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The Benefit of Fear - Part One

Isabelle Bridges Boesch and Jessica Hagen

Fear is a natural human emotion and one that can sometimes be daunting to face. As we begin a new decade, we want to talk about fear of the unknown and how to wrestle and accept it. 

Let’s start by saying nobody in this world is immune to fear. The idea that we’re the only ones who feel afraid in the moment or that there’s only a select few that experience deep unease is just inaccurate. From a toddler on their first day of school to a highly successful person  — everyone experiences fear. No matter your background, the feeling can sometimes be daunting to face, but there are ways to help us cope with this sometimes debilitating emotion. 

On that note, obviously it's impossible for us to speak to everyone's dread or phobia as there's no "one size fits all" approach that will suit everyone's situation. However, no matter the intensity, we have some tips to help you overcome that anxious and nervous feeling in the hopes that no matter what level of fear you’re experiencing, these actions can assist in decreasing your anxiety.  


Paralyzing Fear

There are numerous types of fear and it can be felt with a variety of levels of intensity — from sweaty palms and butterflies in your stomach to nightmares to full-blown phobias. Stages of despair are exorbitant, and every anxiety is different, but no matter how strong the emotion, experiencing those feelings shouldn’t keep us from moving forward. 

Often being scared comes in the form of reluctance — afraid to do something because you’re worried you’ll fail. Simply taking the initial steps towards trying to achieve your goal in itself can be scary. For example, if you’re really unhappy in your job and know it’s not the career you want, but you make decent money or like your boss, you may fear taking the next step toward something you believe might make you happier. It’s common to think, “What if I get my preferred job and I don’t make as much,” or “What if my coworkers aren't as pleasant?” It’s a situation many people find themselves in, but often never make the changes they’d like. Unfortunately, that deep fearful state can cause future regrets. 

The key is to know that dread can be stared down and you can view it as a beneficial emotion. Doing so is more an art than a science, and there are going to be different approaches that work for different people. A blend between cognitive, emotional, and somatic approaches have been scientifically proven to transform fear into fuel. 


The Reason for Fear

Let’s first explain why you experience fear in the first place. Having a panic attack is different from having an everyday feeling of stress. So, how can we address it and all the complex multi-faceted ways it shows up in our lives, specifically as women and mothers?  

Off the bat we should mention that expecting that anxiety will somehow go away when we reach some mountain is just not accurate. Ignoring your emotions is never beneficial to your health or the health of those around you.  

So many people speak to themselves unlike they’d speak to anyone else. Telling yourself, “Why can’t you just be grateful for what you have? You have no clue how to even start. What are you thinking? You'll wind up in debt. You can't afford this. Stay in your lane. Stay in your zone. Don't disappoint people. You don't have any talent anyway.” Or a personal favorite: “That's a stupid idea.” When these types of thoughts come up, it's a real signal to us that our fear is running the show. 

Start by knowing fear is not your enemy. When we make it the enemy, we push it down. We pretend it doesn't exist and we don't use it as the fuel it can potentially be. It’s disempowering that society has different stories that tell us fear is designed not to survive. In other words, fear will be conquered and disappear. We want to help people create a new story so feeling scared doesn't crush you, but rather propels you into the future to what you want. If we’re afraid of something, let’s look at it as a way of communicating what we want to ourselves. We may be anxious about it because it’s something we want, but we’re worried it’s something that won’t happen or that our expectations are too high to reach. 

Waiting to stop feeling afraid is something that's more to be feared than fear itself because we're waiting for our lives to begin rather than taking action. Action is really the antidote to all of this. If our fear keeps us small, then it's not inspiring action. Think of this emotion as an inner GPS. It's a directive, a signpost pointing to what we want in the same way jealousy is. No matter how hard we try, if you feel a specific fear popping up, it's likely that you want that thing. If you have anxiety about singing, it's likely because you want to sing. If you dread opening up a business, it's likely you want to open one up. If you are scared about writing a book, you probably want to write it. The same with moving somewhere or learning something new or pursuing some relationship. If you fear these things, it's probably because you really, really want them, not because they're actually dangerous to you. 

In Part Two of this series, we’ll discuss how you can constructively change the way you look at fear as you move forward on your path to taming it. 

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