Thanksgiving season brings with it the common question “What are you grateful for?” Many families in the U.S. who celebrate the holiday often go around the table before dinner and share their gratitude lists with each other. I’ve done this with my family a few times over the years and really enjoyed it.
Gratitude is such a powerful tool. You can turn dark moments into ones that are easier to handle by diverting your attention towards those things that you do have. You can train your mind to notice more good things by the simple practice of writing a daily gratitude list. Gratitude can change your life.
In thinking about gratitude, this question popped into my mind: “What about fear are you grateful for?” And then shortly after this one appeared: “Are you crazy? Is it even possible to be grateful for fear?” So I set myself a challenge to look at fear in my life and to review the interviews I’ve done for this site and come up with a gratitude list.
Here are the top 7 things about fear that I am grateful for (in somewhat random order):
1. It’s often a signal for when I’m close to something that could change my life for the better. I’ve learned that sometimes fear does not mean that I should run away, but it can be a sign to move forward. It can mean that there is something wonderful on the other side if I can just push through.
2. Those overactive fear responses that I’ve often complained about can protect me from unnecessary danger. As a contrast to number one, the other times I mention are when fear can mean to run away. Sometimes fear is a great physical signal that you’re not safe and it’s best to be cautious. It’s learning to tell the difference as Tom Ewer mentions that is the most important thing. There is also a great book about this concept by Gavin de Becker called The Gift of Fear.
3. It brings me closer to my body and understanding the way my body works. Being a person with an overactive fear response, I’ve taken a lot of interest in learning how my body works and what those fear responses mean. I don’t think I would know as much about my body if I didn’t feel so fearful so often. Just learning about the flight or fight response and how it actually causes those symptoms that used to scare me so much (i.e. increased heart rate, stomach ache, nausea and shaky hands to name a few) makes it a lot less scary and easier to handle. One good book that helped me with this was Hope and Help for your Nerves by Claire Weekes.
4. It helps me connect more deeply with others. There is something powerful about sharing your fears with another person who is also willing to share their fears with you. It brings deeper connection as it requires you to take off any masks you might have and just be honest.
5. It’s brought me more compassion for others and their suffering. Feeling afraid and not being able to move through it can be very scary, challenging and humbling. It’s allowed me to be more compassionate towards myself and my own suffering and extend that towards others.
6. Without fear, the high that I get when I overcome fear would just not exist. I’ve noticed that whenever I hug my fear, I experience this high (for lack of a better word). Maybe you’ve noticed it too. I’ll feel happy and excited and my self-confidence skyrockets. I have a strong feeling that if I attempted something and felt like I totally had it in the bag and wasn’t afraid, I wouldn’t get that same high, at least not to the same degree.
7. And finally, it made me start this blog and meet so many wonderful people. If I hadn’t struggled with fear for so many years of my life, I wouldn’t have started this blog. And although it was scary to start it, it’s enabled me to meet so many awesome and interesting people through interviewing them and having them connect with me through emails and comments. I’m thankful for all of you!
What about fear are you thankful for? I’d love to know so please share with a comment!
Photo Credit: Shannon Kringen
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