One of the most freeing things that I’ve learned so far on my journey through life with fear is that you don’t have to stop being afraid to achieve your goals. The belief that fear always means stop kept me from trying so many things and I’m so glad that I now know better.
There are three things that brought me to this realization, the first one being my introduction to a different way of understanding courage. When I was growing up, I thought that to be courageous, a person had to be fearless and bold. With that definition, I determined that I wasn’t courageous at all because I would shake like a leaf in the wind when I tried something that scared me (like speaking in front of my classmates) or not try at all.
There are two quotes that totally turned my definition of courage upside down:
Do you know what these quotes meant? Every time I tried something that terrified me, I was acting courageously! That means that every time that you try something that terrifies you, you are acting courageously too! And that courage can build your resolve and your character to keep trying new scary things.
The second thing that poked holes in my belief about fear is one of Dr. Susan Jeffer’s “Fear Truths” that I mentioned on my About page:
When I read this the first time, it was so foreign and sounded so wrong. I literally had to read it over and over on multiple days before I understood it. Now it makes more sense, and it may already make sense to you. The only way to get over a fear is to challenge that fear by taking action. I’d lived my life by an opposite motto:
Does that sound familiar to any of you? I now see how much that belief stopped me from trying so many things, because the fear never went away. It kept me from getting my driver’s license for over a decade because just thinking about finding a driving school was scary and the fear never subsided. It was only until I allowed myself to be afraid AND take the steps that I finally took the lessons and passed the road test after turning thirty.
And finally, the third thing that helped me embrace my new belief about fear was learning about my fear responses and what they really meant. If you struggle with overactive fear responses in your body, there is pretty much only one book that I recommend: Hope and Help for your Nerves by Claire Weekes. I randomly found this book on Amazon and it was an answer to a prayer that I didn’t consciously make.
The basic premise of this book is helping overly anxious people understand what the responses in their bodies mean when they are triggered and teaching them how to handle those responses when they happen. This book taught me on a physical level that fear responses don’t necessarily mean stop, they are more often than not your body responding to a perceived threat using well worn biological pathways from years of repeated triggers. The responses are basically bodily habits that can be changed or not taken as seriously.
This has been so freeing to me after years of allowing my body signals to tell me to stop. Knowing that each body response is common and has a purpose and that I don’t have to be afraid of those responses has helped me overcome many fears in my life like driving, starting this blog and sharing my writing.
So a new definition of courage, taking action before fear subsides and coming to terms with fear induced physical responses all helped me learn a new way of relating to fear and ultimately helped me name this blog. To me, Hug Your Fear means to move towards your fear and act in spite of it instead of trying to fight it and get rid of it.
How have you learned to hug your fear in your life? Anything else resonate with you?
If you liked this reflection, you might also like:
Can you Be Grateful for Fear? Here Are 7 Reasons Why I Am.
Afraid you’re not doing enough? Just observe and write.