Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Embracing Fear

As I was recounting an argument had between family members to my Auntie Em, it dawned on me to go ahead and blog about it - fear.

What is fear? If you don't know, go look it up. This ain't Webster's Dictionary. And this is my blog, so don't go thinking that I'm going to give you the right answer. I'm giving you mine.

Fear, to me, is a motivator. Fear is practically my compass. That which I am afraid of, I know I must do. I don't have a fear of jumping out of airplanes, even though I've never done it. But since I don't fear it, I don't do it.

I feared leaving a stable, cushy job. So I knew I had to do it. I feared being a foreigner in a country where I didn't speak the language. That told me that that was the right decision for me. While I think I was a failure because I hardly picked up any of the language and I didn't go out very often by myself, at least I left the country for a time, which is a success.

I'm not saying I've done everything I'm afraid of. One great example is working out at a gym. I hate the gym. I went in KC for a period of time, but I can't say I enjoyed it. I always took the treadmills at the back so no one could see my rump bubbling underneath my sweats, and the weights? Forget it. So that's a fear that I have yet to reconcile long-term - I met it once, but right now, I exercise in the comfort of my own living room...kinda like you people with Wiis, but without the console. Hey, lookit that - I just justified not having to come to terms with my fear....

(Ahem, moving on.) What I find interesting is how people respond to fear. Change is constant, so you'd better get used to it, right? But what about fear? There's a lot of fear in the air these days. And how do people deal with it? A lot of people I see don't deal with it. If they're afraid to travel, they stay home. If they're afraid of their retirement (or lack thereof), they don't open up their brokerage statements. (And if you do, have a chair handy because you may faint from seeing your 401k turn into a 201k.)

I think if you aren't careful and can't deal with fear in a healthy way, it will consume you in ways you can't really see or don't notice. You may become depressed, or sleep too much, or develop ulcers. I suppose people don't deal with fear because it makes them uncomfortable, and why in the world would you want to make yourself uncomfortable, especially when you have a neighbor, a loved one, a boss, a movie, do it for you?

Because this is where growth comes from, people. When you face your fears, you build character. You stretch that courage muscle, and before long, that courage muscle will bulge because you've conquered your fears. There are some fears that you'll never get over. I will forever be a little wary of rain if I'm not on a hill ever since I lived unknowingly-but-intuitively in a flood zone. That doesn't mean I'll be living in a flood zone to face my fear. What it will mean is talking myself out of becoming worried when after 15 minutes, the water works still haven't shut off. That uncomfortable feeling will go away, but you have to acknowledge that you have it, and while you feel like heaving out your insides with a spade, rest assured that the feeling will pass. It could take awhile, but it will pass. And if you find that your fear is debilitating, for Cher's sake, go get professional help. Once I have my master's, you can come to me if you like! But don't stop living just because you're afraid. Take one step at a time to overcome your fear.

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