We all have fears, each of them unique to us and our situation. Some of us are afraid of failure, others are afraid of rejection and the only thing that is the same is the sense of threat and warning that sinks through our body when we’re confronted with that nightmare situation. Fear is an old thing. Fear kept our ancestors alive and it ensured the continuation of our line. Fear was the thing that got us this far through our journey. But now, fear isn’t as relevant. In our modern world, there is seldom any need for the rush of adrenalin and strength and clarity that our ancestors needed to flee from physical threats. But our fear doesn’t know that. That primitive part of our brain that feels the fear doesn’t know that. Our brains don’t know that we now live in massive cities, where the only threat we face on a daily basis is the danger of watching television too much. And so it still reacts in the same old way. It doesn’t know any better, and we end up suffering for it.
You will face fear often in your life. You will face it when you change things, when you take a new step, and when life throws unexpected problems in your path. There is a lot of information out there on how to deal with fear, identifying it when it comes and working around it so you can still get things done. But what most of them don’t say, and what we learn only through experience is that fear can never be defeated.
Fear is part of our bones, part of our brains, part of the very blood that makes us and it will always be with us. After we get through a difficult event, after we achieve something we thought was impossible, after the fear has lost, we can think that we’ve won. But we will never win. Fear will be our constant companion, our constant opponent, throughout our lives.
And realising that can be difficult. When we have gone through something hard, achieved something difficult, it can seem so terribly unfair to contemplate the next challenge and feel that same fear again. It can feel like we’re fighting a battle we can never win, as if all that we sacrificed, all the nights spent stressing and worrying and fighting against that primitive terror, was for nothing. It can be demoralising to come face to face with the same enemy all the time. It makes you realise that you never won at all, that you will never really win.
And perhaps that is the key.
If the fear never goes away, if it can never be defeated, than perhaps the key is to accept that. Fear is not the enemy. It tells you when something is unsafe, when there is risk. And it gives sharpness. It gives an edge to life that cannot be found in any other emotion. Without the fear that I felt at the time, some of the best things in my life would not be as bright, clear and important as they still are to this day. That fear gives important moments weight. If those achievements or events were easy and fear-free, they wouldn’t be worth achieving.
Doesn’t that make fear my friend? Instead of an opponent, an enemy, isn’t it a partner along my journey? You can’t have the thrill of achievement without the pain of the fear before it, so perhaps it is my framing that makes this war I am waging so difficult. I see it as pain, as a barrier to my goals, I see it as something to be overcome. That is the story I tell myself, and that is the reality I am living. But what will happen if I tell myself a different story?
What will happen if I tell myself that my fear is a helper? That it’s there to make my goals brighter and even more worthy of achievement? What if I fully realise, in the heart of me, that my fear is a positive element, rather than a hindrance on my journey?
What difference will that make to my life? And how can I put that into practice? Perhaps it will start as simply as stopping the next time I feel fear to say, ‘hello my friend and helper, welcome’.