Fear is a strong emotion, and one that can serve us well, warning us of dangerous situations, and propelling us into action to protect ourselves, whether through fight or flight. That is fear in its best and proper form. However, how many people are slaves to fears that keep then so stuck in life that they can barely move, or if they do move, the movement is some misguided form of self protection, be it anger, nastiness, or simple inertia? It is still fight or flight, but you are fighting life, or fleeing from it. This type of fear is never healthy and it sucks all of the joy right out of most everything.
Most people aren’t aware just how much of their lives are dominated by fear. People alter who they really are because they fear not being liked or accepted. People do not ask for help when they need it because they are afraid of being seen as weak, or being told, “No.” People lie because they fear others won’t find the truth acceptable. People do not share their thoughts because they fear being wrong, or that someone will disagree, or that no one will listen. People don’t try new things because they fear failure.
People don’t try to change an bad situation because they fear they may fail at that, too—“It won’t do any good, anyway.” People stay in bad relationships and bad jobs out of fear, and remain in unhealthy lifestyles because they fear change. At its basest form, fear become anger and meanness. People fear getting hurt so they hurt others first to protect themselves. They fear looking at their own behavior because they are afraid there will be nothing left if they tear down the walls of anger, nastiness, and arrogance. How will they protect themselves without lashing out, being defensive, blaming others, or making excuses?
Fearful people are often lonely, and unhappy. At the heart of fear is almost always the fear of loss–loss of possessions, loss of safety, loss of reputation, or a loss through an insult to their pride or ego. Fearful people take the hurts and losses in life and turn them into weapons, walls, and shields, yet we all have hurts and losses in life, so why isn’t everyone living a stuck, angry, small life with no joy? That’s an excellent question, and I certainly don’t have the entire answer.
I’ve always told my kids, “Face your fears, and they will disappear.” I try to live that, but like everyone, I have my own fears, though over the years they have diminished to a very few things. I’ve had a lot of losses, some at the hands of other, many self-inflicted. I’ve had hurts, and some pretty awful experiences, again, some events coming from outside of me, and many self generated. But, at the same time, I have had to face a lot of my fears because I didn’t want to stay stuck in the ugliness that I had created by believing false information, or by feeling like a victim, or blaming the world for all of my problems. At the heart of it all, I feared that “me” wasn’t good enough, and from that sprang many mistakes, poor choices, and much self sabotaging behavior. Who would want to stay stuck in that muck? Not me, but to get out of that muck, I had to own my role in my life, my choices, my behavior. That was scary business, indeed, and not gobs of fun. Being stuck in fear and anger and poor choices was a lot less fun, though.
Fear gives a person a very small, myopic, world view. It creates a blindness to all of the color, and goodness in the world. Fear holds people back from discovering the beauty in others, and the beauty within themselves. How can anyone truly live and enjoy life when everything is a perceived threat to their ego, or their limited sense of self worth, or their position, or their power? But fear does not give one power. Fearful people prefer to have power over—power over others, power over the situation, power over the world. Power over is not personal power. Power over takes personal power from others. Again, not a happy, or healthy, way to truly live and enjoy life.
Personal power, on the other hand, gives joy to life. It allows its owner to set healthy boundaries, make good choices for themselves, be vulnerable, be open, be willing, and in the end, be genuine and happy. Personal power can empower others to places of goodness. It is a light that shines, not a wall that blocks out the sun, and the light of everyone, and everything in your world. You cannot get to a place of personal power without facing many fears, without having the courage to heal, make mistakes and start anew. You cannot have personal power without the courage to admit your faults, ask for forgiveness, forgive yourself and others, and change your course. When you have personal power you don’t need or want power over anyone. Personal power is not the freedom from fear, but the knowing that fears can be faced, and erased.
Leaving a fear based life starts like anything else—with one step in the opposite direction, and then another, and another for a life time. You can change fear based behaviors and actions by looking your fears in the face, making friends with them, then showing them the door. You can change your mindset from one of suspicion and avoidance to one of joyfulness and openness, but it will take work. It’s work that is well worth it, and you can do it. Please, don’t be afraid to try. Don’t let fear motivate you to remain stuck. Get yourself out of your own muck. You’ll be amazed at the results.