I am afraid of fear itself. I’m afraid to feel negative emotions in any situation whatsoever, afraid to encounter something that I can’t handle, afraid to face the unknown. I fear just feeling fear. But I’m always fearing something anyway. What am I afraid of? Everything. Nothing. I don’t know. Should I be afraid of something? That’s anxiety’s mantra: already afraid, so you don’t have to be.
There are many sources now that show how facing your fears can actually help reduce anxiety. It’s called exposure therapy. It’s proving to your brain that there actually isn’t a threat when you’re safely secure on a bridge, looking down. It’s showing you that you can get through a crowded DMV and handle your business there without having a breakdown. It’s putting fear back in its place for things that are actually threats to your well-being.
So what fears have you faced recently? Here’s some of mine.
- Drove to Kansas City (8 hours away) for a gig in a highly competitive industry for little money to do a high-pressure job during a huge event.
- On a number of occasions, I was able to address issues with coworkers without lashing out in anger or cowering behind guilt and shame for feeling how I felt.
- Was able to ask for help at work and not feel afraid, or if I did feel afraid, I stood my ground to get answers/clarification in order to properly do important tasks.
- Moved into a new place that I had never seen with roommates I didn’t know.
- New living situation forced me to reevaluate my expenses and work harder to keep up. It’s extremely intimidating and I put off this change for a long time due to fear.
- Initiated friendly conversations with strangers.
- Made calls that I needed to make, to leasing offices, to renters, to doctor’s offices, to customer service help desks.
- Spoke up when my order wasn’t quite right.
- Asked for help with a couple of things in my personal life that were difficult to ask.
These are just a few of the fears I faced. Some are specific and only happened once, while others are broad and recurring. The ones that I had to face multiple times lead to me mastering that fear and I never had to feel–oh, wait, no. That’s not how that works. I still feel fear. I’m still an anxious person. I probably always will be.
That’s the biggest thing I learned. Facing my fears, even a list like this that I’m proud of, didn’t make me some master of conquering my fears. I’m not a whole new person who courageously knocks down every obstacle that comes up because I feel no fear. Rather, I learned how to handle scary situations, despite the fear. I can survive even with the knot in my stomach, even when my heart races, even when I feel the pull of dread dragging me the opposite way. That’s what bravery is–not the absence of fear, but standing up to the challenge when you are afraid.
What fears did you face?