If you have ever heard, read, or listened to advice about letting go of your fears you might understand it when I say that our society is slightly obsessed with it. Recently I’ve seen the topic reappear around me more often. From podcasts, to inspirational speeches, and online articles; I can’t seem to escape the thought. Given the fact that I’ve been staring down some of my own fears lately, I’ve been paying more attention.
As humans it’s beyond difficult to reconcile our fears and stop them from altering our perception of reality around us. We’re unnecessarily afraid of losing our jobs (or clients) and failing at our goals. Afraid of the physical and hypothetical; airplanes and accidents, un-acceptance and rejection. My fears tell me to stop before I even try, keep me silent, or to accept things that I’m not happy with.
I think we all believe that we want our lives to be fearless. Because if I was truly fearless I could accomplish all my lofty dreams, right? I’d quit my job, start my own business, move abroad, and travel the world. I’d lose all the things that keep my life mediocre – which would then allow me to be truly happy… right?
But maybe you’re like me and think it sounds impossible to lose all your fear. Maybe you’ve tried before and can’t get behind it. I think it’s worth considering that instead of being fearless, maybe it’s more attainable for us to expect ourselves to learn how to live with fear.
As we grow up, we’re often encouraged to think of fear as a weakness… maybe that’s why we think of fear, sometimes, as a danger in and of itself. Fear is something we conquer. It’s something we fight, something we overcome. But what if we looked at fear in a fresh way? What if we thought of fear as an amazing act of the imagination? Something that can be as profound and insightful as storytelling itself.
– Karen Thompson Walker via ‘What We Fear‘ by NPR TED Radio Hour
Fear isn’t a danger or something to destroy, it’s something to embrace and hold onto as a tool. It teaches us lessons, allows us to make good decisions, and let’s us know when it’s time to revaluate our current plan. But living with fear is not the same thing as letting fear live with you.
Fear shouldn’t dictate our goals, lives, or dreams. It should help fuel our need to do our best, but not much more. In his interview with 99u, Oliver Burkeman says that we need to let go of our need to be fearless first, “if you think you need to ‘be fearless’ before doing something, you’re just adding another hurdle.” Instead start tackling your goals with feelings intact. Sit with your uncomfortable thoughts and realize that they are in your mind, they’re not real. What’s real, is here, right now in this moment.
Our lives aren’t about being totally fearless. It’s about embracing and understanding our fears. Fear has purpose and meaning, and if we change our perception or listen to the story, maybe we can shape our lives into one that resembles something free from it.