Love and fear rule our life. Every action and behavior is driven by either love or fear. Underneath your decisions is the desire to avoid pain or seek pleasure. But Fear when left unchecked can limit your life.
Fear can make you miss out on some of life’s best experiences.
I believe it’s all a matter of how you choose to think about fear. Instead of thinking fear is something bad that comes to hold you back, see it as a friend that simply asks you to pause and cautions you to think. Fear is not your enemy. Fear after all is a primal instinct given to you as a gift to alert you of danger but was never meant to stop you from pursuing your dreams.
There is something powerful when you learn to speak to your fear. I’ve made fear my friend and instead of dreading it or shaming it, I thank it. When I feel fear, I literally speak to it as if I am talking to a friend. I often say, what are you trying to tell me? Or I ask a few powerful questions, is this a real threat or simply an alert of what could happen? What is the worst thing that could happen? I then proceed and say, thank you for the warning, but I will do it anyway! I’ve come to believe that fear is often put in your path to test you, to see how committed you are to your dreams. So, learn to look at fear in the eye and still leap because there is a pretty good chance that if you leap, you’ll fly.
What are your fears?
What fear has kept you from taking opportunities and risks?
Has fear kept you from loving wholeheartedly to avoid getting hurt?
Has it kept you from fulfilling dreams, from sharing your gifts or expressing your authentic self?
Fear is a powerful tool when you acknowledge it.
Let it penetrate you without resistance because the quicker you acknowledge your emotion and thank it for alerting you, the quicker it passes. It is actually incredible what this ancient and primitive alarm bell does to protect us. The minute it senses possible hurt or danger, it will search your memory bank for past experiences that resemble similar ones and prompts you to stop.
What’s important for you to understand is where fear’s job ends. Unfortunately, most people feel fear and stop. Knowing that fear’s job is simply to alert you and not to stop you can be a game changer. It was for me! You can use fear to stop you or to propel you. There is a way to use fear to your benefit.
Confront your fear.
My advice is that you practice confronting your fear. Start with small things and gradually confront the bigger ones. In my coaching practice I ask my clients to do something each day that scares them. It does not matter how small. The point is to get you accustomed to acknowledging fear and overcoming it. That is the only way to conquer it. For example, one of the things I often feared was travelling on my own and not knowing anyone. Due to my work, I travel all over the world and attend many conferences on my own.
Rather than dread traveling on my own as I used to and cancelling, I committed to entering big conference rooms confronting the fear of not knowing a single soul. I set the intention that I was going to meet all kinds of interesting people. When you let your intention be stronger than your fear, it can’t stop you. It was liberating! I met soulful friends that I would not have otherwise had I let my fear of being rejected win. Don’t believe for a second that it was easy for me. There were challenging times, but I felt the fear and did it anyway.
The fear of being rejected was just in my head. I realized after talking to people that they were feeling just as anxious as I was and they were so relieved that someone had the courage to make the connection. Have you ever heard the advice often given to people who are afraid of public speaking? “Imagine the people in the room are naked.” That is a strange suggestion for me as I think that would only make me even less at ease. However, in a similar fashion, when walking into a place where you don’t know anyone, imagine that the people there are feeling the same discomfort of not knowing anyone themselves. This simple act and decision has been powerful and life changing.
Teaching our children to conquer their fears.
I have taught this to my daughters. They were always anxious about the first day of school, the first day of camp, and work. There will always be those moments when we have to step into the unknown. So, realizing that if you’re feeling fearful of not knowing anyone and knowing that the person across from you is feeling the exact same way is comforting. This is what allows you to break barriers. Knowing that fear is a universal feeling and that you are not the only one feeling it.
My younger daughter, Emma has become quite an expert at it. We began working on her fear-facing skills when she was in grade one. I wished I had begun facing my fears as early as she did. We would practice at home before the first day of school or camp and I would tell her to scan the room and to choose one person then go up to them and say, “Hi, my name is Emma. Do you want to be friends and hang out?” And that is exactly what she did each time. It was adorable.
When she would come home, she would rush to hug me and tell me about all the friends she’d made and how brave she was and how good she felt that she was the one who initiated. Yes, there is always the possibility of rejection. But there is also the possibility of connection and I can tell you for certain that the scales will always tilt towards people engaging because they are just relieved you were brave enough to approach.
Today my Emma is 14 years old going on 50 and when she walks into a room of strangers, she has no hesitation. She greets everyone with enthusiasm and confidence. Recently she went to sleepover camp for the first time without knowing a single friend in her cabin. Extremely brave of Emma, her habit of facing her fear and doing it anyway continues to yield great results.
When the girls in her cabin got more comfortable, they shared they were terrified of being there a week without knowing anyone. Emma made their fears ease quickly. When I picked up Emma a week later, it was a sight to remember. All the girls in the cabin were hugging and crying when they had to say goodbye. Emma told me those were some of the most amazing friends she has ever made. They are now in touch thanks to technology and are all planning to return to the same camp next year and stay longer. So, don’t let fear ever rob you from experiencing connections.
Once I mastered my fear of talking and initiating connections with strangers, I began to tackle the bigger ones. I traveled for vacations to different countries all by myself. I figured that life was giving me this test to see if I could accept with grace those times in my life when I have found myself not in a relationship and still embrace living and venturing to experience life in spite of being on my own. Fearful? Hell yes!
But I did it anyway. Not just once but many times. Did I love it? No. But I was proud of facing my circumstances with bravery. I didn’t postpone living just because I didn’t have a partner or friend to travel with. I’ve learned to see things as challenges from life and love showing life how invincible I can be.
So, whatever fears have stopped you in the past, challenge yourself to face them. Don’t let fear stop you. Let it pause you so you can think and then continue. If it is a job that makes you unhappy but you are afraid to quit, use that fear to motivate you to make that business you always dreamed of having work. If it is saying no that you fear due to the possibility of those people leaving you, do it. If they leave, they were not the ideal people for you.
Fear is real and it can be paralyzing. But when you take the time to break it down one small action at a time, you can conquer all.
With gratitude, Waleuska Lazo