What if the fear that keeps us awake at night, and makes us procrastinate or even give up our dreams is good for us.
Fear definitely has its place in our lives. As kids we enjoyed taking chances. We called it adventure. Our parents called it “off limits” (which made it even more fun). We challenged our boundaries all the time. It was thrilling and a little scary. But our real fear was of the consequences if we got caught.
As adults we sometimes ignored danger. It’s bliss until your life does a 180 and you find yourself starting over. It’s definitely scary. But it’s also a proving ground. Everyone is afraid of something. There’s no shame in that. The true test is moving ahead despite your fear. Strength and confidence come with every experience that makes you look fear in the face and keep going.
We see how fear plays out in the world. It paralyzes people, which inevitably breeds the anger of injustice. Ironically, the biggest bullies are often the most frightened.
Three of Susie Steiner’s Top 5 Regrets of the Dying* have to do with fear.
- “I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” (fear of choosing)
- “I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.” (fear of alienating others)
- “I wish that I had let myself be happier.” (fear of change)
Some of my favorite quotes come from my heroes in history. Though I see them on my office wall every day, they bear repeating.
- “Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- "Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it" - Mark Twain
- “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you are scared.” - Eddie Rickenbacker
- “Fall down seven times. Get up eight.” - Ancient proverb
The lesson I sometimes forgot (but eventually learned) is that fear provides mountains for us to climb and seas for us to sail to find out what we're made of. Until we're tested, we don't know exactly who we are. So, we do what needs to be done and find out. Without it we're just selfies on a screen. Once you face fear and forge ahead, all the rest is superficial window dressing. When you know who you are, it’s yours forever. No one can take it away.
* Manchester Guardian, February 2012