Freedom from Fear

The boogie man. Applying for a job promotion.  Nuclear War.  Going back to school.  Your mom’s meat loaf.  It doesn’t matter what the fear is, if it keeps you from becoming more of who you want to be, then it’s time to face it.

In Embracing Fear, author and therapist Thom Rutledge identifies two types of fear, your ally and bully.  Fear can be an ally.  It is a biological protective mechanism that is an instinctual response to danger.  Steering clear of the neighborhood pit bull that enjoys snacking on ankles is a good example of healthy fear at work. 

However, authentic fear’s ugly cousins, anxiety and worry, serve no practical purpose and “bully” us from successfully living our lives.  Like when you skipped the company pool party because of anxiety about publicly wearing a swim suit.  Or, when you didn’t apply to college, even though you wanted to become a dentist, because you were afraid you would never make it.

Is fearless living possible?  How can we approach the invisible yet powerful kryptonite in our minds?  Will mom ever leave gross leftovers out of her meatloaf? 

Fight or Flight

The fastest way to determine if what you are facing is something to run from (like the pit bull) or stay with (like applying to school), is to ask yourself what you want.  We want what we want, even in the company of fear.  If your fear and desire are both communicating the same thing, flee.  But, if you experience fear, and you really want that something anyway, fight.  For example, you really want to participate in a triathlon but are scared that your swimming will not be up to par. Face your fear and learn how to do it anyway.

Just Do It

Nike’s genius marketing aside, they’re onto something here.  When we allow ourselves to feel the fear, and muster the courage to do it anyway, we find freedom. 

When we face what frightens us, we learn what we need to do to fulfill our desires.  Perhaps we need to begin triathlon training, or hire a swimming coach. Fill in the blank:  If I were brave enough, I would _________.  Join the military?  Take a class?  Eat the meatloaf?  Just do it.

Stink At It

What?  Be willing to stink at it.  Many of us sit on the sidelines because we fear we will not be able to do it perfectly, or even “good enough.”  The only way to become better at anything, is to make mistakes, fail, get back up, and try again.  So much time is invested in how we appear to others, that we miss out on life.  Be willing to be terrible at something, to look like a fool, to gag on the meatloaf.

Many of us hang out on the sidelines of life, safe yet unfulfilled.  The famous line from Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do something that scares you everyday,” is the mantra of how to turn fear into freedom.  Evaluate what is stalling your progress.  Step outside of your comfort zone and take some risks.  Decide that your goals, your one life is more important than yielding to fear.  Choose courage.  Enjoy freedom.