Have you ever stopped yourself from trying new things or going to new places because of your fear?
I feel kind of embarrassed to admit that I never learned how to ride a bike. Growing up in Hong Kong, I was told that "There are so many cars. Riding a bike will get you killed!" I was scared before I even tried.
Go on... what's stopping you? Go ahead and ask your boss for a raise. Speak up the next time you disagree with someone. Call that person you met in the elevator. Start that business you've been talking about for a decade. Audition for the part. You fill in the blank.
Are you afraid? If so, congratulations! You've just identified the pool you need to dive into to reclaim your life. If you pass, however, claiming the water's too cold or you just don't feel like swimming today, the fear wins. And you lose.
When we face fear, when we act in spite of the fear, we grow. As we expand, we push through our perceived limitations, out far beyond our comfort zone. We embrace freedom and become unstoppable forces in our own lives. And it feels sooooo good!
Making Fear Our Ally
As someone notes, fear is the gatekeeper of our comfort zone. But we can make it our ally by using fear as a compass needle. Wherever the needle points—whenever fear raises its head and says, "Gulp!"—that's where we need to go.
The fear of failure, not being perfect, or just being vulnerable have kept me away from new relationships, situations and challenges. Although I was climbing the corporate ladder successfully in the high-tech world, I felt something missing inside. I wanted love, joy and peace, but I was fighting with my husband about how best to parent our only son.
It was hard to admit that I was miserable, depressed, helpless and hopeless in spite of worldly successes. My greatest fear was becoming a lonely rich old lady, but I wasn't going to tell anyone, not even my husband James.
One night in 1989, hearing a medical doctor's testimony and the hymn, "What a friend we have in Jesus," I realized what was missing and cried out for my Savior. It is amazing what the Lord has done for me the last 26 years. Who could imagine; James and I are still taking walks holding hands just like our Berkeley days in 1975?
Now I can feel my fear and face it because "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).
Doing Scary Things Intentionally
Consider making it a practice to do at least one scary thing every day. Doing so begins to exercise a muscle that's been atrophied for too long. Each and every time you take action rather than avoid you strengthen the muscle, building self-confidence, self-reliance and self-trust. You begin to say "I can" more often than "I can't."
Interestingly, taking calculated risks of a physical nature can often produce noticeable growth in our ability to confront fear in the emotional realm. For example, to learn more about his fear of going into business for himself, Michael rappelled down a cliff, something that had terrified him.
Michael discovered that fear is most present in the thinking about the event—not in the actual doing. When he thought of the future, a host of "what ifs" crowded his brain and kept him worried. But when he was actually rappelling, he was 100% focused on his task. Only when he let his thoughts wander from the present moment did the fear intrude.
Now, when he finds himself fretting about his future as a self-employed person, Michael focuses his complete attention on the task at hand and not the "what ifs."
As Ralph Waldo Emerson wisely remarked: "Do the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain."
Author's content used with permission, © Claire Communications