Thursday, October 6, 2011

it's okay to be afraid

"fear not"
"don't be afraid"
"let go of all fear"

how many of these types of sayings have you heard, read, or even repeated?  this sentiment is everywhere in our society, being thrown around from person to person, generation to generation.  now i know these sayings are meant to empower us, but in reality, they teach us that fear is a bad emotion which should be avoided or removed from our lives - as if it's that easy to stop being afraid, and as if getting rid of our fear will make everything else better.

i have a huge problem with this, because it sends people in the completely wrong direction! 

i know a lot of people mean well when they say to let go of fear, but the truth is this: fear is not the problem, it is our interpretation and response to the feeling of fear which we need to focus on changing.

fear is an extremely valuable emotion.  it's telling us all sorts of information we need to pay attention to, information that's trying to teach us what our deeper uncertainties are, and in turn, teaching us just what we care about most in our lives.  when we experience fear, we should face it, feel it, give honor to its purpose, and understand what it's trying to tell us.  most people skip these steps altogether and simply react through avoidance. 

if i were to tell you not to think about elephants, the first thing you'd do would be think about elephants...  and the second thing and the third thing. in fact, the harder you tried not to think about elephants, the more you would think about elephants.  it's the same with unwanted emotions, like fear.  the more we try not to be afraid or tell ourselves to let go of fear, the more fear holds its grip on us.  if we can muster up the courage to face our fear, we'll be much better for it.  it's amazing how much easier it is to take empowering risks and make healthy decisions after we've really listened to our 
inner voice when we experience fear.  

so what are you afraid of?  
and what is that emotion trying to tell you?

{photo is from our trip to death valley, taken by the mister, quote added by me.}


  1. This is a beautiful post, Kim. :) As someone who has lived her entire life with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, "what are you afraid of?" is a pretty big question. I've dealt with a lot of panic/phobia issues over the years; most of my fears and phobias are medical/disease related (none of them based in reality, of course). What I can tell you, though, is that "let go; don't be afraid!" is probably the least helpful thing I ever heard. As if we can choose not to be afraid! We can choose not to surrender to the fear, possibly, but the actually feeling itself is instinctual.

    Thanks for talking about this. :)

  2. what a great post!!! i try not to let fear get in the way, but sometimes i do! my biggest fear is that im afraid of rodents! AGH!

  3. How funny, fear was the listography topic yesterday. I hate that I have fears and let them hold me back. I need to work on pushing through them.

  4. I kind of echo what Claire said in her above comment...for someone struggling with anxiety and/or fear, "don't be afraid" often leaves them feeling even more messed up, which induces more anxiety, and turns into a crazy cycle.
    So these words you've written here, they're good. Thanks for them!

  5. I've always tried to embrace fear when it's come up. Sometimes, it's a good guide. It can say "something is wrong here" or "do some extra prep" and I like that. I never let it control me though, and when I have fears that I know can be overcome, I try to.

  6. This is so great! And, I am so guilty of just trying to squash fear without learning from it. If I take an honest look, and this may sound very strange, sometimes I think I'm afraid of succeeding.
    Great post! I'm going to really think about this one, and find ways to use and learn from my fears.

    (I got your note about hiking. I'm up north on Sunday, but Monday afternoon might work! Let's touch base over the weekend!)


  7. I have lots of fear right now. I hate the unknown. But I'm trying to do what I know is right vs. what is easy.

  8. I was JUST thinking about this, how fear can sometimes be completely debilitating while other times is the greatest motivator. Well, it is for me at least. I fear many things but my reaction to it changes from day to day.

  9. Ah, this reminds me of FDR's comment, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Your post is such an important reminder because it's easy to forget when we're trembling on the inside or forgetting to believe in ourselves.

  10. I spent a lot of my child hood being terrified of things and forcing myself to do them always ended up with a lot of crying involved.

    Currently I have a lot of fears and worry. Change is scary. And that's ok.

  11. I love this. We must be brave. It's the bravery that takes us places.

    I think I am afraid of writing the full story at times because I'm afraid of what family members might think, or that their feelings would be hurt. It's a struggle for me, but at the same time, so is not writing the full truth. Maybe there is peace in writing the full truth for all parties? I can't be so sure unless I take the plunge, I guess.

    Wonderful photo!


  12. This is such a wonderful post! I am one of those people who try to ignore fear and spout all of those cliché sayings. I try to face it often, but I never thought of trying to listen to it or understand it. I am going to attempt to do this from now on :)

  13. This is so great. So many things that I've struggled with in life have been because I've tried to avoid it instead of facing it. Thanks for the timely post.

  14. This is really thought-provoking and beautiful. Love it!

  15. this is so interesting, i'm totally victim to letting fear take hold and trying to brush i under the rug and seeing it take hold even stronger. i see that letting it run its natural course and learning from it, can make you stronger in the long run even tho at the time it can feel so um scary and frightening. letting it have its place can be more meaningful in the long run. i'm fearful of so many things that ill likely not post in this comment, but so many things!

  16. This is a really interesting concept, Kim. I agree that embracing fear (and with it, failure, discomfort, growth) is a crucial part of life.

  17. Yes, I love this post. It's impossible to stop yourself from becoming afraid. If we think of fear as the enemy, we feel like we're failing every time we have a natural fear response. The point isn't to not be afraid. It is to be a afraid and do everything anyway. You're so awesome.

  18. Oh, WOW, Kim. This is excellent. And something that really sits with me as I've been succumbing to all sorts of fears lately and feeling this strange sense of mixed emotions. I'm afraid of the fear which makes me panicky...

    This? Amazing:

    "when we experience fear, we should face it, feel it, give honor to its purpose, and understand what it's trying to tell us."