“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life.” • Yann Martel, Life of Pi
Fear is a normal part of being human. It is part of your hard-wiring and is a normal response to new stimuli.
When you move into a new experience, fear, which resides in the ego, steps up to say, “Are you sure this is safe? I’m not feeling comfortable here. Get back in that comfort zone where you belong.”
This is useful when you are encountering real danger. It is not so useful when you are simply trying to grow, to stretch yourself into a new skill or a new way of interacting with the world.
The spiritual aspect of your being is meant to grow and evolve, but for this to happen, you’re going to have to deal with the human aspect. You’re going to have to get used to recognizing and dealing with fear.
Much of the fear you encounter was programmed in your first years of life. It has moved into your subconscious, just out of reach of your logical radar, ready to emerge when the right button gets pushed.
Fear can appear through different levels of your being. But that’s ok, because when you see it happening, you can choose how you’re going to handle it.
When you step up to make a change, here are some of the tricky ways fear steps forward to stop you:
Fear at the Mental Level
Fear manifests at the mental level when you become closed off to any new, out-of-the-box idea because it is in conflict with a pre-existing belief.
We all know people like this. They won’t try anything new, whether it’s a new food, or an activity they’ve not done before. They like routine and consistency. When you introduce a new idea, they will often staunchly argue their point of view without listening to you, or shut the discussion down completely.
This is the ego interfering with the ability to accept new ideas because of a deep fear of change at the mental level.
Fear at the Emotional Level
When the fear of change manifests at this level, you see people who may entertain new ideas, but they are never really able to put these ideas into action.
These are the folks who talk about changing their diet, standing up for themselves, or making some other positive shift, but they do not follow through.
Taking this kind of new action requires an internal shift. These people experience self-limiting fears and find it very difficult to believe in their own personal power and their ability to make change. Their emotional blocks get in the way of their ability to move their lives forward.
Fear at the Physical Level.
Some people will accept new ideas and take new action, but still stop their actions before they can manifest new results.
This type of person will go to the gym for a few weeks, and then stop abruptly, or set a boundary with someone a time or two, then revert back to their typical behavior. They may start a new training program or begin looking for a different job, but not follow through. They will have lots of justified reasons as to why they “had” to stop the change they started.
What this person has to deal with is fear about the physical changes their new actions will manifest. This can show up in lots of different ways. An example would be a fear of having to move out or change their living situation if they upset a partner. Or they may fear the impact of a new physical appearance, i.e. more attention from the opposite sex.
To make a change, you must be able to recognize how your fear manifests and be ready to take action in spite of it. There’s no avoiding it. If you are going to change, fear will be right there beside you. You might as well figure out how to know it when it appears and how to get along.
It is important to remember that behavior occurs in the gap between intention and action. Be clear in your intention and stay steady. In every moment, you are taking action that either moves you toward or away from the person you want to be and the life you want to have.
Be brave and keep moving.
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” • Eleanor Roosevelt