Have you ever wanted to take a leap of faith, but chose not to because that little thing called fear took over? What is this idea of fear that holds us hostage in so many areas of our everyday lives?
Fear is defined as this: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or threat.
Fear is something that can be experienced physically and psychologically (also seen as anxiety). In today’s society, there are many ways to experience physical fear (poverty, war, etc.) and there are so many psychological experiences of fear (news, appearance, shame, criticism etc.).
Living in fear is exhausting, fear always keeps our dreams at an arms distance and it causes us to question our ability every day. Fear is something that everybody encounters, and I know for myself, fear has been something I have dealt with my whole life:
- fear of failing
- fear of not being good enough
- fear of not being loved back
- fear of being alone
- fear of the unknown
- fear of humiliation
All of us deal with fear on a daily basis, whether it be getting into a vehicle, walking down the street, being divorced, getting laid off, failing, or having that tough conversation with someone you love. Fear lingers around every corner, and I hope I can offer you some relief in saying that it is ok to be afraid.
Fear is a normal emotion, and without fear our lives would be messy and chaotic. Fear is an emotion that keeps us in check with reality and keeps us alert to what is going on around us. I think the last thing this world wants is a ton of people who have no sense of fear in their lives. Fear keeps people from driving their car off a cliff for an adrenaline rush (most people leave that to professionals for fear of our getting hurt or losing out lives), and fear keeps people from committing crimes for fear of being caught or getting in trouble. A certain amount of fear in life is healthy, but the problem with fear with when it becomes an overwhelming force that alters the way we live from day to day.
How do we break free from fear that controls our every move and motive?
Recognizing fear for what it is and what it represents is the first force in moving toward a happy and whole life. Recognition is key to overcoming fear, because without recognition of being afraid we have no grounds to move forward. Recognition includes asking questions such as:
- What are the things I am most fearful of?
- Are these things hindering the way I am living my life?
- Do my behaviors around these fears need to change?
- When we are afraid of certain things, what does that tell us about ourselves?
- What can you learn about yourself when you explore fears in your life?
Once we are able to recognize some of these factors and process these ideas or behaviors we will free ourselves to move onto the next step of breaking free from the grips of fear: exploration.
Exploration of fear can open up doors to growth within ourselves. Exploration entails the idea that once we recognize the fear within us and understand the impact it has on our lives. It is then that we are able to journey further into where the fear comes from and this allows us to see ideas that may have been brushed under the rug in the past. We then have the opportunity to identify if the fear is rooted in our past or if it is a current stressor that is causing the fear (or a combination of both). This opens so many doors to self-love and self-understanding. If we understand the things that make us work and make us unique we are then given an opportunity to love ourselves in a whole new way. When we do this we are able to understand fear for what it is and what it represents in our life, and this gives us power to control this fear in our day to day lives.
Recognition is the first step and exploration is the next step. What happens after we recognize what our fears are and the deep meaning behind the fear? We learn to must learn to live with fear, and sit fully and safely in the experience of feeling fear. This can take different forms and each form is unique for each fear and each individual. This will be different for every individual and the process will look different for everyone as well. This is something that no one can choose for you, you have to choose and allow a trusted individual to walk alongside you through your journey of taking on fear. It is then, that you can start to experience joy in ways that you never thought possible.
How do we look at fear in terms of self-worth and being good enough?
Fear is an emotion that keeps us from trying new and exciting things because of possible repercussions of being laughed at, mocked, or failing. Fear is at the root of perfection, and let’s face it, perfection is at the root of society. Fear can be tied into our identity and our need to be good enough for others around us and ourselves because fear is what keeps us safe from ridicule. If we stay in the “safe zone” no one will be able to laugh and we will not be able to fail if we don’t try. If we stay in the “safe zone” we remain perfect on the outside because no one will see our “imperfections”. Staying in the “safe zone” is dangerous to our identity because we all have beautiful and unique minds that have so much to offer to the world. Fear hinders our minds ability to create and share due to society’s demands on being good enough and fitting in. Self-worth is different for every person but is often tied to fitting in and being accepted (which are ideas within themselves to be discussed). Many people tie acceptance to who they are and what they are worth.
The big question to ask yourself regarding your self-worth and identity are:
- What do I find my identity in? Is it to success and failure, or is it to family and friends, or to my career, or does it relate to something deeper within me?
These are questions that only your unique mind can answer because no person’s answers or journeys will ever be the exact same.
Why is fear always surfacing in and around counseling?
Fear is entangled with counseling and it typically all starts at the beginning when we reach out for help and follows us through the whole journey. Reaching out for help from a counselor is vulnerable and it elicits fear for so many reasons. For each person, it is going to be different. For some, it may be fear of judgment by others, by the counselor, or shame of self. For others, it may be fear of the unknown and not understanding how it works or if it will even work.
Once we get past these fears in the beginning, we ride into the next set of fears within the counseling process. There is fear of not being good enough in counseling and fear of not being understood or seen. There is fear of change and with that change fear of what happens after, or whether it was right. These are all things that produce large amounts of fear for people, and it takes courage to overcome fear. It takes a large amount of courage to look at fear head on and say you know what, I am going to do this anyway. When we find courage to overcome fear, we find ways to better love ourselves and better understand ourselves.