Getting to Know Fear
I’m going to preface this post with the following statement: I had no idea how much fear I had in my life.
Fear was not on my radar—whatsoever. I mean, I knew I had hang-ups. You know, the usual suspects: fear of failure, fear of not being enough, fear of being too much. But I chalked them up to insecurities and feelings that (I thought) were more complex than just fear. Moreover, I thought fear was something to be conquered and then discarded. I looked at it with the same perspective as I once viewed homework: You complete it and then turn it into the teacher for review. But fear is not what it seems. Fear is much more fluid and in a way, it’s an incredibly important friend in our daily lives.
So, what is fear?
Well, I was taught that fear is a lot of things. It’s not just a lump in your throat, a knot in your stomach, or tenseness in your chest. Like you, it’s multi-faceted and unique.
Fear is also a teacher—an experience and sensation to learn from. Fear is the thinking part of you, the one that looks at a scenario from all angles (or specific ones). Fear lets you know when you could get hurt or if you should think a little more before you speak.
But what it really boils down to is this: Fear can help you become a better version of yourself. To start, you simply have to let fear in and love the fear for what it is. Be kind to it, acknowledge it. What if you spent your energy being loving and kind to fear rather than angry or dismissive with it?
I ask that because it’s clear that most of us have given fear a bad rap—I know I have. We’ve relegated it as this necessary evil in our lives that we flippantly address when it comes barreling at us in a vindictive fit of rage. We’re taught that fear is something to be brushed under the rug—ignored.
But the more you ignore fear (or anything, really), the more it pops up in your life. You start to get in your own way. And then the cycle is perpetuated all over again: You’re afraid, then frustrated, then seek to overcome your fear, defeat it, and then it pops back up again.
So, what good is this awareness about fear if you don’t know what to do with it? I was chasing my tail in circles trying to love fear—it felt inefficient, to say the least—but, that’s how I found myself sitting in a large class with a fear specialist and former extreme athlete Kristen Ulmer.
For an hour, maybe two at most, Ulmer guided us through an exercise she’d designed specifically around fear. She invited you to be honest, raw, and vulnerable—not out of a desire to expose you or promote solidarity—but so you could better see yourself: fears, desires, and all. Most notably, she invited you to speak your fears out loud in a group of strangers no less.
A light went off in my head. Duh: You have to say this stuff out loud.
Fear is a voice. It’s part of you as much as something like happiness or sadness is.
So, imagine speaking your fears or self-doubt out loud: This gives fear a platform to be itself, to be free and breathe. You get to hear and feel the humanity in your fear. Remind yourself (and others) that it’s okay to be afraid to feel fear. Fear is just as human in its ways as you are: it waxes and wanes, changing as you change too. Fear is not the big bad wolf that comes knocking in the night—fear is part of the house that protects you.
So, what happens you make room for fear? You make room for yourself. And I don’t know who can argue with that. Me and my “hang-ups” certainly aren’t.
Monique Seitz-Davis is a writer, crazy plant lady, and snack aficionado based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. She runs uphill for fun and believes in magic.