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“Jump and a net will appear.” ~Sally Hogshead
Are you afraid of something?
If you are, you probably aren't — afraid of something. Whatever you are afraid of probably doesn't exist. I could end this post now, and it would be life changing if you embrace the truth that the something doesn't exist.
More than 99% of the time, our fears are just stories we tell ourselves. They are stories we make up because creating stories becomes a habit. Then the habit turns us into victims — victims of our own creation with unchallenged thoughts and dire predictions. We become zombies shuffling through life wearing smudged glasses, viewing the world with a filter of darkness and fear. It drains our energy, our joy for life.
We don't realize how easy it is to take off the glasses and wake up. It's really easy to be fear free, but it's hard to believe that when we are sitting and soaking in a cesspool of fear (or anger, depression, anxiety, and other agents of fear).
I went through a very fearful and anxious period of my life. I was afraid of shadows and non-events, but my fears felt very real and solid to me. My fears were a trap, a prison with an unlocked door that I couldn't seem to walk through. Once during this time, my sister said to me, “just fall backward and let the universe catch you.”
That made sense to me. It was like being a kid and playing the game where someone stands behind you as you fall backward. You must trust that they will catch you. They usually do. And when they don't, all you do is stumble backward a little bit.
Here's the exciting truth about fear.
Fears are like bullies. When you stand up to them, they run away. When you challenge them, they melt and dissipate. When you take bold action, they can't keep up with you.
What is it that we fear anyway?
We fear failure, but what we really fear is the appearance of failure. We fear judgment and disapproval from others. We only need to approve of ourselves.
We fear aging, but we are really afraid of our perceptions of getting older and losing our youth. Life is beautiful at any age.
We fear change, but we really fear uncertainty, ambiguity, and disruption. We miss all of the possibility in change.
We fear loss, but we don't perceive all we have right now and can have in the future.
We fear death, but we are alive now, and we really don't know what death means for us anyway.
The only elements of fear that are real are the uncomfortable feelings that accompany being afraid — the anxiety, tension, circular thinking, and unpleasant physical symptoms. These feelings are so awful that we will continue to avoid the perceived cause of our fear just so we don't have to feel bad any longer.
But by doing this, we are prolonging our agony.
- Avoidance doesn't cure fear.
- Feeling the fear and doing it anyway doesn't cure fear.
- Finding a temporary solution to the perceived cause doesn't cure fear.
- Taking pills doesn't cure fear.
In the movie The Wizard of Oz, just as the Wicked Witch of the West is about to kill Dorothy and her friends, Dorothy throws a bucket of water on her. “You vaporized her,” shouts one of the guards. All of the witch's “beautiful wickedness” melts away forever, leaving just a steaming heap of clothes and an empty hat.
This is how you become fear-free. You throw water on fear. You vaporize it. You don't have to wait for fear to overwhelm you, imprison you, or lock you in a fairytale story.
You can melt your fear right now.
Challenge your thoughts
Whatever you fear, challenge your fear with facts, with evidence to the contrary. Just because you think something doesn't make it true. You don't have to keep believing your story or accepting your fear-fed limitations.
Take practical action
If your fears have some validity, then take the necessary actions to mitigate the potential problem. Do whatever you can realistically do, and then let the cards fall where they may. The resulting fallout is rarely as bad as you fear and often brings with it something positive.
Drop the need for approval
So many fears hinge around our need for approval from others. Let go of this need for outside approval and just approve of yourself. Once you do that, you will vaporize a plethora of fears.
View life as a fun adventure
Instead of dreading events or fearing outcomes, view life as a wild and fun road trip. You never know what will be around the corner — maybe something wonderful, maybe something difficult. But the scenery is always changing, and we are always learning and growing. Even the hard times, the times we might fear, can be brimming with intensity and beauty.
Adopt a fall back attitude
Fall back and let the universe catch you. Just embrace a “what the hell” attitude about your fears. This is scary, but so what? I think I'll enjoy life anyway. I don't know what's going to happen, but who cares? Right now, I'll read a book. Life doesn't have to be so serious.
If you have spent a lifetime living with fear, you will have to spend time changing your thinking habits. Recognize that fear is a feeling fed by thoughts and beliefs. Use the strategies above to vaporize fear until you are holding an empty hat. Then turn the hat over and fill it to the brim with all of the beauty that life has to offer you right now.
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