Using Fear as a Helpful Tool

When I was a kid, I thought fear was something you eventually grew out of. You’d come to a point in your life when you’d have such deep confidence that every new thing would be a total adventure and not something scary.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that fear is a part of every worthwhile new venture. I’ve been told that if you’re not afraid when you’re about to get married that you’re not in reality about what you’re about to do. And who isn’t nervous the first time they go on a professional interview or when buying their first house.

So I’ve been thinking about fear lately as I’m making changes in my life. A recent ski trip was the best analogy for how I handle fear now. I can ski easy and intermediate blue runs. When I’m on an intermediate slope looking over the edge of that steep hill, I’m afraid. But once I start skiing, I remember, “Ah, I know how to do this.” And I feel the challenge of being at the edge of my ability.

This the kind of fear I’ve learned to gently press through. When I have these types of challenges, whether skiing or creating art or teaching a class for the first time, I find that when I step into what I’m afraid of, the fear almost instantly disappears and I’m enjoying myself like I do skiing down an intermediate blue run.

Now other times, I have unintentionally gotten on an advanced blue ski run. I look down the steep, narrow hill and feel fear again. In this situation, there’s no turning back, so I go. But since this is beyond my skill level, I feel terror the whole way. I use an enormous amount of effort to get down without having a serious fall. By the time I finish the run, I’ve lost my confidence and I’m physically exhausted.

It’s not productive for me to push through this kind of fear, unless I have no choice like in the case of accidentally getting on a difficult ski run. So if I’m afraid to do something I’m considering doing and I start to do it and my fear sustains or increases, I know it’s time to back off and try something different. I’m not ready for that challenge yet. I don’t want to have to take time to recover from the lack of confidence pushing through a situation like this would cause. It actually sets me back.

I love dealing with fear this way. I’m not limited by my fears. But instead I use fear in a way that helps me know what will be a fun new adventure and what I need to do further work on before I attempt it.

Reconnecting with myself

Sometimes when I get really busy, I lose touch with myself. This happened last week when my job scheduled me for 40% more hours than normal the same week I was teaching my class, Surfing Your Enthusiasm, to a group for the first time. I was juggling the extra hours, my every day responsibilities, and preparing for my very first group lesson.

Today, I got a day off to myself. Before bed last night, my husband kept asking what I was going to do today. My reply, “I don’t know…things that make me feel good.” It was a relief not to have a plan.

This morning, I woke up in a Day of the Dead mood.

This led to looking up my favorite children’s books about Day of the Dead, which drew me to Crafty Chica’s beautiful Mexican-style craft book.

These I added to my Christmas wishlist.

I then found out it was too late to sign up for the Rachel Brice belly dance workshop I was so looking forward to. I pulled out the sound track to Frida and mourned my loss with that deep, soul-wrenching Mexican music.

One of my favorite ways to reconnect with myself is to follow what I’m drawn to in the moment.  Many times there’s a theme like there was today, but I never force it. Ahhhh..I’m back!

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