Keep your friends close and your fears even closer

make friends with your fear

They say keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer. I refer to the “enemy” as someone who’s unsupportive and would rather see you fail. An enemy attempts to sweet talk you out of things and instills doubt in your abilities. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you interact with your enemies every single day. Your greatest enemies are your greatest fears.

The bigger you dare to dream and the bigger your goals and aspirations become, the longer the list of enemies – aka fears – you accumulate because you are a much more attractive opponent to defeat. So why keep your friends close and your fears even closer?

Because fear comes as a teacher bearing gifts, and only if you are open to its lessons can you move past its resistances. Knowledge is power, as is the case with growing to intimately understand your fears, right from their roots in order to overthrow them. The Cold War mostly consisted of spies extracting top-secret information between the US and the Soviet Union. Conducting your own form of internal espionage is necessary to understanding the enemy to pre-empt its next move before they have the opportunity to carry it out. But it’s not about totally obliterating the enemy. The real secret is not to eliminate fear, but to make peace with it. You have to learn how to amicably cohabitate with the enemy to call their bluff. Determining the motives of your fear involves a significant amount of work, which I’ve set out for you below.

Keep A Fear Journal

One of the best ways to get to know your fear is to observe how it persuades you, noting the occasions when it attempts to do so. The practice of observation and journaling is inherent to clarifying your thoughts and feelings. Writing about and then reflecting upon moments of fear allows you to better understand and deconstruct your fear patterns. Typically we problem solve from a left-brained, analytical perspective. But sometimes the answer can only be found by engaging right-brained creativity and intuition, which is exactly what happens while writing.

Elect an Absolute Worst Case Scenario

Before entering into a negotiation you must first define the bottom line, the absolute lowest one party is willing to go to accommodate the other and reach some kind of an agreement. This bottom line is commonly referred to the Absolute Worst Case Scenario, or AWCS. The same should be applied to your fears to calculate your very own bottom line. First, describe for yourself the worst-case scenario of the situation you fear. Let’s take making the jump from fulltime work to freelance as an example.

If you make the leap to freelancing, you may not start with the most impressive client portfolio to impress your friends, or you might not have enough clients to generate enough of an income to pay rent. You may start feeling that you need to go back to full time work, but fear looking like a failure. When you’re defining the worst-case scenario, decide which of these is the bottom line absolute worst that could happen, and move up the ladder from there. Some lesser (but still significant) fears might be that you are overwhelmed with work or may not know how to write a business plan or manage accounts, but all of these fears, the top line and the bottom line, are fundamentally survivable. In other words, you won’t die.  If you can live through your AWCS, then you need to just go for it. We may stumble and fail, but if we never stumble and we never fail, we never learn. But what if you don’t fail? What if you succeed?

Live in the present

The thing about fear enemies is they exist only in our minds unless of course a sabre tooth tiger has you cornered in a cave. You are literally at war with your thoughts about a potential far off future that doesn’t actually exist in this present moment. Therefore when you wage war with your fears the battlefield is entirely internal. It’s all well and good to use AWCS exercise to define your limitations, but this can’t be a daily occurrence. Where thoughts go, energy flows and the last thing you want to do is focus all of your energy into the negative. The worst almost never happens so worrying about it is a waste of your valuable energy which can be distributed elsewhere into positive channels toward abundance.

Confront your fears

Fear isn’t something to be ignored or buried because it will pop right back up if you try to pretend it’s not there. It sounds cliché, and until recently I thought the best way to beat my fears was to avoid what I was afraid of. No brainer, right?  Although this avoidance might help reduce feelings of fear in the short term, over the long term it makes the fear grow and manifest. One of the fear conquering techniques in psychology is called ‘exposure therapy’, where by patients (and I’ve been one of them!) work with their doctors to create safe environments in which they expose themselves to their fears. Let’s go back to the example of leaving the safety net of  fulltime work and entering into unknown territory of freelancing. Before making the move, you might fear having to rely entirely your own abilities to manage a client on your own. So why not approach a charity to volunteer skills in your particular field to test the waters? As Robert Frost says, “The only way out is through”.

If you weren’t driven by fear, what would it feel like? What would you do? Read more over on Libra’s #IAMFEARLESS site here.

Photo by Tess Leopold