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I need to rant a little bit here, folks.
Lately, I’ve come across a lot of material pushing the narrative that fear is the lowest form of human experience, blocking you from getting everything you’ve ever wanted and more.
The idea that we must not be afraid in order to manifest is all over the internet, and while I can see on a base level where it is coming from, I am simply not buying it. As usual, there is so much more to the picture than what this simplistic assessment gives us, and in many ways, this idea in itself contributes to feeling stuck and ashamed.
Let me just clarify first that there are many instances in which fear can keep us stuck. I am reminded of my own mother, whose fear of, well, basically everything, kept her from elevating herself as an individual and from exposing her children to many helpful experiences. In many ways, this has negatively impacted both our lives, and that cannot be overlooked.
However, there have been many moments in my own story where this same fear, in a different form, helped to keep me safe by giving me important information about the environment I found myself in. Fear is, by all means, a natural, healthy response to a potentially dangerous situation and when I began to venture out into this wild world for myself, my mother’s fear motivated me to pay closer attention to my surroundings.
Fear can inspire us to act with greater awareness, to be prepared, to think deeply about our words and impact. Sometimes the only way to create safety is to acknowledge the potential dangers present to us, and potential danger inevitably creates fear.
I think the main idea behind this rhetoric is that fear keeps us from moving forward; however, fear does not have to be crippling and can often be tied to excitement. I think about the performer who is afraid of performing in front of a crowd and uses this fear to become even more impassioned about what they are putting forth and even more mindful about its content, to practice diligently, to use that difficult emotion to create a connection with an audience full of others who, most likely, share it, inspiring those who wish to step into the light to do so regardless of how scared they may be.
In my own life, I have come to realize that fear around social engagement indicates the potential for passion and a responsibility to myself and others, and that same fear that has kept me from stepping out can also be a large part of my motivation to follow through and take care. When someone in a position of leadership is able to acknowledge and share their fears with those who may be inclined to believe they have none, a sense of unity and empowerment is cultivated.
It is absurd to think that we aren’t meant to experience this profound and base-level human emotion. Fear moved early humans into caves and created family units, inspired us to cook our food, and listen closely to the world around us. Fear moved us to seek medicines and a deeper knowledge of flora and fauna. Fear motivates us to vet our leaders more closely and keep watch after our children when they are young and vulnerable, to wash our hands, and drink lots of water.
The more that we deny ourselves the acknowledgment of it, the more insidious it can become. Instead of acting to persecute someone we do not understand, we can recognize this as a fear of the unknown and use it to be curious and ask questions. When we cannot even see that fear is behind the urge to make everything into our likeness, how can we possibly begin to allow it to make us more curious? We can share this human experience with each other and create a community that looks out for one another rather than isolates and subjugates. We are all afraid of similar things, whether we like it or not.
When we look to our fears as something to be ashamed of, when we stay where we are under the idea that we must no longer be afraid in order to move forward, when we deny our fear and force our way of being onto others, we deny ourselves the opportunity to be brave and cultivate connection, and it is in these that we find true fulfillment.
The most courageous and inspiring acts did not come from people who were not afraid, but from those who acted regardless in order to create a safer world for their fellow humans.