I am at the point in life where I believe that fear is my greatest obstacle. Not money, not other people, not the odds of success, and not even my health. It is my fear about anything that I face in life, more so than the challenge itself, that terrorizes me. I have learned that your fears protect you not only from danger or failure, they can also protect you from success.
Our fears are personalized to each of us. Mine specialize in keeping me from what I am truly dreaming of, and what I truly deserve. My fears know me well. After all that I have accomplished, they can still sneak up to me and whisper in my ear, “But have you done THIS, before?” And just like that, I feel like an impostor, and shrink in the face of endless possibilities. My fears make me worry to no end about what other people think. They remind me that not everyone will agree with what I write, develop, or speak about. They tell me that not everyone will agree with my approach. Lastly, they remind me that it won’t be perfect. And all of this matters because my fears can say it in this voice that is as creepy and convincing as Scar from the Lion King.
My fears like to convince me that everything I am thinking of has already been done before. They remind me of my faults and make me believe that success cannot coexist with them, or happen in spite of them. This is why, when I speak to someone and they are very excited about my ideas, I am surprised. I realize then that my fears have presented an unbalanced case. They focused on my failures rather than my successes. They focus on the worst case scenario rather than the best that could happen. I recognize them because when I was a child, they focused on my bullies more than my friends.
And now, they try to convince me that I have to be perfect to obtain success. I know this is not the truth. I see imperfect successes everywhere I look. I have comforted many of my friends in their time of defeat and sorrow, and celebrated as they made it out of their trials and soared. Sure, it didn’t happen overnight. I sat with them and held them in those times. I wouldn’t have told them back then that things would get better and they would smile again, because in the moment it have felt patronizing. But what I do know is the value of time.
As we heal and mature, we are able to do things that we can’t do in the midst of trying times. When you lose a job or don’t get a promotion you are hoping for, it isn’t easy to think that there may be a better position waiting for you. A business idea that is not garnering support today could be a desirable solution five years from now, or may give birth to another that is. Maybe you are still cutting your teeth, and being prepared for your future. Today’s experiences may be helping you develop the qualities you will need for that time, such as patience, humility, perseverance, or strength. Fear does not tell us these things. It tells us that we are inadequate, or that we are failures. I am not special in that my fears seem to know my trigger points, and neither are you.
Fear has always been a part of the human experience. Part of the reason it has endured is that it can be protective. It helped our ancestors to sense danger. They could use it as a tool to tell friend from foe, and to react appropriately in the case of foe (a term commonly known as ‘fight or flight’). While it is true that some fears protect you, others are false and only let you down. The accumulation of false fears over time will cripple your spirit. Knowing the difference between a valid fear and one that is only detrimental to your spirit, is key.
When you want to do something, but are not sure that you are capable, fear may be the immediate response. This is not always protective, but it happens for a reason. Maybe the magnitude of what it takes to accomplish your goal is overwhelming. However, fear should not keep you from taking the first step. You can be proactive by first learning more about what you want to do, starting with looking for resources at your local library, or conducting an internet based search. Then, you can take steps to develop a plan. Release your fears about not being successful on your first attempt. The path of authenticity is not about being the best, but rather, being fully yourself. It is about actualizing all that is within you. Your dreams are too important to surrender to fear.
You can do things that are difficult. You can do things that people around you have never done. You can change how the world perceives someone from your background, your town, your experience. You can overcome obstacles that would have made others faint and give up. I met an individual who spoke of himself as a problem kid before entering the services and attending community college, eventually going to medical school and becoming known to us as then US Surgeon General Richard Carmona.
Courage is about taking action in the face of fear. Hope is the most defiant quality one could have. It looks at what is and persists in believing in what could be. I have seen people who had every reason in the world to give up, still hold on to hope. It made them stand out as valiant faces of bravery, whose images I can never wash from my mind. They taught me to be heroic because not even the promise of death could keep them from giving, from loving, from dreaming.
This is why affirmations are so valuable. When is the last time that the voice in your head snuck up behind you and said, “Everyone is going to love you! You are wonderful! You can make anything happen if you believe in yourself?” Your fears want to keep you safe, to keep life reasonably constant from day to day so that you don’t get rocked by the winds of life. I have to say that life will rock you somehow. Be prepared for that, by being courageous enough to truly live, even in the midst of fear. Train your mind to affirm your power and your capacity for success.