Contrary to the popular belief, I don't embrace fearlessness. I used to. But, I don't anymore.
I've heard the modified definitions of fearlessness, and while they don't fully resonate with me, I can appreciate a different perspective. However, this article addresses the textbook definition of fearlessness, which is to be without fear.
We have a tendency to dismiss fear as weakness, but it's not that simple. Over the years, I've come to understand fear as incredibly useful and here are a few of the things I've learned.
1. Courage and fear go hand in hand.
I used to think that people were courageous when they chose to do things I would be afraid to do. I was wrong. They could only be courageous in doing things they were afraid to do. Bravery doesn't exist in the absence of trepidation.
I mistakenly assigned the characteristic of courage to others wishing I had the same. What I once failed to see was that I possessed the one requirement of courage -- a fear to be faced head on. I came to understand that fear doesn't negate courage. It beckons it.
2. Physiology can be misleading.
The bottom line is that fear is intended to keep us safe. Most people are familiar with the fight-or flight response. When our lives are threatened, physiology kicks in to protect us. We are hardwired for self-preservation.
Unfortunately, we may also feel a similar response to unfamiliar albeit non-threatening situations. Things that feel uncomfortable to us also put us on alert. For some, the response is just as intense whereas others experience an attenuated version.
We often get our signals crossed and respond to change with the same fervor as something that has the power to destroy us. Adrenaline doesn't always mean resist or run...which leads us to the third point.
3. Fear is instructive.
When we've established that life indeed is not in danger, fear becomes useful in a very different way.
We often become accustomed to our way of being- even if it's an existence that is less than the one we desire. We restrict ourselves for a variety of reasons, real or imagined.
Close examination of many of those reasons has fear at the foundation. Personal growth requires expansion and that can be terrifying. Whether you aim to be more vulnerable, more loving, or more financially stable, it will require a shifting of your mindset and breaking of previously established barriers.
In these scenarios, fear often points us to areas we need to investigate more closely. Though our instinct may be to flee, this type of fear is much-needed guidance.
In conclusion, fear itself isn't a problem. Our reaction to our own fears is the issue. In making fear an adversary, we miss the challenge of deciphering the message that is being sent to us. When we choose to make it an ally, we gain so much more.
We can be paralyzed by it or choose to process it. If the former is your default approach then fearlessness is desirable. On the other hand, if you consciously choose to process, who needs fearlessness?
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