We all live with some fear, it's natural. Fear is what stops us causing ourselves harm. But ironically, fear can also cause us harm.
Fear stops us from doing what we want to do. It makes us “get in our way” and prevents us fulfilling our potential and following our dreams.
For example: your entire childhood you wanted to become an actress, but by the time you got to university fear had convinced you that you probably wouldn't make it and would end up 40 and broke.
Thing is, you reached 40 and you still have the talent, people still tell you that you should have been an actress, and you miss following that dream.
This story is reflected in different versions in all of us:
- Fear of rejection stops you asking that girl out.
- Fear of ridicule stops you becoming a public speaker.
- Fear of failure stops you aiming higher.
- Fear of inadequacy stops you reaching your potential.
But where does this fear come from?
Where Does Fear Come From?
Fear arises from thought.
We concoct scenarios in the mind, situations that haven't taken place but might do if we take a particular action.
Using the aforementioned example: You want to be an actress but the potential outcomes playing in your head convince you that this probably won't happen.
- People say that only a lucky few make it in acting.
- It's a tough industry and you're pretty sensitive, so it's probably not for you.
- Acting is something for attractive people who live in LA (imposter syndrome)
- Most wannabe actresses end up broke.
These thoughts create your fear, your fear kills your dream.
Here's what your thoughts won't tell you:
- Even if you don't become a movie star you could end up doing adverts, theatre, or voiceover work. At the very least, you'll probably end up with some fun extra work and fond memories.
- If you bang on enough doors, one will open. It is very likely that if you believe in yourself and follow your dream you will have some success.
- Somewhere along the journey you may realize acting isn't for you after all and take a different road, perhaps in film production or starting your own acting workshop business.
- You shouldn't worry about the outcome. The journey is everything. You will get immense satisfaction from following your heart.
If you thought like the second set of thoughts the fear you feel would dissipate. So why do you always think like the first set of thoughts?
Where do these unhelpful thoughts come from?
Where Do Thoughts Come From?
Thoughts arise from desire.
In this case, your desire to be an actress is giving rise to these thoughts. The desire triggers the thoughts, the thoughts trigger the fear.
So the question becomes: Is desire bad?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It's not black and white. And wanting to expel desire from one's mind is a desire in itself. You can't stop thinking, either. If you try you will just think more thoughts.
This is the problem. We have all this fire but no water to temper the flames.
Where Does Desire Come From?
Desire arises from our understanding of the world.
You wan't to be an actress because intuitively you feel that this is your calling, your destiny, your place in the world. Your personality is suited to this art and you are fascinated by film.
But your understanding of the world is influenced by society and those you interact with closely on a daily basis. This is where the problem is rooted.
If those around you are overly cautious and fearful, if they always take the safe option in life, if they more often than not agree with your apprehension and negative self-talk, then you are going to inherit this mindset.
Your understanding of the world is that you should be risk-averse. Then, when you desire something, the thoughts that follow are seeking hazards and unpleasant obstacles in your plan.
Instead of thinking how wonderful something could be, you are immediately drawn to the potential pitfalls.
The outcome is living through fear.
The outcomes is living through the values and thoughts of others, and if you do that you will never be happy within yourself.
The Solution to Living Through Fear
Understanding how the mind is programmed in this way will help you objectively view the behavior of your mind. This will in turn help you see that much of this fear is unfounded, it is projection of mind, unsubstantiated thought.
Of course, some fear is helpful, it helps us navigate the world. The skill is understanding which fear is unhelpful and doing more damage than good.
Equally important is to change your interaction with the world. Obviously you can't change your parents or disown your best friend, but you can seek new relationships with people who have similar goals and a more positive, fearless outlook on life.
That doesn't mean surround yourself with reckless people; quite the opposite, in fact.
It means surround yourself with purposeful people who follow their intuition and believe in themselves, people who aren't constantly living in fear of an outcome that may never happen –and most certainly won't happen in the way they think it will.
If you're struggling to find like-minded people – I know how hard that can be – then turn to books, or blogs like mine :). The Internet has opened up so many avenues for personal development and making connections (think forums, Facebook groups, etc) that you can start today.
* The inspiration for this post came from a great video on a YouTube channel called Freedom of Thought. You can see it here.
As always, this is just my opinion and understanding of life. What's yours?