6 Ways Your Fears Are Secretly Helping You
Why fear is the frenemy that makes you better.
When we think of Fear, we think of some pretty nasty things.
Who could blame us? After all, Fear has always been conveniently around in our less-than-finest hour. Like the time we gave up our dreams to settle for something “more realistic”. Or the other time when we laid awake at 3 a.m. covered in cold sweat, thinking about our uncertain future. Not to mention the countless times we said “no” to an opportunity when every cell in our body was screaming “yes”.
Fear was right there every single time — lurking in the background and snickering, before slinking away after his dastardly job was done.
No, we don’t like Fear. Many of us feel terrorized by it. We can’t wait to be free from it so we can find fulfillment in our life, work, and relationships.
Don’t hate on Fear. Don’t fear Fear. It feeds off negative emotions to grow more powerful. As Carl Jung warns, “What you resist, persists.”
Fear itself isn’t the problem. It is our relationship with it that needs fixing.
As with any relationship, whether we’re looking for the good or bad in someone, we will almost always find it. But is there any good in Fear worth looking for?
The answer is yes. But only if you can stop seeing Fear as an enemy and start seeing it as a friend. Look, it’s not Lassie, nor will it ever take a bullet for you. But here are six ways Fear can help you if you think of it as a somewhat confused frenemy. One who wears many hats.
1. Fear is the father of Courage
Where do you think courage comes from? In his novel that would become Game Of Thrones, George R. R. Martin asks, “But can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” The answer? “That is the only time a man can be brave.”
Courage can only exist when there is fear. Try being brave when you’re not afraid — you can’t.
Fear alone doesn’t make courage. It merely provides the opportunity for us to choose to be brave.
Bravery in times of fear is one of the most powerful emotions you could ever experience. You would feel more alive than ever. Your self-esteem goes through the roof. Your memory is forever imprinted with your act of courage.
Bravery makes legacies. It writes anything from mission statements to epitaphs. It is worth the fear.
In your life, how many times have you been brave? Don’t worry, where there is fear, there is opportunity.
2. Fear is the custodian of your ideas
When I have an idea I’m excited about, I’m often fraught with an accompanying fear. Fear that I could be wrong. Fear that the idea is too radical. Fear that poor execution may limit its potential.
I’ve come to accept this fear as natural. Creativity doesn’t happen until your mind ventures into a new, unfamiliar place. As humans we’re hardwired to fear the unknown; this makes us anxious about the outcome of a completely original idea.
When you feel the fear that comes with an idea, see it as a signal that you could be onto something special.
Like love, a great idea makes you afraid and brave at the same time.
Don’t let Fear deter you from taking your idea forward. Don’t be afraid to share it with people you trust — bravery likes company.
What does the size of your fear say about the size of your idea?
3. Fear is the uncle who says, “My, how you’ve grown!”
We all have our comfort zones. You know, the womb-equivalent of your life routine or experiences. Protected. Secure. Perfect for babies.
We can’t grow without stepping out of our of our comfort zone. It’s both the safest and most dangerous place to be.
Fear reminds us that we’re doing something different. It protests when we’re taking a risk. It flat-out dissuades us from change. But it’s also the most underrated indicator of our personal growth.
When you’re afraid, you’re already outside your comfort zone. If you don’t scamper back to its familiar confines, you will need to develop new skills to survive outside of it. You’ll grow to become stronger, more adaptable, more creative, and more defiant of the life that was dealt to you.
Start every day with a simple question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
4. Fear is the locksmith to your hidden greatness
Sometimes we fear the very thing we could be great at. Mahatma Gandhi had a great fear of public speaking. He once read a line from a prepared message, panicked, and asked someone else to finish the speech for him. That was the same Gandhi who would become the powerful speaker and leader of a historic independence movement.
Your fear could point you to exactly where you should be going. You just don’t know it yet.
Marianne Williamson expresses this sentiment beautifully, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”
Warren Buffet has this to say about finding your strengths in your fears: “You have to do it. And the sooner you do it, the better. It’s so much easier to learn the right habits when you’re young.”
What fears do you have that may be obscuring your future strengths?
5. Fear is the gatekeeper of what is important
Ever noticed how Fear always seems to be present when the stakes are the highest?
Grown men would testify hand-on-heart to how scared they were when approaching a woman they knew was “The One”. They were nothing like the slick players they were when they were just fooling around.
If something is important to your core being, there will be some of fear associated with it. Kids fear for their family when their parents fight. Parents fear for their children’s safety if they’re five minutes late for their curfew. Business owners fear for their business every time a big client calls for a review.
Instead of being shackled by your fears, listen closely to them to build up your self-awareness. As Marie Curie said, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
We can learn from the fear. When we feel afraid, go deeper to see the significance behind that fear.
What is your fear telling you? What are you trying to protect? What is important to you?
6. Fear is the drill sergeant of your goals
Few things can get our behinds moving like Fear can. Fear kicks in even before we get to decide between decisive actions of “Fight” or “Flight”.
Many successful people are not motivated by a fear of failing — they are motivated by a fear of mediocrity. If you’re afraid of leading an unfulfilled existence, if you’re afraid of not trying hard enough, if you’re afraid of missing out of your life’s dreams and goals — you have found a way to use Fear to your advantage.
Your life isn’t going to wait for you to wake up one day and decide to live it to the hilt. It’s got its own plans if you don’t make plans for it.
Picture the outcome that you do not want—feel the fear — and actively work toward averting it. Make a list of non-negotiable goals that are essential for the life you want. If your fear of mediocrity has to be stronger than your fear of failure, nothing is going to stop you.
What scares you most about how your life can turn out? What can you do about it?
In life, we may not be able to avoid Fear, but we can control our relationship with it. Like all relationships, if we change the way we feel about someone, they may surprise us by changing the way they treat us. Face up to Fear and work out your issues.
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Thanks for reading. I’m Victor Ng, an executive coach with a passion for writing. Get my free worksheet “Adversity to Advantage” to help reframe your challenges and refocus on your goals.