Any time we do something that is inconsistent with our past—that is different from who we’ve been or who we think ourselves to be—we are confronted by our fears. —Debbie Ford
Deep inside each of us is a desire to better ourselves, to do more and to have more satisfaction in life.
On the way to achieving what we desire, we invariably come face to face with our fears. The greater our goal, the greater will be our fears.
Our fears prevent us from taking action and tell us we can’t really accomplish what we want. Their discouraging voices don’t go away very easily. We cover up them up by keeping busy doing something else.
But fears have a useful purpose—they provide opportunities to show the universe what we are really made of. They challenge us to stand up to them and achieve our goals in spite of them.
I had wanted to share my knowledge of Vedanta with others for many years. I wanted to have a website, blog and an e-newsletter.
But I didn’t know where to start or where to find the help and technical resources I would need.
Aside from gaining the practical know-how, I was afraid of being judged and criticized. What if I write something that is not true, or worse—the wrong facts?
I also had other concerns: Was I really doing the right thing? Was I capable? What if I couldn’t continue the commitment once I started? Where would I get the ideas for the articles every two weeks?
My fears kept me staying small, invisible and right where I was.
In the end, my desire to achieve what I wanted was stronger than my fears. I couldn’t bear not starting. And so, I did— with small baby steps, learning as I went along.
It’s been 3 years since I started writing my articles, and this is my 100th one. It is a milestone for me.
It hasn’t actually become easier—my old fears are still there. But as I focus on doing the work, the fears recede into the background.
Don’t Be Afraid of Feeling Fear
Miriam Greenspan, renowned psychotherapist has analyzed fear and come to the conclusion that fear on its own is not debilitating.
In her article, The Feeling of Fear, she writes that it’s the fear of feeling the fear that stops us. “Because we are scared to feel fear, we avoid whatever triggers it,” she says.
The trick is to increase our tolerance of feeling fear. When we can tolerate fear, we can feel it, and not allow the feeling to stop us.
How can we increase our tolerance of feeling fear? There’s really no easy way. We just have to face down our fears.
It’s no assurance of success, but at least we tried. To try and fail is better than never even trying.
Strategies For Facing Your Fears
- Allow yourself to be challenged
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” says Fred DeVito, a mind-body trainer.
Fear stops us from venturing beyond the comfort of what we know and are familiar with. Sometimes, even if we are unhappy in our present situation, we are reluctant to try something new because we would rather endure the familiar discomfort rather than push ourselves outside our comfort zone. This feels like the “safe” choice.
But there will be little or no progress if fear controls our choices.
- Change your mind about failure.
We needn’t be afraid to fail. Failure is not a bad thing. It shows us how to better things or helps us to know ourselves better.
The famous words of Thomas A. Edison who repeatedly met failure while trying to invent the first incandescent light bulb are inspirational: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 1,000 ways that won’t work.”
Seeing the brighter side of failure can help to give us the stamina to continue in spite of obstacles and failure.
- Remove the pebble in your shoe
When you want to achieve or gain something, but procrastinate or stop yourself out of fear, it feels like an annoying pebble in your shoe.
It’s a small thing but it nags at you constantly. It makes you feel anxious and uncomfortable.
It’s better to take action and feel good about at least trying.
- Have faith in the divine
Faith in the divine has been the key to facing my fears. I’m not as strong as I look, and have to constantly reach upwards for help and support.
My faith and connection gives me ability to tolerate feeling fear, the confidence to be challenged, the strength to stand up to failure and courage to take action so that I can remove that darn pebble in my shoe. This has been my best strategy for standing up to my fears.
My guru, Swami Chinmayananda says, ”Surrendering to Him mentally with love and dedication let us throw ourselves into action.”
To know how to build faith and set up a relationship with the divine, read, How to cultivate faith in the higher power.
Take Action With Faith
If our choices and actions are motivated by fear, we will miss opportunities to explore exciting new possibilities and to grow from them. Then, our future will surely be nothing more than a continuation of our past.
Feeling fear is not a bad thing. It gives us a chance to strengthen our faith, act on it and bring out the best in ourselves.
Then, there will be great potential for growth, inspiration, creativity and of course, happiness.
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