We tend to fear many things in life: it’s a natural reaction when facing pain, harm, or danger. This is initially a natural and very useful emotion triggering an internal alarm telling us to be cautious.
However, most of us are now living in fear, the fear of living. For a balanced and holistic approach to wellness and life, it’s important to address this fear and find peace of mind.
What does it living really mean?
In the context of this article, living is opposed to not experiencing the life we would like to. For example, you would love to take dance classes, but you don’t trust yourself booking a class because of what people may think or, you would love to learn a new skill, but you fear of not being good enough.
Living should be a joyful experience. Of course, it’s not linear and filled only with unicorns, but we should be happy and grateful to wake up every morning, looking forward to what life would bring us.
Is living in fear really … living?
Fear is the signal that we’re approaching the edge of our comfort zone, what we know, the familiar. We experience fear when we find ourselves in the unknown.
Doing some research for this article, I came across this quote of Marcus Aurelius:
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.
We all have dreams, but how many of us are ready to take on new challenges and try to make them happen?
Fear is mostly psychological
I don’t know many people who are excited about life. I see and hear fears all around. It takes different forms, like the examples I mentioned earlier. People wish for many things but don’t believe in themself enough to pursue their dreams. I often hear this too common “Yes, but … “
But what? Honestly, what would be the worst case scenario? Fear is mostly experienced by our mind. We imagine the worst and all the good reasons for not doing anything. These are excuses.
What if we could dare to dream and envision the opposite ideal situation for a change? How bad could it be?
Napoleon Hill, in his book “Think and grow rich”, listed the 6 basic fears every one of us experiences:
- fear of poverty
- fear of criticism
- fear of ill health
- fear of loss of the love of someone
- fear of old age
- fear of death
Addressing them one by one, he shows that they are mostly a product of our thoughts. Our thoughts are so powerful, that if we don’t act, they take control of our lives and how we experience it.
Accepting our fears as life companions
Everyone experiences fears and it seems, that it will always be there. So, why not accepting it and start enjoying life nonetheless?
Sometimes, ok most of the time, when I look at some successful people, I compare myself to them. I know this is wrong but I can’t help comparing where I’m standing with where they are. As a result, I feel discouraged.
I know I have a long road ahead of me, but when I look at the “finish line” it simply seems impossible. There are too many questions, the “unknown”:
I want to know that the decisions I make are the right ones for the future I picture for myself. My fears want to know, they want to protect me from painful experiences. The thing is that getting hurt is part of the life experience, otherwise, most of us wouldn’t know how to ride a bike, and we wouldn’t even walk!
Feelings and emotions are what makes us humans and alive. Wanting to avoid them is avoiding the experience of life.
My fears are my friends. I’m grateful for them to be around, but I choose not to live my life according to them. Instead, I choose to live the life I dream of.
Fears shouldn’t dictate our lives
Of course, I still have to face many fears, but I decide to not give them too much attention. This doesn’t happen overnight, some stages require more time than others.
For example, I like to look at this blog and my activity on social media as life experiences and experiments. Considering them as opportunities to learn makes me feel good. I stop putting pressure on myself. I remember this mantra I like so much:
Life is a game
Conquering our fears and feeling alive
Once I accepted the fact that fears will always around along my journey, I realised I can focus on other things and actually move on.
There are some days when I feel very confident. I feel butterflies in my belly because I know that I can live the life I want; I “just” have to work towards it. Ironically, this usually happens when I’m working on my projects: I feel truly alive.
Although I don’t know the roadmap of my journey, I have the big picture in mind, and so I decide to take a little step, a little action, closer to that end goal. This brings me joy and this feeling is worth it.
Without action, nothing will happen anyway.
Past fears are strengths
Look at yourself 1, 5 or even 10 years from now. Who were you? What fears did you have? Are they still there? Probably not all. You’ve become more mature, experienced and confident.
Posting my first post on Instagram was scary, but posting my first blog article was even scarier! And here I am now writing those lines and feel joy when imagining some of you reading me.
I have changed, or at least, my feelings towards the same event or situation have changed. I guess I’m gaining confidence through experience.
And this is the whole point of this article.
Experience and practice are keys to overcome our fears. We all know too well this affirmation:
Practice makes perfect.
By getting more accustomed to the unfamiliar, well, guess what? It becomes familiar!
How to overcome the fear of living?
It’s tempting to write: “Just do it!”, but I figured you would need some practical pieces of advice.
Fear and familiarity
I can tell from my office job, that I’ve managed to overcome certain fears. Every month we have a monthly meeting where I have to speak for about 4 minutes.
In the first months, and until recently, I was already stressing about it 24hours before. Now, I get to be nervous a few hours before only. There is clearly progress! I have no other choice to do it every month, but the regularity helps me feel more confident.
Fear and preparation
A strong idea associated to fear is the unknown. We tend to anticipate the worst, while if we are prepared enough, we feel more in control, more confident.
Well, taking the same example of my monthly presentation, I realized that the more I am prepared, the easier it gets. I know what I want to say and highlight so that I just jot down a few key notions instead of writing the whole speech on a sheet of paper.
Fear and change
Life is a permanent change, and we shouldn’t fear change, because it’s like to fear to live. If there wouldn’t be any changes, there wouldn’t be life.
I recently read a post about the misinterpretation of “You’ve changed!” words. It often resonates in a negative way while change is positive, especially if that is beneficial to you!
Don’t be upset if you hear it yourself! Friends and family can pronounce those words, but what they really say is “I fear that because you’ve changed, our relationship will change too”.
Here again, this is the fear of the unknown. By knowing this, we can find ourselves in place of compassion towards others.
From a place of fear to a place of love
There are two main emotions: fear or love. When we are not in a place of love, we are in a place of fear.
Changing our thoughts and our perceptions about a possible outcome will help us along our journey.
Our thoughts, and to some extent, our words are powerful. Replace “fail” with “learning”. It’s time to stop being hard on yourself. Now tell me, are you living in fear? What is living in fear like for you? Let me know in the comments!