Your stomach feels like it’s being tied into knots, the muscles in your neck and shoulders tighten, your heart rate quickens and it becomes increasingly difficult to breathe. This is your body’s reaction to sensing fear. And the same reaction happens whether the danger you perceive is of imminent harm or is an ongoing apprehension, or whether the potential threat is to your body, emotions or spirit. Regardless of the source, or of how big or how small the fear, our first instinct is to do anything we can to make the undesirable feelings go away. When we cannot escape from the source of fear physically we dissociate ourselves mentally. We place our focus on anything that distracts us from the real issue. We don’t like the uneasiness sensed in our body so we disconnect in an attempt to not feel anything. So while fear in the face of imminent danger can give us the “fight or flight” adrenaline rush, mental clarity and edge to save ourselves, other ongoing fears result in habitual, and often subconscious, behaviours such as self-distraction, dissociation, denial and suppression.
This reaction to our fear keeps us from taking actions that could help us to grow and to experience life beyond our comfort zones. And as such, fear can keep us from discovering who we really are and what we are capable of achieving. In its most basic form, our fears are fueled by beliefs such as: “What if I fail?”, “What will people think?”, “I’m not smart enough” or “I don’t deserve it”. These are limiting beliefs which are typically formed in childhood as we are told what we can and cannot do and they’re then reinforced as we experience life. Self-limiting beliefs are often based on wrong “facts” and our minds create an imaginary basis of reality. These beliefs can hold us back from taking necessary action that facilitates growth.
Resistance to taking action is based on fear and is reinforced by beliefs of what we feel we are capable of, or what we’re not. The greatest obstacle to your own evolution may in fact be you! When you allow fear to prevent you from taking action, you have given into self-doubt. In any given situation, you are responsible for your decisions and only you can decide to move beyond your fears. It may be easier to act out of habit and to stay in your comfort zone than to challenge yourself and face your fears. Fear-based decisions are fabricated by the mind to keep you exactly where you are and are further supported by your own insecurities. The simple truth is that you will never know what is truly possible until you face your fears. When you look at what you have been fearing for what it is and not what it represents; you may see that that which you have been fearing is not so terrifying after all.
My own fear of failure and insecurities in my abilities almost kept me from pursuing my ambitions to become a chiropractor. A serious illness had interrupted my studies during my final year of Chiropractic College. After 5 years of intense rehabilitation, I decided that I wanted to complete my education in the hopes of graduating as a chiropractor. I was given the opportunity to return to school to complete my internship but my mind became overwhelmed by all the perceived obstacles that I would have to face. The Chiropractic College was in Toronto; my support network was in Ottawa; everyone that I knew had long since graduated; the illness had left me with on-going balance and strength challenges. I questioned my physical strength to live independently and to perform as a Chiropractic intern. I questioned my ability to meet the challenging workload and board examinations, considering my 5 year absence. The fear that I was not strong enough or smart enough to successfully complete Chiropractic College almost kept me from taking advantage of the amazing opportunity that was offered to me. I was terrified to go back to school, but once I made it there it didn’t seem so terrifying. The fear that I lacked the ability to treat patients and to write exams quickly dissolved as I put my focus on what I could do instead of what I could not do. The worst case scenarios that I had allowed my mind to conjure up never became reality. Despite the uncertainty, setbacks, and frustration I learned that I had the courage, determination and abilities to face and overcome my fears and insecurities. In 2010, I graduated as a Doctor of Chiropractic and actually received an award of merit for my accomplishments.
“Let your dreams be bigger than your fears, your actions louder than your words, and your faith stronger than your feelings.” (author unknown)