Fear is an emotion most of us would just as soon remove from our lives. I know I would!
And yet fear can be such a useful thing. If it is not paralyzing, it can be motivating. If it is not intimidating, it can be transformational. If it is not isolating, it can set us free.
Are these ideas simply platitudes? Not for me.
I was raised by a grandmother who was full of pithy sayings, one of which was, “Get up! Nothing good happens when you are too afraid to get out of bed.”
It wasn’t until I had reached my mid-thirties and had lived through some of the challenges life can throw at us that I learned how wise her words were. Even if my legs were shaking and I felt like throwing up, nothing at all would happen if I never got out of bed!
My grandmother was one of the most courageous women I have ever known. Her childhood was unbelievably hard. I would never wish it on anyone. But it taught her about fear and courage and the value of sheer grit. I am so grateful for her and her life lessons.
Pondering her wisdom caused me to think about other women with something to say about fear. Once I had assembled these quotes, I realized there is an interesting theme that runs through their words. See if you can spot it.
“Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.” Maya Angelou – American Poet, Memoirist, and Civil Rights Activist
“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world.” Marianne Williamson – American Author, Spiritual Leader, Politician and Activist
“I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive… rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” J.K. Rowling – British Author of Harry Potter Series, the Best-Selling Book Series in History
“Our courage was stronger than our fear. And that what really changed our lives was fear. And that was the fear…that really motivated me to have the courage to speak out.” Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani Education Activist and Youngest Nobel Prize Laureate
“A crazy thing happened – the very act of doing the thing that scared me undid the fear. It’s amazing the power of one word. ‘Yes’ changed my life. ‘Yes’ changed me.” Shonda Rhimes – Prolific American Television Producer
“Whenever I’m afraid of a skill, I count to three and hope for the best.” Simone Biles – Most Decorated American Olympic Gymnast of All Time
“People say to me all the time, ‘You have no fear.’ I tell them, ‘No, that’s not true. I’m scared all the time. You have to have fear in order to have courage. I’m a courageous person because I’m a scared person.” Ronda Rousey – American Professional Wrestler
Here are a few things I spotted in these quotes:
- Not one of these outwardly courageous women and girls were unafraid.
- They all credit fear as the thing that galvanized their actions.
- They are all world-famous for their achievements.
- They all agree with my grandmother!
The great news is that for most of us, our fears are more existential. We are not facing saber tooth tigers that might eat us, though in modern life there is the rare situation in which we might be the victim of crime or disaster.
In most situations, I encourage my clients to keep a few things in mind when they are facing their own fears. Ask yourself:
- “Is there anything I can think or do differently that will help me move past this fear?”
- “Can I reframe the thing or situation that I am afraid of so that I can place it in perspective?”
- “What would my life be like if I could move past my fear? What could I do or enjoy when I have vanquished this fear?”
Fear is not a pleasant emotion, but it is an important one. It can encourage us to act, to transform or to free ourselves to realize our dreams. And even though our dreams may not be as grand as the women I have quoted here, they are important to us, our families and our communities.
I wish you the courage to move past your fears to get up, speak up, say yes, learn something new and live the life you really want.