I have always been fascinated by the concept of fear. As a cautious person, I always felt like fear was the mind’s way of protecting itself. I love that as humans we have a fight or flight response. I love that my mind wants me to survive so badly that it will take my conscious self out of the decision making process. In grad school, I even researched how the fight or flight response in different characters could silently communicate the intent of the author.
I believed that my fear was not only necessary but that it was right. But that is an idea that I want to attempt to disrupt today.
I’ve noticed something about fear and when it appears throughout our lives. I think there is a special kind of fear that emerges right when we are on the brink of greatness. Right before we take a leap of faith, there is a specific kind of fear that paralyzes us.
This isn’t the kind of fear that protects us from danger, but the kind that holds us back from thriving. The kind of fear that keeps us securely locked in our comfort zones.
For myself, I can remember this heart clenching fear in the precarious moments right before I made some of the best decisions of my life. As I lined up for my first open water swim, the night before I moved away to college, right before I clicked submit on my grad school application. Right in those moments I almost walked away. That familiar fear almost prevented me from taking those leaps of faith. Almost.
Each one of those leaps of faith led me somewhere beautiful, but my mind was telling not to. My mind was telling me to run back to safety.
That is what leads me to the conclusion that our minds may be looking out for our survival, but not always what is actually best for us. That specific fear does not keep us alive, it keeps us from living, from growing, and from failing.
Failure is uncomfortable. Failure causes the scrapes and bruises of life that my mind doesn’t want me to feel. I can understand why my mind wants me to shy away from those leaps of faith.
I have had quite a few failures in my life. Like Icarus crashing into the ocean after flying too close to the sun, I too took some leaps of faith that did not have a soft landing. Despite that, I am grateful for each and every lesson I learned from those failures.
My mind may want me to live a life free from injury, physical or emotional, but my heart is more afraid of a life lived without those experiences. A life lived so safely that I never learned, and thus never grew, does not sound like a life at all. It is the experiences that lie on the other side of fear that make us who we really are.
I am not challenging you to give up your fear or to ignore your beautifully crafted need to survive. What I am suggesting is when you find yourself at that moment before taking your next unsure leap, and you feel that familiar tightness in your chest telling you to run the other direction, I ask that you take a moment. Light a candle, pull out a journal and take a deep breath. Ask your fear why it has come. Is this decision actually dangerous? Or does it have the risk of failure? Is your mind trying to save you from physical harm? Or is it the fear of the sting that comes from not succeeding in the way you would have hoped?
Is this fear trying to keep you alive? Or is it trying to keep you from truly living?
Because I know one thing for sure, those bright, shining moments on the other side of fear are what we remember forever.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9