It is natural, even necessary, to experience fear occasionally. Fear helps us remain cautious when needed and keeps us safe when there may be danger or pain ahead. Fear aids in our survival.
If I parked at the back of the parking lot at a busy movie theater when I arrived during daylight hours and then needed to walk to my car at the end of the movie in the dark alone, I may feel fear. This fear will prompt me to take some precautions, such as asking someone to walk with me, having a friend drive me to my car if theirs is closer, or maybe not talking on my cellphone distracted while I walk to my car. The fear helped me look for and evaluate options to keep me safe. This fear was helpful.
Sometimes, over time, we develop fears that begin to interfere in our ability to live life to the fullest. It can be a fear of making a mistake, making the wrong choice, or how others will see you. These fears are guided by a sense of apprehension or uneasiness about the possibility of a negative outcome. This sense of apprehension is called anxiety.
Anxiety often interferes with our ability to take action, to try new things, or take the risks to get the things we really want. You can think back and notice all the things you did not do because you were too worried about the possibility it wouldn’t turn out well. Some of the times we miss out are obvious, such as the time we did not jump off the rock into the water below because we feared…well, what exactly did we fear? Was it the height we were jumping from, the uncertainty as to what was in the water, or the feeling we anticipated about plummeting through the air? Sometimes we react to fear so strongly that we aren’t even sure exactly what we are afraid of; we just know we are afraid.
When we have anxiety and avoid the thing that is creating all that anxiety, often we feel relieved. In our relief, we rarely think about the bigger picture. The bigger picture would include recognizing the ways the thing we avoided may have helped us along our desired path in life. Taking the challenging class that we weren’t sure we could pass may have taken us closer to the career we actually want or help us learn that career may not actually be for us. Writing a blog for others to read may get you support and help build community, even if there are those who read it and judge. Jumping into the water below may leave us soaring with pride from facing our fear.
Considering the big picture is not easy in that moment around the fear but the potential benefits are worth it. It’s important to remember that just because we face our fear, we may not have only the outcome we want. However, trying gives us a greater chance of the outcome we want than not trying ever will. The reality is that, most of the time, the outcome will be mixed with both positives and negatives. The satisfaction comes from not being trapped by our fear, having the opportunity to know what we are capable of, taking the chance on ourselves to live life the way we want, and the sense of pride that fills us after we take the risk.
Fear is necessary but fear can trap us as well. The next time you feel fear or anxiety creeping in, take a moment to evaluate what it is that you actually fear. Decide if the fear is holding you back. Decide if the risk may be worth taking. If the risk may be worth it, invite your fear along while you take the risks that are likely to enhance your life!