Fear is a funny old thing – except that it’s not funny and when it’s running, you’re the one feeling old!
In our world today as it’s always been, there’s a lot of stuff to be afraid of – some of it justified and life preserving for us. But in this series of blog posts, I suspect that the focus will be on the other type of fear – the one we make up in our head but that feels really, truly real to us.
If you think I’m making it up, let me share what I’ve noticed and see if you’ve spotted it too.
It seems to me that Fear comes in different guises. There’s the common kind – a fear of public speaking or maybe of heights (neither apply to me). There’s the sudden sort that immobilizes you when you wake in the middle of the night and are sure there’s a burglar downstairs (no – not me either). There’s the creeping panic that builds and grows as you leave your friends and walk alone back through the car park, not wanting to run but sort of wishing you could (I think most women know that one). There’s the body draining, turn to jelly and liquefy kind when sitting opposite a doctor and hearing bad news (made it out the other side of that one).
But there’s another type – a slower, more insidious fear that hides itself among our habits, our thinking, our behaviours and our decisions. It doesn’t have the strong physical reaction of palpitations and sweaty hands. Instead, it simply holds us prisoners in our own heads – it kidnaps us. It does this by occupying our thoughts and mind and uses logic and common sense to keep us still. It tells us to “Be careful”; “Don’t be ridiculous”; “You’d never manage that”; “You’re too old”; “You might hurt yourself”; “You couldn’t”; “You’ve never done anything like that before”; “What if it doesn’t work out?”; “What if you die?”; “You’re not clever enough to do that”; “Who’d listen to you?”; “Who do you think you are anyhow?” and on and on and on. (This type of fear I do know!)
I think of it as a kidnapper – tying us up and immobilizing us into doing less – by making us explore less, consider less, fail less, try less, chance less, love less. It wants everything to stay the same and it gradually sucks the life out of us and leaves it empty of passion and fun.
It means we don’t try a different type of holiday, consider another point of view, take a chance with a new hairstyle, drive a different route to work.
It means we don’t write the blog, ride the motorbike or get the tattoo (don’t want a tattoo!). It means we don’t change our job or our way of life.
It means we take no new adventures and make no new decisions. Instead, we do the same things – over and over, forever and ever and wonder why life has no sparkle.
So despite the fact that I know this particular fear very well, I also know that I am brave. The book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’ was instrumental in changing how I lived my life almost thirty years ago. I’ve done a lot of brave things in that thirty years, despite being terrified doing most of them. I’ve been glad I did EVERY single one of them.
And I still get scared. But I DO want a life spent learning new things (there’s even stuff I don’t know I don’t know yet!); noticing beauty and nature (have you REALLY seen our beautiful countryside?); a life where I feel wonder and awe at the magnificence of it all (this is possible every single day if we simply stop to notice it).
I want to have deep meaningful connections with others (people are amazing) and to live in such a way that fearful thoughts don’t stop me doing new things and having new adventures. So I do the scary stuff anyhow, reminding the kidnapper that he has no real power other than that which I give him. I plan to ramp it up this coming year.
Make sure your thoughts aren’t holding you back and stopping you live a life that makes your heart sing. They could just be a kidnapper called Fear.