Fear is inevitable. We all have it. There’s no getting rid of it. But have you ever noticed how fear has a way of making us act totally crazy, irrational and illogical?
So yeah. That’s fun.
Recently I’ve been paying attention to the role fear plays in my life and asking myself how I can admit the reality of my own fear without letting it sabotage me. Here’s what I’m learning.
The best way to deal with fear is act in spite of my fear, without acting out of it.
Here’s what I mean by that.
Recently my husband and I have been thinking about taking on a project that is a little bit out of our comfort zone. Actually, that’s an understatement. This project feels like a huge leap. Think of the last time you did something and thought to yourself, “if this works out, it will be a miracle.” Now you can relate.
We’ve taken a few cautions steps forward, testing the waters so to speak, to see if the doors will open.
The doors have opened in front of us, and I’ve felt the familiar breeze of fear rush in.
This project is huge. It’s going to take us years. It’s going to consume all of our energy and our money and our time. I’m afraid it’s going to put a strain on our marriage. I’m afraid we’re going to run out of money and not be able to finish.
I’m afraid I don’t have what it takes—that I’m not strong enough to carry it to completion.
When I act out of my fears, I find myself racing around to make things happen for us.
I work harder and faster so I can make as much money as possible. I turbo-charge my work day. I go over the top—creating all kinds of rigid boundaries and rules to make sure our marriage is protected.
Ultimately, at the end of the day, I’m exhausting both of us. I’m spinning my wheels and wasting energy. I’m putting a strain on our relationship before we even get started. I’m exhausted and we haven’t even started the project.
My efforts are doing the opposite of what I want them to do.
My fear is growing and growing and taking over my life.
On the other hand, I’m learning what it looks like to act in spite of my fear.
Acting in spite of my fear requires acknowledging how scared I am, but not trying to do anything about it. I don’t try to fight the fear or will it to go away. I don’t try to work harder or faster to beat the fear. I know I’ll lose at that game.
Instead, I think about myself as a casual observer to my fear. I observe it the way I would observe the date on a calendar or the time of day.
There is nothing I can do to change it, to make it go away.
It is not in my control. It is not good or bad. It just is.
From that perspective, suddenly, I can hear what my fear is telling me—and this is the most valuable information.
- It’s telling me about my priorities—that no matter what “projects” I take on in life, my marriage is an ongoing project that is most important.
- It’s telling me about my insecurities—I often underestimate my own natural strength and ability to face life’s challenges.
- It’s telling me I’m expecting too much of myself—I don’t have total control over everything, so I can’t be in charge of the outcomes of my life. All I can do is make the best decisions I know how and trust that a power greater than me is at work, even in my failure.
With that information, my fear is still present.
But now, it doesn’t feel so threatening to me anymore. In fact, it feels like a friendly force, reminding me what matters and helping me move toward what I actually want.
I don’t have to control all the details, pick up my pace or turbo-charge my day.
This whole thing doesn’t depend on me.
My marriage doesn’t need a bunch of rigid boundaries and rules to make it work. It just needs an honest, vulnerable, real version of me—where I admit my insecurities and talk about what’s important to me and commit to sticking it out, even when things get hard.
As for the project, who knows if we’ll get to do it. That part is out of our hands. We’ve taken the risk, put ourselves on the line, taken the right steps, done everything we know how to do. And all we can do is all we can do, you know?
The rest isn’t up to us.