Fear is driving a lot of behavior in our society. I do not subscribe to the typical definition, though. I define it as False Evidence Appearing Real.
I say this because fear is rarely in the present moment; it’s usually some concern about a potential future event. And since we can’t know what the future holds, why spend precious time worrying about something that may never happen?
And yet we do.
We fear that Social Security will go broke before we’ve collected our benefits. We fear that our kids and grandkids won’t be able to afford their own homes. We fear needing more time, health, or money to enjoy what’s still on our bucket list.
Most fear is false because it will never happen. Fear of failure or change can paralyze us, preventing us from taking responsibility for needed action. It can also keep us from fulfilling our dreams.
I know people, and I’m sure you do, too, who are so afraid that they feel like a tinderbox waiting to explode. “What if” is one of their favorite questions. What if the plane crashes? What if I get cancer? I want to say, “But right now, none of those things is real.”
If the teachers and philosophers are correct in that what we focus on expands, or, said another way, our thoughts held today manifest our reality tomorrow, then fearful thoughts make the likelihood of a disaster more possible. It’s why we were taught to affirm the positive rather than deny the negative. If I declare that I will lose weight, I’m keeping weight in my consciousness. However, if I affirm that I am healthy in every way, I’m putting a steady dose of health into my consciousness.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to bring hope as he asserted in his inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
This mantra is what I used when I got caught in a cycle of fear about whether I’d have enough money to retire. Instead of staying in that trap, I pursued the opposite truth. For years, I have been affirming, “I always have enough money to spend, save, and share.” This affirmation has become my reality because my perception changed from “not enough” to “more than enough.”
There are times when fear can serve us. Of course, we’ll teach a child not to run into the street to avoid the cars speeding by. But I offer that most fear is wasted energy.
In my coaching practice, I often hear from people who want to succeed but are afraid of failure. That’s when I dust off one of my favorite inspirational passages from author Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate; 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?… As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
In full disclosure, I must admit that for as long as I can remember, I’ve feared heights, of being up in the air without anything to hold onto. Every time I drive over one of the mile-high overpasses of Dallas’ highway system, I have a visceral reaction. Recently, I’ve begun to work on that fear, reminding myself that, ‘right now, I am perfectly fine.”
So, like all of us, I’m a work in progress. Thankfully I have a great set of tools and my faith to remind me that I am safe.