Fear almost kept me from a future with my wife.
When we first started hanging out as friends, I realized how out of my league she was.
She was an attorney, while I had just graduated from college and was interning at a church.
She was 5’11. Me? 5’9″ (This problem only got worse when she wore heels. We once attended a wedding where I think she elevated herself to 6’4″ while I remained at her armpit level.)
She was making more money than me, several times over.
I was beginning grad school, while she was beginning her career.
A mentor and I had a conversation about how “scared” I was. She intimidated me and from the beginning, I knew I was going to have to grow up and relate to her in a way I had never related to a girlfriend before now. I’ll never forget this mentor shared with me that day. “You can run from her or to her, Scott.”
I moved towards my fear and we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary earlier this month.
The Choice That Changes Everything
When it comes to dealing with our fears, those are our two options – run towards them or run away from them.
If I took a survey of everyone who reads this post, many of us would answer that we are defeated by fear on a daily basis. We tend to go with that latter option most of the time.
We stick with safe relationships. Our fears play off of our failures or wounds from someone else’s, pushing us to avoiding conflict and the trust it produces.
Fear holds us back from our dreams too. While we could take small steps today to move us closer to our goals, fear keep us frozen and inactive.
Fear keeps some of us bound up in cynicism. Because, after all, our expectations could be disappointed and what happened before could happen again. We wouldn’t want to risk that.
What Does the Voice of Fear Sound Like?
When you’re trying to determine whether to run towards or away from your fears, it’s important to discern what the voice of fear sounds like in your head. The voices we listen to shape the decisions we make.
Consider the Fear of failure. This fear says, “I failed before, I’ll fail again. I’m insecure, I don’t want other people to not like me because I’m in a pattern of failure. Why try again if I could fail?”
The fear of exposure sounds like shame. “I feel like a fake. Keep putting off the vibe that you have it all together. The truth is I’m barely hanging on. But we can’t let people know that we can’t handle it. So keep up the charade even though it feels futile.”
Think about the Fear of worthlessness and its mantras. “I disappointed other people. I made mistakes and I feel like one giant mistake. I’m an idiot. I’m just so sorry, I had no idea what I was thinking. When will I ever learn? I will never be enough or do well enough to be accepted and included…or even loved.” This voice wants to keep us stuck in our past and out of our future.
Unhelpful Cliches about Fear
I once heard someone define fear as F.E.A.R. – False Evidence Appearing Real. However, the problem is that cliche contains a half-truth. It is evidence that appears real, but sometimes it is real. Sometimes, the fear is grounded in relaity – it is rational. Our fears can come from true experience and accurate estimation of a situation. But they often do not tell the full, complete story.
Regardless, fear should not have the final word in a given situation. Fear is not false evidence, but simply incomplete evidence.
In my opening example with my wife, all the things which made me afraid of her contained some truth. She was older, taller, more financially-secure, and was establishing her career as I was still preparing for mine.
Yet, there was other evidence I needed to consider too before I made a final decision. She challenged me in a way I had been longing for in a relationship. She humbled me in ways my ego desperately needed. She liked me for me, not my height, money, success or status.
My decision – run to her or away from her – would be based largely on what evidence I believe to be most real and relevant.
I bring this subject up because we often make important decisions on less than accurate information. We must make sure we’re not simply examining false or incomplete evidence in how we process we fears.
We must look at what’s true, what’s false and what’s somewhere in the middle. Fear will always have a voice in our lives, but it shouldn’t get the final decision and it shouldn’t be the loudest thing we hear.
We all make a choice of what to do with our fears – we can either run towards fear or we can run away from it. What we decide to do will make all the difference.
Stories of overcoming fear
This blog is dedicated to helping readers like you overcome fear and live with courage and hope. I’d love to begin telling stories of people – real people like you – who choose courage over fear, who follow their fears to a courageous life that makes them feel alive and significant. If you’ve overcome a fear recently, I’d love to share it in a future post. Truthfully, you don’t have to be overcome by your fears. You can live with courage and hope. But you’ll have to run towards you fear. You’ll have to follow your fears as they show you the way to what you’ve always wanted.
Jack Canfield once said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
So what lies on the other side of fear for you?
Leave a comment below or send me an email, sharing about how you are overcoming your fears, embracing courage and living with hope.