Does Fear Hold You Back?

I often start yelling at the TV when a character in the movie is in a scary situation. He or she just stands there as I am shouting, “Run!” or “Hide!” For some reason, these characters can’t hear me and don’t move. Ha ha! Or are they portraying what often happens to people who are faced with fear?

I will never forget the moment I was paralyzed with fear. I was in high school and it was around Halloween time. My older sisters had their friends over, but I didn’t know some of them were outside. I heard a knock at the glass door and as I reached for the handle, an old, scary face appeared. I froze. I could not scream or speak. I could not run.

I started slowly walking backwards away from the door until I bumped into the wall behind me. I just stood there. It took several moments for me to recover, and then run upstairs. When I realized it was a mask, of course, it was funny. Everyone was laughing but inwardly, I felt awful. I couldn't understand why I could not talk or move. I was paralyzed with fear and I never want to feel that way again.

Fear is a gripping emotion. It is so powerful that it can completely consume your mind and body. You may not be able to eat, sleep, or think straight. You may perspire or feel your heart race. We feel out of control of our mind and body and sometimes it feels as though we are helpless. Fear can also keep you from living a life you desire. We may be afraid to try new things, or go on a date, or apply for a new job. We may fear the world as it changes so quickly. Fear can keep us stuck doing what is comfortable. So how do we remove ourselves from the grip of fear?

What are you scared to do? First, we have to know what we fear, and why. This takes some reflection and patience to uncover what is at the root of our fear. I like to start this process with my journal. I make a list of all the things I would do in an ideal life situation and compare that list to what I am actually doing. What are the things I want to be doing? Why am I not doing them? You might be surprised at your results. Some of these items may be big, but others could be as small as going for a walk alone. (And yes, I was afraid to go on a walk alone.)

Assess your fears. Go through your list of fears. Next to each one, write about why you might have this fear. If it is a fear of public speaking, for example, it might be that you are afraid someone might ask a question afterwards and you won’t have the answer. Or it might be that you are afraid your presentation will be boring. My fear of going on a walk alone, came from my anxious mother who instilled fear in me about being safe. Write about all the possible reasons why you may have each fear. No one will read your journal so really explore the root of your fears. If you have no explanation, that’s okay too. Just write that down.

Take a step. I took my list of fears and decided I wanted to live better. I didn’t want these things to hold me back any longer. I picked three items from my list that I thought I could overcome. One of them was go on a walk alone. Another was to go to a movie alone. Another was to ride the public transportation to the city. Next, I chose a date on my calendar to do each of these things. I had to really get in the right frame of mind. I was scared. I felt the tension in my body. I got ready and just had to walk out the door. As soon as I did, I won! I was no longer afraid to walk alone. When I reached the corner, I had a huge smile on my face. This was enjoyable and I could be alone with my thoughts. Now, I love walking … alone or with someone.

Enlist support. When a fear has a strong grip on you, you might need support. Call a friend. Let them be there to encourage and cheer you on. I would tell my friends that I am making myself do (blank) this week. It held me accountable to follow through. Plus, when I overcame each fear, I had someone to celebrate with me!

Expect growth. I grew so much as a person during this process. I am now excited to learn new things. I like to challenge myself whenever possible. I push myself more than ever before. I try not to limit myself. If I can do this, I know YOU can! Oh, fear still tries to creep back in on occasion, but I am no longer paralyzed by it. I try to recognize it for what it is - something that is holding me back. Instead of letting fear overtake me, I face it head on and win! 

Featured photo by Sebastien Goldberg on Unsplash.