Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
– Mark Twain
This post was written about two months ago, my finger was on the trigger, but I didn’t post it. The main reason is that I thought it would be misunderstood by the majority of people. But there is also an odd chance that there is someone like me out there who really should listen to their fear MORE, not less, and every single article they read is telling them to blast right past their fear, that everything is going to be all right. You know what? Popular culture is often wrong.
It took me a while because I’m dense sometimes… It took me a very long time, in fact, to realize that I should listen to myself, not to other people. Listen to my instincts, not to other people’s truth.
People say to just go ahead and do what you’re afraid of doing. Fear is bad. Do what you’re afraid of. Conquer your fear by barging right through it.
But fear is there for a reason and saying that it should be disregarded is like saying you should disregard the pain that tells you your hand has just reached into the fire. Yes, sometimes pain needs to be ignored, like when doctor takes your blood. But more often than not it is useful, and the same is true for fear. It’s a warning.
For the past few months I gave myself permission to listen to my fear. This was harder than you’d think, since I have practiced ignoring it for so long. I had to remind myself several times that it’s OK to listen to what fear had to say. And when I listened closely it usually had a valid point. There was a step I was missing. There was something else I could do. I was rushing things. I wasn’t ready. Or my dog wasn’t ready.
Sometimes what fear had to say was inconvenient. It meant I would have to change my habits, take the longer path to the goal, bend some rules, find new solutions, build new relationships, test my commitment and the limits of my health. But it was good information.
Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know that fear needs to be heeded sometimes. Maybe it’s because I was raised to disregard my feelings or because I took the common advice “do what you’re afraid of” and applied it too literally. I don’t know. It was a stupid thing to do.
Fear is like pain. It’s only safe to ignore it once you know what it’s trying to tell you. It doesn’t have to keep you from taking action, only from taking action blindly.
So act less like this quote:
Always do what you are afraid to do.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
And more like this one:
What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti
Or maybe I’m the only one stupid enough to ignore fear even when it carries a useful message. If so, please disregard this post.