Do you know what it is to live in fear of something? Not just of big, obvious things like the weak economy, or threatening weather – but of seemingly small, everyday things?
You may not even think of it as fear. For example, do you often feel unsure of yourself, or uncertain about what to do in certain situations? That could be fear masquerading as confusion.
Fear is a tricky emotion, because it hides from us. It’s actually part of a lot of human experience – it’s how we, as a potential prey species, kept ourselves alive all these years! So we get used to feeling a certain low level of this tension most of the time, and stop being aware that it’s there.
Let’s instead refer to it with terms we tend to hear and use in everyday conversations about ourselves, and see if you recognize its presence in your life a little more:
Do you know what it feels like to be anxious and/or worried about a situation? About your relationships? Around the people in your life? Or maybe when it comes to your choices and decisions?
The list could go on and on. Too many people live burdened by messages of fear. Many people were raised with a lot messages from their parents and other family members that were based in fear – sometimes without even realizing it – such as:
- “Don’t color outside the lines – you’ll ruin the picture.”
- “Things probably won‘t go right, so don‘t get too excited!”
- “People aren’t to be trusted – keep your guard up!”
- “If you count on that happening, you’re going to be disappointed.”
- “I’m afraid you’ll get hurt if you try that new thing – it’s too risky!”
- “Why not just play it safe, and stick with what you know?”
- “The world is not a safe place, there are so many dangers out there.”
- “I know people who have gotten hurt that way before – it’s not worth it.”
- “You don’t even know all the things that could go wrong…why even go there?”
- “Don’t do that – you might get in trouble!”
Do any of these messages sound familiar? Most of us have heard at least half of them repeated over and over again. How many of these messages do you still live with, or argue about, with the people in your life?
More importantly, have you ever thought about how many of these messages have interfered with your personal and/or professional life?
Fear is the most basic of our emotions, yet in spite of this, many people do not acknowledge that they ever experience fear – even to themselves! Especially men; being afraid has always been taboo for men in our society. That makes sense, since from early on in our species, the men have always been the protectors of their mates and children. Who would choose a fearful man as a mate, if you needed protection from saber-toothed tigers?
Fear stops you from moving forward. Fear interferes with loving relationships by getting people to avoid important conversations, or shy away from asking for what they really want. Fear interferes with your professional life by having you focus on what a jerk your boss is, or by sidetracking you from what you really want to achieve by putting lots of “busy work” on your agenda. Fear is what undermines your confidence and belief in yourself, so you never even take the first step toward whatever it is that would truly make your heart sing.
You can label your negative feelings anything you want, but the bottom line is, when you break down all the labels you use to describe your “negative” feelings to their most core level – the lowest common denominator – what you’re left with is FEAR. For instance, even when you would SWEAR it’s just anger you’re feeling, there’s really fear underneath it.
Fear is so pervasive and insidious that you may never even recognize it for what it is. By being so sneaky, it is the grand saboteur of our lives. How often have you wanted to do something really important but procrastinated, or came up with reasons you actually didn’t want to do it after all, or excuses for not doing it. Procrastination is “self-punishment,” and self-punishment is fear in disguise – I’ll talk about that more in the next article.
To start to get a glimpse of the power of fear in your own life, take a few minutes to answer these questions when you have some quiet time:
- What is one thing you’ve been saying you wanted or needed to do for a long time, but you’re no closer to doing it than you were the first time you said that?
- What conversation do you know you need to have with a friend or family member, and you just can’t bring yourself to initiate it?
- What would you do, or who would you be if there were no barriers to stop you, and all limits related to money and other obligations in your life were suddenly not a concern, and you could do absolutely anything your heart desired?
- What if you knew for a fact that fear was the only thing stopping you from achieving all of the above, and having everything turn out great? Would that motivate you to really uncover all the places fear is stopping you and adversely affecting the quality of your life? Would you make a commitment to gain some mastery over fear in your life?
The quality of your life is determined by how conscious, present and committed you are to having it be the way you desire. While there will always be obstacles, challenges and setbacks because of external factors, mastering your ability to manage fear and keep choosing what you really want, and moving toward that, can make those obstacles and challenges seem much less overpowering.
In Part 2 of our series on fear, we’ll go deeper into identifying the origins of some of your fears, and look at how fear can literally prevent the most important element in relationships from taking root: Trust.
And don’t forget – on November 13th we’re hosting a FREE teleseminar with “Anger 911” radio host and award-winning author Janet Pfeiffer. Our topic is “Family, Holidays and Mindfulness” and you can be sure we’ll be looking at not just anger, but all the emotions that can “gum up the works” when it comes to family interactions! Click HERE to register for the live call as well as access to the 48-hour replay if you haven’t already!