea yet as to what was at the root of so many of my life achievements and my motivations in general. Back in high school, I drove myself and those around me bananas because I wanted to be the captain of the track team, president of the school, and No. 1 in my class. This heavily achievement-focused mindset pursued me into adulthood. I never looked at these goals as being fueled by fear until I started meditating.
How to recognize your fears, so you can overcome them.
It was through meditation—through the experience of focus and stillness—that I made a breakthrough. I mean, I cracked open and found that at the heart of my overachieving were deep fears: fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear that I wasn't lovable, fear that I was never skinny enough, fear that my boobs were too small, fear that I would be left out because I wasn't cool enough, fear that I was not smart enough, fear that I wouldn't make my life a success, fear of not being taken seriously, fear of not even being seen because I was insignificant. I wanted people to pay attention to me, to praise me because I didn't feel like I was someone whom others could find interesting, attractive, or intelligent. I feared I was nothing.
That's some dark shit. But part of the process of releasing fears is to probe through the muck that you have stored inside you. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, often discussed the idea that everyone has a shadow, which he said were all the unconscious, disowned parts of us. He believed we all tend to reject or remain ignorant of the parts of ourselves we don't like—and don't like to admit are part of us too. We must muster the courage to look within ourselves, and really see. If we don't, then we aren't living from our True Selves, our true nature. Yogananda said, "True self-analysis is the greatest art of progress."
Take a deep breath, and let's go bravely looking into these shadows.
We are shortly going to explore an important exercise that would benefit you to return to again and again because the shadow is multidimensional. When we turn on a lamp in a room, the lamp not only illuminates what's in front of you but the corners of the room as well. Maybe not as brightly, but we do see that there are things in the outer reaches that often need our attention too. The deeper we look into those shadows, the more we find them in there, until we get to the edge. Imagine that your shadow is a well. Psychiatrist David Hawkins says there is a bottom to the well. Eventually, if you keep doing the work, you will get to the bottom of the well of fear, darkness, and insecurity.
The parts of our practice—including meditation, pranayama, creating true stillness, concentrating our energy within—shed light on the shadow and bring it into focus. You may start to notice tendencies, reactions, triggers within yourself of which you were never consciously aware, and these will give you clues to keep digging down to the root of what fears are actually held in your shadow.
If you never take the time to examine your deepest fears, you won't truly begin to understand your motivations, your patterns of moving through the world, your very self. Maybe you keep attracting guys who cheat on you or treat you poorly because deep down you have a fear that you aren't good enough for a quality man and that's all you deserve. Or maybe you don't go for the career you are so passionate about because you have a fear you're not good enough to make it after all. Perhaps you might say that you don't want something (having kids, working as a full-time Pilates instructor, getting married, starting your own website, and so on) because you really do want that very thing, and you're fearful that you won't be able to get it. Maybe you keep getting cosmetic work done here and there because you can't shake the nagging fear that you're getting old and you're not going to find someone (or hold on to someone) who will love you.
If you can start to imagine what it would be like to be free from all of these fears, then you can start to imagine a new reality. When you even consider the possibility, it's the beginning of converting a potential into your reality.
Self-Reflection: Getting the fears out of the shadows:
- At the top of a fresh page in your journal, write My fears include: and just start writing. Let your writing flow. Your list might include things like the fears of not having enough money to get through the year, getting old and saggy, the fear of never being able to have your own family, the fear of losing a loved one. Keep going.
- Next, write at the top of the next page, I am fearful of feeling: and then again, create a list! This one might include fears around things like feeling left out (aka the notorious FOMO phenomenon, feeling lonely, feeling you never reached your full potential, feeling rejected, feeling stupid, and so on. As you go deeper (now or in a future repeated practice session), your list might include not feeling loved or lovable, not feeling enough or good enough, not feeling important enough to be listened to or seen, and so on. Get them all out in the open!
- OK, you're doing great. Really! Nothing to fear here! Just one last list. On a third page, write Without any of these fears, I would feel: Maybe you've never even considered what it would feel like to live without any fear. Seriously, what would you do, how would you act, how would you dance, sing, make love, work, hang out with your friends, if you could not fail in any of your endeavors? How would you treat the people around you? How would you treat yourself? How would you wake up in the morning? How would you interact with those around you? Just let it all loose! Feel into it. Feel the liberation, the expansion, the confidence that would come about without any of those fears. Close your eyes and really feel it.
- Now, shred the first two pieces of paper up into tiny pieces, with the intention that you are now moving into the courageous, fearless place within your True Self. Keep the third in a safe place where you can access it, like in your journal or folded up on your altar (even if you don't call it that, this would be a place where you keep beloved objects, like framed photos).
- Finally, commit to taking one step toward acting in a fearless way. Putting one thing into action, even if it is a small step, will start to make fearlessness a real energy in your life. It could be to research the field you want to move into for at least 20 minutes a day or spend 30 minutes a day working on your brand-new business plan. Maybe it's signing up to take a salsa class (even though dancing in public feels like a nightmare to you). Write that down in your journal too, as a fresh commitment in the now: I now commit to: Know that you have the power to create that new pattern of being fearless.
Excerpted with permission from You Are More Than You Think You Are: Practical Enlightenment for Everyday Life by Kimberly Snyder (Hay House, 2022). Available now at Amazon and everywhere books are sold.
Kimberly Snyder is a spiritual guide, meditation teacher, nutritionist, and holistic wellness expert. She is the three-time New York Times bestselling author of five previous books, including Radical Beauty, which she co-authored with Deepak Chopra.
Snyder hosts the top-rated Feel Good podcast. She is the founder of Solluna®, a holistic lifestyle brand that offers wellness products, digital courses, Practical Enlightenment MeditationTM, and the Solluna Circle. She has been featured in dozens of media outlets, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, and The Wall Street Journal. She lives in Los Angeles and Hawaii with her husband and her sons.