Making a Friend of Fear

January 15, 2018

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t consider myself brave. My first reaction is to shrink back rather than charge forward. “I am afraid” is one of the limiting beliefs I’ve been doing battle with all my life. And while I’ve found work-arounds for times when I need to push through feeling fearful, I’ve never actually thought about fear in a positive way.

Until last week.

Last week I picked up a pretty and deceptively simple little book, My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown (2018, TarcherPerigee), by Meera Lee Patel. Just like reading The Upside of Stress changed my attitude towards stress, reading My Friend Fear triggered a change in my attitude toward fear by helping me see it in a new way.  

Some tidbits:

“Fear is a friend, and it’s here to support you. Like all friendships, the one you have with fear is a two-way street. It requires time, hard work, and honesty in order to become and remain healthy. It requires us to sit with it, listen to it, and try our best to understand it—even though we don’t always know how. Like any friend, fear can help you only if you let it.”

“Becoming aware of fear is the first step to befriending it. After all, how can you become friends with something you’re pretending doesn’t exist? 

“It’s okay to be afraid. All it means is that there’s something you care deeply about. It’s okay to have fears, as long as you are willing to explore them. It’s okay to hug fear closely, to poke and prod and discover what’s underneath that heavy, dark cloak.”

“Fear is here to help you uncover your greatest wish.”

As I was finishing up My Friend Fear, I picked up my copy of Susan Jeffers’ classic Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. After a quick skim, I realized these two books worked together to help something click in my mind. (Don’t you just love when that happens?)

Here are my epiphanies:

  • Fear will always be there when you step outside your comfort zone. All learning and growth occurs outside of your comfort zone, so unless you want to stop growing, you will always have some fear.
  • The only way to get over being afraid of doing something is to do it.
  • The doing comes first, then the fear fades.
  • Everyone feels this way—I’m not an anomaly.
  • Fear is my friend. It shows me what matters to me.

My tendency has always been to think something was wrong with me when I felt fear, and to push it away instead of listening to it. Or I’d become paralyzed and overwhelmed—the antithesis of flow

After reading these two books, I’m changing my response to fear. Instead of trying to “overcome” fear, I want to learn how to be comfortable with it, and with being afraid. I’m no longer going to feel like I shouldn’t be afraid, or that I should just ignore fear and push ahead. I’ll be looking on fear as the friend who highlights the areas of my life that matter the most, the areas where I’m stretching outside my comfort zone. 2018 is already giving me opportunities to test this theory, with new writing projects on the horizon, the chance to help teach a yoga and journaling workshop this weekend, and, in October, a chance to travel to Paris with Laure Ferlita and The Blue Walk

Do you welcome fear into your life? What would you do if fear were your friend?