If you’ve ever really stopped to think about the life you want and realized you’re not living it, it can be painful. You might even feel like a victim of your life, like life is just happening to you and you don’t know how to turn things around.
Beginning to realize and face your fears is critical to a turnaround; by changing yourself, you can impact everything around you. There are two basic kinds of fear we all have, and it’s important to examine from time to time how the more potent and challenging kind of fear impacts our lives.
First, we have a fear of things that happen, typically things that are beyond our control. We fear being alone. We fear growing old. We fear illness ravaging our bodies and stealing our vitality. We fear dying.
We can live in a way that will help us avoid some of these situations, but it’s our nature as humans to grow old and die. This is something we can’t change, but living from a place of fear and avoidance of the inevitable creates unnecessary suffering.
Second, we have a fear of things that require our action. This, to my mind, is a more potent and challenging fear, the kind we face on a regular basis, numerous times in a single day: meeting new people, taking exams, asking someone out on a date, interviewing for a new job, doing a home-improvement project, learning something new, dealing with stressful relationships, and countless other ways.
Day in and day out we face situations awakening our chatterbox: “I’ve never done this before.” “This is scary.” “Can I do this?” “I can’t do this.” “Will I succeed?” “People will see me for the fraud I am.”
This kind of fear frequently shows up in our procrastination, perfectionism, control issues, and a whole range of negative emotions. Ultimately, this fear is deeply connected to what we think of ourselves, how we see our place in the world, and our concern for what others think about us.
In everything we do, it is important to try to understand “the nature of the beast” — the essence of situations awakening the fear within us.
There are always two fundamental ways to do this: First, we have to be tuned in to ourselves, who we are, what we want, why we do what we do, how we interact with the world, and so on. That can feel overwhelming, but the more we work at it, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Second, we have to be aware of others, becoming proficient at reading their signs and signals, understanding what they need, interpreting whether their reactions are actually about them instead of about us.
Being equipped with this basic understanding of fear helps us to understand what we should accept, what we can change, and what is beyond our influence. It also helps us recognize what we need to take responsibility for and what others need to own for themselves.
We don’t have to change the world, just ourselves.