Fear has been my teacher since I was young, and it hasn’t been easy.
Nobody ever said it would be simple, but nobody mentioned it was going to be so hard either.
For starters, I could not get what fear was trying to teach me. I have vague memories of being extremely young, scared, and hiding behind my mom’s maxi skirts. I was afraid of strangers; I was afraid of disappointing the adults in my life; I was afraid of being the pretty but chubby kid my mum had been; I was afraid of not being loved.
Does all this ring a bell? If it does, I have good news for you; fear can turn out to be your tutor. You can learn so much when you stop running away from fear and look at it in the eye. Fear is so worried about protecting you that it sometimes misleads you. It is stressful, I know. Your nervous system suddenly goes into stress mode and it fights, flees, or freezes.
As crazy as this may sound, your fear is messing up your mind just because, as I mentioned before, it wants you to be safe. In effect, when you are used to feeling worried and afraid, you might feel in danger when you are finally at ease with yourself. You might start hearing messages like, “Are you sure you can be so relaxed?” “What if this unexpected thing happens?” “Don’t you need to keep moving to avoid looking like a loser?” and the inner voice goes on and on.
My fear teacher taught me to engage in dialogue with my anxiety, worries, and/or apprehension. Those emotions point to the places that we need to tend to, and they have most of their roots in our life experiences, education, and our role models.
I have learned I have a tendency to get anxious in the face of changes because at home, we were serial controllers. My mum, may she rest in peace, did more than was humanly possible to avoid being smacked in the face by surprises. She was a clever woman whose mere presence influenced me.
As a result, I used to find uncertainty unsettling too. Starting a new course, hobby, sport, and relationship were all reasons for me to feel like I was walking on shaky ground. Over time, I learned to listen to my most awake Self, and I acquired the skill to name things by their name, “Going out with this person makes me nervous. That’s okay. You’re in a threshold with somebody you don’t know that well. Normal.”
I am quite proud of myself now because I got used to going ahead with novelty understanding that my anxiety is not a sign of my capacity or lack of it but a result of my upbringing. Key to all this is understanding that we can rewire our brains and relate to our emotions mindfully and self-compassionately.
I remember I used to worry about not pleasing people. My worth was enmeshed with everybody’s approval. I am happy to report now that I have woken up from the trance to hold space for my uneasiness and to shine a light on boundary setting and respecting my needs. I know the person that looks at me in the mirror is loving, kind, and powerful beyond measure regardless of whether others accept me or not.
Fear also taught me I must recalibrate and reset in a multilayered way. I used to think that my big emotions could only be cared for by seeing a therapist and getting “a-ha” moments about why they happened.
Even though our therapeutic work is highly important, it is just a portion of the work. I have been in therapy since I was 21, but no transformation takes place at the level of understanding only. I know now I need to contribute to my well-being in a holistic fashion—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Due to my anxious tendencies, I need to relax my body through grounding exercises, breath work, and learning when it is necessary to move more slowly to be able to take things up feeling at ease.
On an emotional level, I have learned to question my limiting beliefs, to adopt a growth mindset, and to open up and ask for help whenever necessary. On a more spiritual note, I find refuge in my daily meditations, my prayers, and my walks outdoors where I feel one with everything.
I am not saying that my lessons with fear were a bed of roses. They have been more like a dance where I made several steps forward and then a few steps back.
The most important lesson I’ve had with my fear teacher is to relax and feel safe in the here and now. Embracing who I am, learning to live from the inside out, and letting the light come in through my cracks have helped me soar with freedom.
May your soul also expand and unfold. May you also see that fear is here to help you.