What we do with those fears, though, is our choice. If we let fear take over, we lose sight of our path through the forest. Do we flee or do we decide to walk with our fear? But there is something liberating about not running away from our thoughts, about being focused on the now instead of on the potential. When we decide to not run away, the followings things will happen:
1. We see fear as what it is
Our fears can show us many amazing things about ourselves. It makes us feel uncomfortable when we are confronted with our flaws, insecurities, or even possible worrisome outcomes. But that is what fear most of the time is: Possibilities. Things that might come; situations that might happen. They are not actually true. Too many times do we hold ourselves back because of whatifs and possible outcomes. But that denies us to live in the present moment and do what we want to do despite being afraid. (If the fear is linked with panic attacks, PTSD, or other threatening symptoms, I highly encourage this person to seek professional help – this article is not meant to deal with those problems that need help from someone who are highly trained in their field).
2. We don’t run away anymore
Fear has won the moment we try to shield away from it. Ignoring it will only make it worse in the long run. But, when we are too afraid to go into the forest and step up to it, we will live in a constant state of anxiety wondering when fear happens. “We are focused on the fear instead of on what we want to happen.” For example: If I am constantly afraid of stuttering when I speak, my mind is mostly focused on that and will slay me down the minute I stumble over my words. It will be impossible for me to enjoy the conversation. I am not in the present moment and might miss a human connection. Instead of focusing on what I don’t want to happen, I could focus on what I want to happen: Having a nice and pleasant conversation with the other person. Being afraid of things that might happen, disables us to focus on what we truly want. But, being afraid also reminds us of things we don’t want to happen. And these possibilities are valid.We need to be aware of all the scenarios we fear as well. Choosing false optimism over reality causes us to fall on our face. Walking with fear doesn’t mean to ignore fear, but to say “I acknowledge you and you have a space to exist. But I will continue living my life without letting you decide for me.” Fear is a reminder.
3. We embrace being afraid
Now that we know that fear can hold us back, we seek it out. We go into the shadow of the forest and invite the predator. Because it can’t harm us anymore, we want to walk alongside it. Our fear shows us what we truly want. Buddhism separates between healthy and unhealthy fear.Healthy fear is described as being afraid of something that can harm you. For example, seeing a rattlesnake and being afraid it can bite you is a healthy fear, as it (hopefully) stops you from trying to pet it. Having an unhealthy fear means being constantly afraid of the boa constrictor in everyday situation although you live in Germany where the only boa constrictor might live in the zoo hundreds of kilometers away (by bad luck, your neighbor might own a boa constrictor, but let’s hope not).
4. We don’t let fear dictate our behavior
Realizing that fear can be embraced, that it shows us what we are afraid of, and can give us a hint of what we want to happen, we can make the conscious decision to not let fear dictate our behavior. It is not about being resistant to fear. It is about acknowledging the fear, but still do what we want to do despite being afraid. You want to write that book? Yeah, it could flop, it could be horrible. But there is something incredibly sad in the fact if you wouldn’t write it because of what ifs. Take the jump. Because when you have finished it, it won’t matter anymore if it’s a good or bad book, but what will matter is that you have done it.
In the end, fear is something that will accompany us our whole life.The fear of picking the wrong career, the fear of being a bad parent, the fear of making the wrong financial choice. That is why we need to learn a healthy way to deal with fear that only exists in our mind. And if my way doesn’t work for you, I highly encourage you to go into the depth of your forest, stand opposite of your predator, and face your fears. Figure out how you can walk truly with fear. And as a parting present, here is a sentence one of my professors once told me (and which helped me many times): “The message should be more important than the fear.” Let your message be the most important thing. Don’t let fear interfere with what you have to say.