This one always gets me, too: “Oh, but I’m not afraid.”
I don’t believe it.
Everyone is afraid, somewhere. People just don’t always claim it. I dare you to read the entirety of this list, with a keen eye for recognizing yourself:
Fear will show up as:
resistance, low grade anxiety, forgetting, not “feeling like it,” skipping out on e-courses/meetings/calls/group get-togethers that you committed to, not doing what you said you would do, procrastination, self-sabotage, creating drama, running “mental drama” in your head, replaying old situations and getting triggered, imagining future scenarios and planning a defense, persistent anxiety, giddiness, detachment, numbing out, abuse of substances or people or self, high-risk behaviors (oddly enough, it’s the amplification of fear in an attempt to wipe out fear), cheating on partners, dragging your heels, refusing to make a choice and pretending as if that is not a choice, rationalizing (“I’ll do it next year”), justifying (“Now’s just not the right time”), buying more books that you don’t read or finish or actually utilize, creating obstacles such as more debt or being over-committed, lying, fibbing, manipulating the facts, trying to be right at all costs, making it someone else’s fault, rigid fundamentalism, hating the “other,” arrogance, all of the -isms, condescension, taking fixed positions on issues, accumulation of stuff, dogma, attachment to a label or over-identification with a group, rage, sadness, depression, avoidance, shame, running Stories without checking them out, holding grudges and resentments, taking care of everyone but yourself, using caring for others as an excuse not to do the things you’ve committed to, shaming, blaming, taking no position whatsoever and going through life as an amorphous blob shaped by others with no personal identity…
No, this is not a complete list.
Yes, I do some of these things.
I’m not pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, just to be an asshole.
I’m hoping that you’ll laugh with me a bit, at the utter folly and madness that so many of us go through around pretending we aren’t afraid, that fear doesn’t touch us, and that with enough meditation and the right yoga pants, we will never again be afraid.
I’d love it if the world would ditch “living without fear” as a goal.
I’m hoping that what I share here will light a fire under our butts and get us to stop wasting time.
This is life! What are we waiting for? There are no discounts, no refunds, no special perks at the end for living life, halfway.
Fear is not the problem. I repeat: “Fear” is not the problem.
Fear is not “keeping you” from anything. You are keeping yourself from something whenever you aren’t willing to make a choice, despite the fear.
“Fearless” doesn’t work (though of course, you’re always welcome to continue trying). With the coaching explosion has also come the sales pages promising to help you “live fearlessly.”
Fear-less-ly (with less fear) I can see and support. But to be without fear, ever, entirely? I don’t buy it. Fear is the first thing that shows up when we are confronted with something new, something for which we have no context.
To strive for a life that is devoid of fear strikes me as a tragic waste of time, especially since being with our fear can bring so many gifts.
Yes, gifts–if you rock fear like a ninja, fear will bring you the gifts of acuity, of sharpness, of getting incredibly dialed-in and present.
The more you practice “being with” your fear, instead of hating it, the more you transform the experience of it in your life.
With practice, the day will come when fear will rise up and you’ll see it and feel it and the discomfort of it will wash over you–but you won’t even hesitate to do what you know needs to be done.
I shared that your relationship to fear is your relationship to life.
With this, then, your relationship to fear is also your relationship to yourself and others.
We love ourselves and others in direct proportion to how much we accept ourselves.
We cannot fully accept ourselves if we’re also saying, “This fear part, over here? I don’t think I’ll accept and embrace that part of who I am. That part needs to go. Where’s the next workshop I can sign up for, to learn how to eradicate it?”
Those “Beat your Inner critic” workshops? Same thing. Fear is the voice of the inner critic, you know.
The tricky part is how often people are quickly tempted to do a surface level about-face: “Oh, you know, that’s right–I really should love all of me. Okay, I won’t hate my inner critic, any longer.”
But secretly? They’ll still hate the critic. It’s sort of like the phenomenon of women who hate their bodies being told that they are “supposed to” love their bodies–so then they sing the song of loving their thighs, while secretly hating them. Then things get more complicated.
The Costs of Closing
If you’re closing off to your fear, you’re practicing–on a daily basis–conditional love, love with limits.
If you’re practicing it with you, guess where else you’re practicing it? Yes, that’s right–with your children. With your partner. With your parents. With your friends. In essence, you’re putting limitations on love with the people you say you love.
Practicing is modeling, and modeling is teaching. You’re teaching your partner, friends, and children “conditional love.”
This truth is one of my biggest motivations to be stay open to my fear, to be with it and love it and not hate it for being what it is.
The costs of closing off to fear are far too great.
So, this begs the question–if you are having a moment of reckoning right now, understanding that hating your fear is costing you, big time, then what are you going to choose differently? What actions are ayou going to take? Beyond just reading about it, what’s your next step?
These are confrontational questions, asked in the spirit of ferocious love and a commitment to being of service.