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Fear is both irrational and logical. It protects and hinders. It saves us and imprisons us. We are biologically hardwired to feel fear. In fact, if you don’t feel afraid you are studied as an oddity – a sort of psychological anomaly that exists outside of the normal human population. We spend time trying to overcome fear. We seek to subvert it, forget it, escape it.
But we lie to ourselves. We can’t make fear go away. We can’t leave it behind. We can’t ignore it. It is built in through thousands of years of human development, designed to keep us safe from predators but now in the human experience where there are fewer threats and greater places for safety it can hinder.
We don’t like being afraid. We don’t enjoy the feeling that grips us. So we run.
We could lean into fear, though.
Not in a reckless, daredevil kind of way that results in injury – but in the humble acknowledgement that our fear is a part of who we are and sometimes it protects us.
But sometimes it lies. Sometimes fear is far more overprotective than it needs to be. Fear can write a story in our mind that isn’t true just to keep us safe. Fear doesn’t know any better. It doesn’t see the missed opportunities or recognize the distortion it creates. All it sees are safety and risk.
Maybe the level of fear we experience goes to our childhood and how people who cared for us responded when we felt afraid or how we watched them experience fear. Maybe it goes back to a traumatic experience where suddenly we felt unsafe and wanted to run.
Fear is inescapable. What if we embrace it and take it along with us? We can look at our fear and have a conversation with it – doing our best to rationalize it and see if we can take fear at his word or if we need to press forward.
Fear won’t leave if we press forward. When we do what scares us we don’t have a moment where we overcome fear and suddenly feel confident and courageous. Courage is confidence in the experience of fear. It is choosing to accept and believe a different story than the one fear is telling us and repeating that story louder than the one fear is screaming.
It is telling ourselves that we can make that change, even when fear is telling us we will just fail again and we will be safer if we don’t try.
It is repeating the story that we are good enough for others when fear is telling us to hide and shut people out because they will judge us.
It is looking in the mirror before we go into work to have the hard conversation and saying, “I know this will be hard, but I am going to do this anyway. And it is going to be OK – even if in the moment it feels like it won’t be” when fear is telling us to avoid the conversation altogether.
Courage embraces what is in front of us and tells fear to buckle up. Courage does what scares us because oftentimes beyond fear is a story far different than the one that we are being told.
Fear won’t go away and will beg us to pull back, give up, and stay safe. The good things are on the other side of fear. We merely need the courage to step forward.