In 1933, the new President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, uttered the now famous words, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" in his inaugural speech to a country caught in the grips of a deep and terrifying depression. It was a time of great uncertainty. Economic instability, drought, high unemployment and fear were rampant across the western world.
Roosevelt's words were powerful at the time, and they still ring true today.
Biologically, fear is a highly useful emotion. After all, when we feel fear it triggers a fight-or-flight response - a physiological reaction that shoots an evolutionary cocktail of dopamine and adrenaline through our body, honing our senses, our intuition and our ability to react. Fear keeps us safe; it protects us from threats to our safety and survival. When I am biking the mountains, for example, fear is what keeps me alert, focused and acutely aware of my surroundings. It helps me to navigate challenging terrain and prompts me to make noise to alert bears of my presence.
Much of the time, however, the threats that trigger our fears are imagined or hypothetical. Rather than responding to what is happening in the present, we get lost in the stories that we tell ourselves. We fear the potential of an imagined future.
The interesting thing about the kind of fear that is triggered by imagined or hypothetical threats is that it can sideline us from living our most authentic life. Fear can cause us to be quiet when we know we should speak up. It can cause us to give up when we feel that we are not worthy. Fear can cause us to stay, when we know we should leave. It can also cause us to fill our lives with distraction when we know that we need to slow down and take stock.
Our fears, conditioned into us by our childhood experiences, are harboured deep in our subconscious. On a daily basis, often unbeknownst to us, fear impacts the decisions we make and how we interact with the world around us. Like an armour that protects us from the world, our fears can feel heavy and restrictive, draining us of our power with anxiety and trepidation.
A lesson in fear.
As I reflect on this past year, I realize that my greatest lesson has been about fear. While growing my business, I have encountered a series of 'what ifs' that have sought to derail me from my goals and my vision. I have had to face my fear that I am not good enough, that I may look silly to to others and that I may even fail. Through this process, I have learned that fear can be a very powerful and uncomfortable emotion and that while our fears may never go away, we always have the choice to either walk toward the perceived threat (and do the thing that scares us) or feel paralyzed and shrink back into our comfort zone.
When we take the time to slow down and connect to ourselves, we can start to become more familiar with how fear shows up in our own lives and learn to honestly evaluate if the threat the fear is protecting is real or imagined. After all, the future holds innumerable possibilities and when we pour energy into protecting ourselves from an imagined threat, our energy is drained by a story that may never come to fruition.
Moving beyond fear.
As we enter into this brand new year filled with so many unknowns and so much uncertainty, Roosevelt's sage advice about fear seems timely.
Fear, after all, IS something for us to be fearful of. Fear brings about constriction and limits possibilities while its opposite, love, brings about expansion and infinite possibilities. When we are fearful, we shift into a mindset of scarcity and individualism and our field of vision narrows. When love is present fear dissolves and our consideration for ourselves and others grows. Nothing grows in a state of fear; it is a preservation state - a holding pattern - not a place for innovation, solutions, and progress.
There is a lot of broken in our world - in our connection to ourselves, in our relationships, in our communities and in our systems and structures. For me, 2016 was a stark reminder that in order to heal each of us needs to move beyond the fears that limit us so that we can become more intentional about who we want to be in the world and the kind of world we want to create. As Otto Scharmer said in a recent Huffington Post article, "it is that inner doing - that inner choice - where the future of this planet and the future of our evolution is battled out".
In 2017...let's push fear to the back seat...and let love rule (thank you Lenny Kravitz!)...
Wishing you all the best in the new year!
Don't let your fears get in the way of creating the life that you want. Learn about INTEGRAL LIFE COACHING and how it can help you to slow down and become more intentional in your life.