Finding confidence in our fears

Dinner Confidential: Fear

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This is a difficult post to write. It’s almost an impossible task to do justice to the level of vulnerability that was shared during these Dinners.

It’s easy to forget that we — and everyone we know — have deep fears inside of us. Fears that come and go, we ignore them, push them away or even disregard until they erupt like a volcano. There’s so much fear hidden inside all the people around us.

As a child, I used to be mortified of robbers (I even had a recurring nightmare of a thief pointing a gun to my head). As I grew up, I became extremely fearful of small planes, which I eventually overcame thanks to therapy. But my ultimate fear exploded when I became a mother: the fear of death.

Throughout the night, all the women described their deepest fears. While the stories varied vastly, they shared two common themes.

We fear what we can’t control
Things that require us to fully surrender to life — regardless of the outcome — eg. sickness, aging, death, accidents, assaults, how people perceive us.

This fear can be highly disempowering, specially when we fuel it. For some of us, there’s a part of our minds that finds some twisted pleasure feeding this fear— we go on a loop imaging the most horrible and painful outcomes, taking us quickly from “I have a headache” to “this is a tumor and I am dying.” The deepest expression of this kind of fear are the “phobias.”

While the intention of this fear is to protect us — from shame, judgement, weakness, etc.— what it often does, is to create an armor around us, which instead of making us feel and/or look strong, it weakness us.

The only way to win the fight against this fear, is by tapping into our TRUST and FAITH. Fully trusting life, nature, the universe, and what is bigger than us.

We fear what we want
Things that require us to get out of our comfort zone and question the default option. Taking risks, moving, motherhood, traveling solo, sharing our writing, speaking in public, etc.

These are things we want SO MUCH that we can feel petrified by failure. Often times, we succumb to this fear and play it safe, we stay in our “comfort zone” and don’t take the risks we wished.

The only way to win the fight against this fear, is by tapping into our COURAGE. Having the confidence to step out of our little cocoon and into the expansive, exciting and “scary” world out there.

o+o

While many fears are real and feel universal (losing a loved one, aging and our own mortality), there’s a subjective element to how we experience our fears. We allocate different value to different things, influencing the level of attachment — and therefore fear of losing — to those things.

The sensation of fear it’s so strong, it hurts.

Fear is particularly overwhelming because of the way it manifests in our bodies. We can be good at articulating and rationalizing what we are afraid of, but experiencing it can be paralyzing. The pressure in our chest, the weakness in our legs, the difficulty breathing, our hands sweeting, our necks and shoulders tensing, our gut tensing and quickly realising …

The sensations are so uncomfortable that we try to push them away. But what happens if we allow ourselves to be present with our fear? To be still with the discomfort, or better yet, to become curious about it?

As Pema Chodron said…

“A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.”

Let’s take a moment and think about the fears we’ve overcome already, and feel the trust and courage that allowed us to overcome them. That confidence leaves inside us, we just need to stop fighing with our fears to find it.

Postscript

Half of the women in the Dinner spoke of their experience with abuse of male power — and how those experiences have influenced how they experience fear.

How is our culture — one that has permitted abuse and encouraged female submission — informing what we believe about being a woman?

We all know that we are — and can be — strong, powerful and assertive. So why do many of us stop ourselves from speaking our minds? From embracing OUR power? Are we afraid of owning and stepping into our full womanhood? Who would we be if we weren’t afraid? What would we do differently? I’ll be thinking about that for a while….

Things to experiments with

  • Use you body to heal you mind. Because fear it’s such a visceral experience, practice breathing deeply/relaxing your body when experiencing fear-related sensations. Then notice what happens to your thoughts.
  • Share your deepest fear with someone, honest and vulnerably. See what opens up.
  • Create an “anonymous fear box/wall”at work where everyone can share their deepest fears. It might help build connection and a more compassionate culture.

Written by Dinner Confidential.

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