We’ve all felt it before. The thrill and excitement of fear. It’s a scary thing and yet fear is at times also life-giving. Why does fear sometimes paralyze us and at other times propels us into motion? Why do certain individuals radiate fearlessness and others seem stuck and paralyzed by fear? What about the question, “if I weren’t afraid, what would I do?” These are all the questions we’ll dig into today so hold on tight. It’s going to be good.
Awhile back Jay and I were at our neighborhood wine bar and we asked each other this one question, “what’s your biggest fear?”. Date night convo, anyone? Without skipping a beat, I answered, “that I’m not loved”. Ouch. What was that and where did that come from? Actually, scratch that investigation into the past, I was more interested in how this fear was affecting me right here right now. My biggest fear is to not be loved? We talked more and went onto different topics, but after that night, I kept pondering that question and not only the idea of not being loved, but the idea of fear in and of itself.
I’m not typically one that gives into fear. I’ve been conditioned to push past physical limitations, speak when I’m scared, and overall see fear as a challenge, not an enemy. Maybe this was cultural conditioning of an immigrant mentality where you just had to tough it out because pain wasn’t the enemy, lack was. Weakness meant that someone else would take your spot, being sick and staying home meant that you couldn’t provide for your family. Regardless of where these beliefs come from, it’s important for us to see that these are real and they are running the plays of our life for us. Fear had me following the rules at work, on the field, and in life. I can’t tell you how many times I did the “right” thing, not realizing that other people didn’t. Literally, not cutting corners on the field as I ran laps watching others who would. What does this have to do with fear? It has everything to do with fear.
Which fear is more important?
There have been two fears that have run the plays in my life. The first one is the fear of failure. The other is the fear of not being loved. You can replace the word loved with admired, respected. When I looked closely at it, I began to realize that they are one and the same. Why would I fear failure so much that I was willing to push myself mentally, physically and emotionally to do whatever it takes to succeed? It was because I feared not being loved. What does that even mean? Why does being loved matter? Good question.
What happens when you fail?
If you’re an achiever, just thinking about failure makes your stomach turn. When I fail, I don’t live up to expectations. When I fail, I’m not a good daughter. When I fail, I’m not a good person. When I fail, I’m not a good employee. When I fail, I’m not a good mom, wife, leader, etc. The list goes on and on. If this was the case, you can see why failure is not an option. Failure means that you don’t deserve goodness in your life. What does failure look like? Failure can be anything from a bad conversation to yelling at your kids to getting poor feedback to getting rejected to not getting the clients to not living up to any of your expectations. Why would I be loved if I don’t deserve it? Failure means I don’t deserve to be loved. This was the train of thought and I bet you’ve seen it operating for yourself or others consciously or subconsciously.
Now what? I know I’m going to fail no matter what I do. How do I make this less painful? How do I lessen the burden of failure? Most importantly, how do I decouple self worth from failure so I can experience true freedom? What about the big failure that could come if I stop staying on the path that i’m currently on and decide to pursue a new one? What about big vs little failures? These were the questions I’ve been asking myself time and time again. As a doer, I face failure constantly – and in order to keep going down these new paths of career change, personal development, and working on all aspects of my life – I’ve failed a lot. What’s kept me sane the whole time was when I finally began to cut the cords and separate my self worth from my achievements. This is what allowed me to change careers, have more time with my family, walk the walk and actually live my values. When I stopped seeing my innate humanness from the outside as the things I had or have done, and instead saw it from the inside as the ways in which I act and live, I realized this: happiness is truly an inside job.
Imagine that these fears are real. They are these things that surround you from the outside and keep everything else at bay. It’s your armor of sorts. This armor of fear protects you from the outside world penetrating your sense of worth. If I build up a wall of achievements driven by fear, no one can say anything about me. If I build up a wall of perfection, I will be flawless. But what if you now see these fears as rods made of light that you can actually take down from around you and instead, use them to build a path for you to walk on. It’s this idea of actually seeing the fear and using it.
This is the thrill of fear.
Fear is in actuality a limiting belief. Not only that, it can cloud the ultimate force of creation and expansion – clarity. I had a fear that family was going to limit my ability to be successful in my career. So instead of tending to my family in terms of time and even talking about them in conversation at work, I would pretend that I had no restrictions in terms of travel or work hours. What was the fear? That I would be looked at as weak or less committed because I had a family. But what if I dismantled the fear? What would it look like if I was to remove that as a fear? I would then be able to ask the question that drives clarity – what is it that I want? With tha clarity, I could then dismantle the fear and turn it into a belief and thought that would serve me. Instead of thinking that family was a limitation, what if I believed that family is going to increase my ability to be successful. By talking about my family and by making my commitments in terms of time at home known, I would increase my worth in my work and career. This is powerful. Why? Because this is authentic, aligned with my values and most importantly, a decision. Decisions come from a place of CHOICE. Choice denotes personal power. This is you stating that you are worthy.
Instead of using fear to cripple you, fear is your ability to find freedom. Because once I was upfront about my commitments and what I truly cared about, I had a point of power. When you add up enough points of power that are coming from your true values, then you do become bigger than your fears. Your fears become the path upon which you walk and each step you take lights you up even further. Can you see now how this changes your perspective entirely? You can now see each fearful thought, each shadow part of ourselves that we are hiding or have been hiding, and use it as our unique calling card. I used to be afraid to share that I was working a 9-5 and creating a business coaching, writing, podcasting on the evenings and the weekends. Now I see it as just me and the way I work. Of course I do both. I don’t have to choose. It’s always been an AND conversation for me because they both light me up in different ways!
How to Find Your Fears
Now, I do an inventory of my fears as an exercise. I ask myself, what is keeping me from doing the thing I want? What belief do I have? What fear do I have? As I continue to expand my capacity in the world, new beliefs or fears arise and if I want to continue walking this path of light, I’ve got to pluck each fear down and use it. Instead of ignoring it and hoping it goes away, I ask myself, what can I do about this fear? What are my options for handling this? What can I do right now to take one tiny step forward into a more aligned way of living?
This idea of sharing more and more of the truth of who we are is often rooted in overcoming fear and remembering how much we are truly worth. How much we are loved not by others, but by ourselves. Love yourself enough to see your fears and ask yourself that question, “what is my biggest fear?” and “what would I do if I weren’t afraid?” I hope the answer and the fear thrills you as you start to see the way forward.
If you liked today’s episode and want to figure out what’s next for you, you’re going to want to join a new program I’m launching called Intuitive Leadership coaching. Intuitive Leadership Coaching is a 4 month group coaching program where we will dive into the 4 pillars that will take that yearning within for what’s next and bring it to life. We’ll start off with a bonus 1:1 coaching session and Akashic record reading and group call, and meet twice a month to work through and uncover what’s within, so you can lead with confidence, meaning, and true alignment with who you are. Check out the details at www.mayempson.com/intuitiveleadership. 50% of the proceeds will go to the NAACP LDF. We start soon so I wouldn’t wait!