When I was a little girl, I was afraid of the dark. I mean terrified, and no matter what my parents said or did, nothing calmed my fears. For certain there were vampires hiding in my closet, or aliens waiting to get me under my bed. I was sure of it. So, for years I slept with the lights on.
What I didn’t know back then was that there are bigger things than aliens and vampires to be scared of. That the real life trials many of us have to go through, or will have to go through, make the Boogey Man look like Pooh Bear.
When I went to BlogHer this year, I ran into a bunch of people that I haven’t seen since before to the accident. A few of these women looked at me in awe and called me fearless. That I was so strong and unafraid to power through such a difficult time. And as much as I appreciate and would like to accept their admiration, I have to tell you, they’re wrong.
I’ve had some serious trials in my life, but I can’t think of a single time that I could call myself fearless. Because honestly, I was afraid.
I think people confuse bravery with the lack of other options.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think that there are brave people in this world. You see acts of heroism in the news every day. You hear about people rushing into burning buildings to save other’s lives. There are reports about men and women going into gunfire to save another hurt soldier. That is bravery. That is fearless.
But sometimes bravery is not a choice. Sometimes being fearless is because every other option is not an option.
Last year when the doctors told me that I’d have to receive a blood transfusion after the accident or die, what was I going to do? Reject it? No options there.
This past week while I was at BlogHer, my oldest son got his driver’s permit which totally scares the crap out of me. But what can I do about that? Tell him he can never drive a car because I’m afraid a distracted driver will kill him?
My longtime readers know that I’m afraid to fly. And after trying everything from hypnosis to counseling to conquer that fear, it’s still there. My only option would be never to travel. That’s not an option at all considering that I’m an explorer at heart.
The way I look at fear is this…
You can either look at fear as if it’s dragging you along through the gravel of life while you hold on by your fingertips, getting the worst case of road rash as you’re pulled along OR you can ride fear like it’s an untamed stallion and do your best to stay on top of it without being bucked off.
The only difference between the two is your mindset. One is a reactive mindset and the other is a proactive mindset. Will you get to the same ending? Sure you will. But the reactive mindset makes you feel like you don’t have any control over the situation. The fear is controlling you and influences your choices.
That’s a scary place to be. Feeling like you have no control over a situation makes you feel like life is just happening to you. And life can be a bitch sometimes.
So, how does one get on top of that very tall stallion of fear so that you can get a handful of that mane to give yourself a fighting chance? I thought you’d never ask…
Find a place to think. If you have the luxury of time to process your fears, look for a quiet space where you can think and mull it over. Please do not confuse this with dwelling. They are two distinctly different things. You need time to look at your fear from every angle to best assess how you are going to deal with it.
Remove yourself from any chaos or noise. This helps you focus and gather your thoughts. Being alone and solely focusing on your fear for a bit gives you a chance to get a handle on it. That’s half of the battle.
Look fear in the eyes. What is the worst possible outcome? That is the very first thing I do in every single crisis I’ve faced. I figure if I can recognize the worst it could be, than everything else will seem easier by comparison.
Figure out if you can handle the fear on your own or not. I’m the kind of person who goes inward when fear strikes. I need to shut everyone else out in order to come to grips with stuff. That’s just me.
But there are plenty of people who feel stronger when they share their fears with others. If that’s you, ask a friend to come along your side. Sometimes your friends will hold back on offering support in order to not overstep their bounds. Let them know you need them.
Prayer or meditation. Really, this should be up towards the top with the whole quiet place thing, but I’m pretty sure if you have a faith, you’d probably already be doing this from the get go.
One thing that bears mentioning here, just because you are faith filled does not mean your faith is weak if you are afraid. There have been plenty of times that I’ve trusted God and was still terrified. I am human, after all. In times like that my prayer has literally been…
Dear God, I’ve got nothing down here to work with. I’m out of hope/energy/choices/time. I quit. It’s your turn to drive this bus.
Because sometimes my GPS of life is broken, you know?
Cry. There is something healing about shedding tears. Let the things come. I don’t know what it is about crying, but I often times feel better when I’m done. Drained, yes, but better. Crying is not a sign of weakness. It’s a cleansing process that I don’t totally understand, but I get it enough to recognize the power in it.
Seek professional help if you need it. If you find that nothing is helping you come to grips, reach out to a professional who can help you. Ask your primary care physician for a referral. Once again, this is not a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it’s a sign of wisdom that you recognize that you need help. Don’t be ashamed.
While these are just some of the ways I’ve dealt with fear, there are many more. Everyone deals with fear differently. These are just the ones that I recognize work for me. Fear by nature is a scary thing. And there are precious few of us who are truly fearless.
My hope for you is that you have the strength to ride fear out. Because when the ride is over, your character will be that much stronger because of it.