Making Friends with Fear
What’s your relationship with fear—friend or foe?
Fear can be a trusted friend who invites you to stretch the boundaries of your life, or a foe you fight at every turn. Like a good friend, your fears help you to see where you’re limiting yourself, and where you have opportunities to grow. When you greet fear as a foe, you live in a state of ready alert to do battle with whatever or whoever frightens you. Fighting fear creates a lot of unnecessary drama in your life.
Your relationship with fear is completely up to you. Fear simply is what it is. You get to decide the role that fear plays in your life. I suggest that if fear is not on your best buddy list that you put some effort into making a new friend.
When you experience fear it’s a warning sign that you’re at the limit of your current comfort zone. Your new friend, fear, is inviting you to learn something new. It might be learning to have a conversation you’re not comfortable with, or taking the risk to travel on your own, or finding a way to stand up for what you believe is right. Fear is inviting you to stretch in new ways.
I suggest that you approach the process of stretching into the new territory in a very similar way as stretching a muscle. The best way to stretch a muscle is to warm up and then gently, but directly, find the place where there is enough tension to elongate the muscle, but not so much that it tears. Repeatedly relaxing into this dynamic tension, feeling some pain, but not too much, is the way to increase the flexibility in all areas of your life – not just your muscles. Get in the habit of challenging yourself to take small risks that stretch you in the direction you want to grow. Before you know it, fear will give way and you will find yourself feeling more capable and confident.
It’s important, of course, to distinguish between logical fears, like falling off a cliff, and limiting fears, such as addressing an inequity. The limiting fears are the ones that bound your life in unnecessary ways. Those are life’s invitations to discover what you’re made of.
Choosing to view fear as an invitation to stretch and grow will enrich your life in so many ways. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Start with the small stuff, and continue to build from there. You will have far fewer regrets and many more moments of personal triumph if you make friends with fear.
Where is fear getting in the way of doing the things that matter to you? How might you begin to stretch into that concern in ways that push the edge enough to experience what’s on the other side, but no go too far?
Dianna L. Anderson, MCC