There are 2 kinds of fear, the healthy kind that protects us from doing stupid things, and the inhibiting kind that keeps us from growing and challenging ourselves.
They feel the same in our bodies which is why you need to learn to tell the two apart. Fear is sneaky, it is a chameleon, it hides in plain sight and we have no clue what’s going on because it looks like the truth: you’ll never be accepted to that program so don’t waste your time; you’ve never kept your weight off so why bother trying; this is just the way you are, accept it; you don’t have enough experience, they’ll never hire you; you have too much experience, they’ll never hire you; what if it doesn’t work?!
If you can’t distinguish between the 2 types of fear it makes it easy to honor the inhibiting kind when, in fact, you need to put it in the corner, so to speak.
Whatever you need to hear to keep you from trying, fear will find it and make it look like the truth! And when you push yourself into uncharted territory—when you go for the job, the relationship, the tough conversation, the drawing class—anything that makes you uncomfortable, you can be sure fear will show up to ‘protect’ you.
Your job is to be smarter, to know yourself well enough to not take the bait hook line and sinker.
You do that by building self awareness. You learn to recognize the signs of fear. So, for example, when you notice yourself thinking: you really don’t have time to take that class, or, I could never get that job, you recognize that as pushback from fear.
You do it by learning to manage your emotions. You can build the ’emotional muscles’ to not react the minute you are tweaked. Having the confidence to know you can handle your feelings is key in breaking through fears.
I give the last word on managing fear to Liz Gilbert who says it so well in her book Big Magic. Here are 2 excerpts that tell you all you need to know about fear and how to remain the adult in the room (or car): (PS: don’t be put off by the word ‘creativity’ just think of it as anything new and inspiring in your life)
[Liz Gilbert’s letter to fear]
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
“Basically, your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone ‘safe’.”