I think about the nature of fear often. Afterall, like love and joy in our life, it’s present whether or not we choose to acknowledge and embrace it. It’s not something that can be ignored or eliminated. I’m doubtful that would even be feasible. I frequently examine my choices and dig to determine not if fear is present but how it shows up and how much I let it dictate my decisions.

Fear has served us as humans for as long as we’ve existed. It’s part of how we were created to keep us safe from harm, and I’d imagine it wasn’t too complex back when we were designed. But as we have evolved as humans, the role has shifted. I’d surmise that now it’s embedded in our many intricate layers which is why it can be hard to unravel the roles that fear plays in our modern lives.

The innate fear that keeps us physically safe now also keeps us “safe” in that comfort zone of familiarity; supporting our hesitation to take the risks required to grow. Other than the major life upheavals that are thrust on us directly or indirectly; illness, death, caretaking, the ending of a relationship or career, we essentially get to choose how “risky” we want to live and in turn, how much we’ll grow in this lifetime.

How do we know if it’s helpful or unhelpful fear?

I found that helpful fear comes from the space of intuition, a firm knowing that if I do _____ (fill in the blank) it will not serve me or worse, it will hurt me. This kind of fear requires thought then action but not rationalization. It’s a knowing. It’s an inner voice. It may not even be a loud voice, but it’s firm, unshakable and resides in the pit of the stomach.

When we start thinking and rationalizing, that’s the unhelpful fear. It will keep us from moving forward and making progress.

This kind of fear, the kind that keeps us safe from uncomfortable growth, can show up in so many ways –

  • Indecision
  • Staying in relationships that do not honor us
  • Remaining in a job or career that is unsatisfying or draining
  • Anger
  • Excessive and harsh judgment of others and situations
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Unhealthy repetitive patterns

While there can be multiple reasons for the above, if we examine closely, fear is also mixed in there somewhere.

In what areas might you be holding onto habits out of fear? Where might the fear be keeping you “safe” from advancing into unknown areas that will force your growth? What could you be afraid of letting go of? What have you wanted to try but fear shows up and says, “No, it’s too scary. You might fail.” What could you be afraid of becoming or achieving?

If you have wanted to make changes in your relationships, your career or overall wellness but are afraid of what you may need to change in order to do so, perhaps you’re not ready. Perhaps it feels too big or you are afraid of failing. (The biggest failures are in not trying.) Or, perhaps you’re being challenged to get get outside of your comfort zone for the sake of your mental, emotional and physical health and just need to take that first step in spite of fear.