We are excited to bring Meera Lee Patel back to share more of her freelance wisdom, this time with regards to fear. Meera is a self-taught writer and artist who creates work that inspires others to connect with themselves, each other, and the world around them. In this piece she shares 3 methods to understanding the fear that stops you from starting.
I spent my entire twenties standing still. I stayed in the same job that was slowly leading to a career I didn’t want, the same home that I’d always lived in, and surrounded myself with people I’ve always known—because I was afraid.
What was my fear? That if things changed, they would somehow become worse. But was I happy with where I was? No. Didn’t I want things to change? Yes. This conflict alone made it clear to me that my fear was irrational, but I couldn’t help how I felt. I didn’t want anything to be different, because the idea that they would become better seemed impossible. I approached fear the way I would a bear in the woods, which is only to say that I didn’t approach it at all. Instead, I lay very still on the ground and hoped it would go away.
The sparkle of unknown paths, new relationships, and challenging opportunities is lost when we associate them with the promise of failure rather than the chance to experience, learn, and grow. Our fear prevents us from giving new experiences a chance, and often it succeeds in stopping us from creating wonderful, unexpected things in our lives—before we’ve even begun.
If you’ve ever ignored a feeling or thought, you know that this method doesn’t work—the feeling or thought in question will simply continue to visit you, again and again, until you listen to it. As people, it’s hard for us to consciously acknowledge our deep need to feel understood. When we ignore our fears in lieu of examining them, we are essentially ignoring ourselves—we’re pitting our minds against our bodies and preventing ourselves from existing as unified, functioning beings. But what happens if we approach our fear from a place of curiosity and wonder?
1. Acknowledge that your fear exists. Let your fear know that you see it and value the protection it’s offering you. Take a deep breath, and recognize your fear: I am afraid. There is something inside me that feels scared of this unknown opportunity. Tell your fear that you need it to walk beside you instead of in front of you, and it will no longer block your path.
2. Try to understand your fear. Where in your mind did it originate? When did you first begin to associate new challenges with fear? When did the idea of failure or rejection morph from a possibility to a plausibility? Dig deeper and let the questions ruminate within you. It’s okay if the answers don’t appear right away—like buried seeds that intrinsically turn to face towards the sun, they will eventually rise.
3. Talk to your fear. Our biggest challenge in approaching our fear is recognizing that it is trying to teach us something about ourselves, and often, our biggest dreams. Ask yourself: what is my fear trying to tell me? Is it trying to protect me from being discouraged or disappointed? Is my fear shining a light towards the path I want to walk on most? If I don’t take this chance, am I shutting out a part of myself that longs to exist?
What you can control lies within yourself: your thoughts and attitudes, your wishes and desires, and the perspective you choose to live by. We often blame our fear for keeping us from moving forward, but it’s our perspective of fear that truly holds power—it can imbibe us with strength and courage, or it can slowly destroy us. If you believe that everything that happens to you holds a lesson, you’ll be better equipped to find the lesson and learn from it. If you believe that there is purpose and meaning in difficult, you’ll find beauty in the obstacles you face. Are you afraid of taking a chance because you are worried it won’t work out? Being afraid of rejection and failure is natural, but it isn’t a guarantee.
Ask yourself one more time: Am I afraid? What if my biggest dream and deepest desire doesn’t come true? And then, ask yourself again: What if it does?