When this year started, I chose the word Fearless to be my word of the year. I intentionally did not choose “being brave”, because brave, I can be. And I can be brave in the face of fear. What I cannot be is fearless. Even when being brave there is a fear element rooted in it. And whilst they say being brave is about facing your fears, I would like to spend only some time facing them and less time having them. So if not entirely fearless, at least less fearful.
How do you get rid of fears?
I guess the old saying of facing your fears is true, that is likely the best way to get rid of them. However, I think the traditional thought sees facing fears with a sword and a helm, charging over and leaving all those nasty fears behind. At least in my mind, that looks like a pretty good picture. What we tend to (try) to ignore is that if we leave them behind, they come right after us. They are worse than cats, they have countless lives (don’t worry, I love cats).
So whilst I probably started this year with the conviction I had to do more of the charge ahead motion picture scene, I start to wonder if I should be stopping to have a chat with the enemy. Yes, chatting to my fears. This is when you think I lost it.
Fear is not a nice feeling. It is not something you want to deal with. You just want out, ideally in a conclusive way. It is a bit like a nightmare. I grew up with nightmares, I have them since I can remember. And I still use the present tense because nightmares are extremely prevalent in my sleep. The good thing (if there can be any) about having so many of them is that i) I developed an expertise in waking myself up when it is too much, and ii) I go back to them 10 times until I sort them out. Great night of sleep huh?
These days, Little Girl C shows up shaking often in the middle of the night, disturbed by her latest nightmare. After she gives me the main idea of the nightmare (she always wants to get it out), I go on to chat with her about something nice that can help her get out of her fear and go back to sleep. Dwell on it? It is 3am, we all want to sleep, not the right time. The fears are still there. Hers and mine. But we’ll chat later.
Connecting with fear
Catia tells me I like to rationalize but not to connect. Connecting is too painful. It makes you feel the fear, feel the bad feeling, BE, without running away. The few times I have embarked on it over the last few months, I have had a hard time. Not that I avoid it (I think), but she insists that I am applying logic to therapy rather than connecting. Apparently, I am logically emotional. I struggle to see how connecting and feeling bad can help me. Isn’t therapy meant to make you feel better? Can’t I just rationalize my way out? Here I go again right?
Today, I told her that maybe I would give in to connect. Yesterday, I started facing up-close and personal one of my biggest fears – disappointing others. It was physically painful and mentally draining. Whilst the outcomes were possibly entirely aligned with my expectations, the fear was just there. I had long scripts and prepared words. All the justifications of why I was making sense. All the reasons of why I should be “approved”.
Yes, it is tiring to be me, I have heard that one before. But indeed, that is how my system works. Apparently, I fear disapproval.
The positive side of fear
Fear tends to lead you to action. So in a way, you can argue fear is ok. It is probably the case for most people. It is like the hidden critic that leads you to improve yourself every time. If fear makes you act than it should be fine right? So, so I guess. As everything in life, there is a balance to it. Fear is what has kept human kind alive through generations. It is what activates our fight or flight mode. What drives survival decisions in the face of danger. So fear cannot be all bad.
What I did find over the last weeks and as I observe myself, is that everything in life needs a balance. And fear is no different. When it starts consuming you, limiting you, stopping you, then it is just not about being brave really. It is about facing your fears and going to the root of it. And no, you may not need therapy to do it by the way, just a fair amount of self-awareness.
It is my turn to connect
Today, I don’t write as much to share a solution. It is more of a commitment. A commitment to connect and be willing to connect with this huge fear of disapproval that I have. I always thought I did not have Impostor Syndrome. But maybe this is what it means to me. So I will connect to what it makes me feel, to the storm of emotions that it causes in me. Because for 2021, I want to be fearless.