"The Influence of Fear" (excerpt) Courage: Overcoming Fear & Igniting Self-Confidence — Debbie Ford
---“Fear” by Ty Agha
Fear is a very real emotion that can render us powerless. Much of our power is to be found in the choices we make and the actions we take, with every choice either leading us down the same familiar path or propelling us toward a new future. Without warning, fear can take over.
There is so much turmoil in our hearts and in our heads that it is easy to lose sight of what's truly important to us. We are influenced by the myriad events in our lives—both the joyous and grace-filled events and those that blindside us and leave us hurt, angry, sad, or grief ridden. Every day we make choices and are confronted with different possibilities that shape our future. We often treat these choices as if they mean nothing, as if there will be no consequences, or if there are, we will deal with them later—tomorrow, next week, or whenever. But these day-to-day choices either whittle away at our self-esteem and confidence or add to our character, making us feel stronger and more alive. Our ability to cut through fear and to act with courage is determined by whether our choices are made from thoughtfulness and planning or while we are on automatic pilot (a nonthinking or non-feeling state that drives us to repeat old patterns).
If you grew up without a strong sense of self, you second-guessed yourself constantly. Confused by the internal, doubt-filled chatter, you most likely shrank in the face of adversity, hid when you needed to be seen, and kept your mouth shut when your voice needed to be heard. Fear will have you choose what you believe will keep you safe even when the opposite is true. It will have you believe that you can't do it, you are wrong, the cost is too high, the path ahead too difficult. Fear will tell you, "Don't even think about it. Stay where you are. It's just not the right time to deal with this." But these are the kinds of lies that keep fear in power and you at a standstill. These are the lies that breed mediocrity and guarantee you an unfulfilled life. These are the lies that you must confront if you are going to bypass a predictable future and leap into an unpredictable yet infinitely beautiful future.
With great persuasiveness, fear disguises itself with the Voice of Uncertainty, filling you with worry, doubt, and even dread, with its continuous haranguing, it undermines you with a loop of self-criticism. Its dubious power comes from convincing you to turn away from your highest truth and succumb to the pain of the past. Every time fear wins, you lose. Every time you choose fear, you lose sight of your highest aspirations. You fall prey to being controlled by your history rather than rising to the future that you desire and deserve. Fear screams out, "Don't let go! Don't give up your grudges, your anger, your grief, or your excuses!" Fear taunts you, telling you that you will surely fail. It happily reminds you of all the times you tried and didn't make it to where you wanted to go. Fear is the monotonous monologue that was instilled in you from a very young age, always spouting its warnings: "Be careful. This can't last. You don't deserve it. No one can have it all. Who do you think you are?" Instead of standing up for yourself and shouting back, "I am a powerful, confident, and worthy woman," you succumb to fear, bow your head in shame, and continue on the path you are on, even if you don't like it— and even if it's taking you down.
The more depressing news is that if you don't take up the battle with fear and win, the voice gets louder and louder with each passing year. It gains strength like a tropical storm. Before you know it, fear has the force and power of a hurricane sweeping through your life, destroying all you've worked for and all you've dreamed about.
If you're not clear about how your Voice of Fear talks to you, ask yourself if maybe any of this sounds familiar:
You're too fat. You're too old. You're too short. You're too stupid. You're too uneducated.
Nobody wants you. You won't belong. You'll be rejected. You're good for nothing.
You'll never amount to anything. Your time has passed.
Maybe it shouts out:
It's all your fault. You made the wrong choices. Your time has come and gone.
Maybe your Voice of Fear is more of a whisper, always telling you:
Watch out! Be careful. What are they going to think of you?
You'll be teased, shunned, ashamed, embarrassed. You'll make a fool of yourself.
Maybe your Voice of Fear is doubt:
But what if it's a mistake? What if there isn't anyone else for me? What if I can't get another job?
It's gotta be my fault. Don't make a move yet—not till you're sure.
There's somebody else better for the job.
I'm never appreciative or grateful—that's why things don't work out for me.
Maybe it intrudes in your relationships and tells you:
Don't trust! Don't open your mouth'. Don't ask for what you need! Don't give too much!
Don't open your heart! Don't try again! Don't let go of control!
Maybe the Voice of Fear is one of denial:
One day. . . some day. . .
I'll handle it later. I am better.
Look at how jar I've come. I've done enough.
If this is all I have, it's okay.
Maybe your Voice of Fear is defensive or blaming:
It's all their fault! It shouldn't have happened to me. Why should I have to change?
Why do I have to get over it? Why should I forgive? I'll show them!
They did it to me. The world did it to me.
Maybe your Voice of Fear comes in the form of confusion:
I don't know what to do. I'm stuck. I need help.
I'm overwhelmed. I don't know what I want.
Maybe fear shows up as self-obsession, listening over and over again to why you don't deserve the body you want, the love you want, the health and vitality that you want, the career that you want, or the intimacy that you want. Or maybe fear appears as the proverbial pity party that takes place when real grief goes undigested and unhealed:
I don't know if I'll ever get over it. I can't believe this has happened to me.
I don't think anybody really understands what I've gone through.
At the end of the day, no one really cares.
When faced with our fears (which happens several times a day for most of us), we have learned to avoid, deny, or muscle through them. To access our courage, we must uncover, accept, and embrace our fears. And the only way to embrace our fears is to recognize them for what they are. That is, we need to accept them as misperceptions that have been birthed out of experiences from the past or as part of the challenge of growing. Fear is built into our human operating system. It is a useful emotion that can, however go seriously awry.
You might have noticed that trying to ignore your fears doesn't usually work. Try as you may, in times of stress or heartache they will appear again unless they are embraced. You can eat over your fears, drink, shop, stay busy, do more, complain, gossip, and on and on—all in the pursuit of numbing out and ignoring the barrier that stands between you and your courage. After accepting that you have your particular brand of fears and acknowledging the cost of letting them direct your life, you begin to get some breathing room in which you can observe them more clearly and with greater understanding. You begin to embrace your fears rather than being ruled by them.
You might have heard the adage "What you resist persists." Understanding this statement is the key to embracing your fears. Resisting, judging, and hating your fears only allows them to have a tighter grip. When you ignore, judge, or hide them, you are actually handing over your power to them. The way to reclaim this power is not to vanquish your fears but to open your heart to the wounded part of yourself—your little Scaredy Cat.
I love and nurture this Scaredy Cat part of myself. I don't try to make it go away or be anything other than what it is—a part of me that carries my fear. When I fail to acknowledge and have compassion for my fearful self, I wind up in a downward spiral of negativity. When I acknowledge my fear and stay open to the gifts that it holds, I have access to the confidence and courage that I need to be authentically who I am.
Although suppressed fear is the culprit behind terrible suffering, when fear is embraced it acts as the fuel that propels you into a world of courage and confidence. Befriended fear is a worthy ally urging you to move forward in the areas of your life where you are unfulfilled or emotionally challenged.
Let's look to our sacred wounds, the ones that are clothed in fear. There we will find the key to clearing our minds and reviving our warrior hearts. And we will find ourselves further along the road to meeting the confidence and courage that will transform our lives.
Debbie Ford’s Website