“Hello Fear…thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” ~ Cheryl Strayed
I notice that I rarely get scared anymore.
I used to live in fear. Fear of not having enough money. Fear of not being liked. Fear of never getting married, of not having children. Fear that something I said might upset or anger someone I cared about.
Fear of looking stupid.
I feared other people’s anger. I feared my own anger. I feared being disappointed. Or worse yet, disappointing others.
I feared earthquakes and cancer and war and death and car accidents and loss and love.
Yes, I even feared love.
Fear always starts as dead weight. It’s so heavy we can barely move it. It weighs us down, stops us dead in our tracks, immobilizes us from acting on our natural inclinations.
It feels like a 100-pound gorilla sitting on top of our chest, preventing us from being able to get up and breathe, let alone even consider taking steps toward what we want.
Fear creeps up behind us like an insidious ghost, whispering in our ear, “But what if you fail?”
It morphs into that bully we knew as a kid—taunting us with a smirk on his face, “But what if everyone sees how stupid you are?”
It manifests in our dreams at night—waking us up, drenched in sweat with images of, “This is what will happen if you even try.”
It has the voice of your panic-stricken, overly protective mother, “But what if you get hurt?”
It’s there to try to stop you. Because without it, think about how phenomenally great we would be. How big, how much, how happy, how free, how empowered we’d feel. And my god, why should any of us on this earth get to feel that?
You know what fear is? It’s proof that you’re about to actually do something really important for your soul’s growth.
It’s the blinking red light screaming, “Yes! Do that! That is going to lead you places you never dreamed you could go.”
Fear is your friend. It’s the big, scary, creepy looking guy sitting next to you on the train who you think is going to mug you and leave you for dead but instead he talks to you in a loving, gentle voice and you realize that this guy has a heart of gold and this crazy belief in you and somehow is able to offer you the magical advice you need to take that first step.
Fear ruled my life for 35 years. I’m not that different from everybody else. I just realize looking back that fear was my greatest teacher. Every single incredible, awesome, life-changing, monumental success and personal accomplishment in my life began with fear.
And it ended in something meaningful and transformative and empowering. Not just for me, but for others whose lives my fear’s journey touched.
My fear of being fat and not fitting in with all the other popular, beautiful girls in high school led to an eating disorder, which led me to a 12 Step recovery program, which led to a deep spiritual practice, which led to me helping save other young girls who were on the same self-destructive road I was.
That particular fear was the starting line of my journey toward some of the most important lessons I needed to learn:
Self-love and self-acceptance.
Progress not perfection.
Use your own suffering and experiences to help others.
My fear of other people knowing the real me—the unedited, messy, imperfect Jersey girl with the sassy attitude, the patience of a three-year-old and the bullsh*t stories about myself that make friends laugh out loud in my face me. That fear led me to write as a way to release those stories, heal that pain, to express that deep desire for self-acceptance and love, and for people to just like me for who I really was.
The fear dared me to share my writing with others. It dared me to be vulnerable, exposed, authentic and transparent every time I wrote another story about my life. And then I dared all those people out there reading my stories to have something to say about it. I dare you! Prove to me my fear is right! Laugh at me. Talk behind my back. Tell me how awful I am…how unworthy I should feel for not being perfect.
But what most of them had to say instead was, “Me too. Thank you for being brave enough to say what I’ve always wanted.”
“Me too.” That stuck with me.
Fear is a way we connect with others. It’s the common bond we all share and the war we all wage together so we can stand united and scream from the mountaintops, “Yeah.. me too!”
“Yeah…me too. I’m afraid.”
“I’m afraid if I leave my marriage I’ll be alone the rest of my life.”
“I’m afraid if I leave my job, nobody else will hire me.”
“I’m afraid if I just surrender and stop trying to control everything in my life, things won’t work out the way I planned.”
“I’m afraid if I give him space he won’t come back. Then what?”
I can tell you what because I’ve survived all of this: You’ll learn so much about yourself. You’ll create space for something better. You’ll learn how to pick yourself up if things don’t work out and re-right the ship.
You’ll have life-altering experiences you would never have had. You’ll meet people on your new path you would never have met.
You’ll prove to yourself how fearless you are.
And man…will you grow. Your soul will grow in such a way that you’ll never allow fear to stop you from doing anything else again.
Author: Dina Strada
Editor: Catherine Monkman