I am afraid of heights.
Of getting stuck somewhere because of a health crash.
If I were to look at those fears as a problem, in combination with other smaller and everyday fears in my life, I might start to convince myself that there is something wrong with me. That I am failing (ironically) because I experience fear.
And the question is…is there something wrong with me?
Is it okay to be afraid? Is feeling fear normal?
Well, there is a simple answer. Yes, it’s normal to be afraid and nothing is wrong if you feel fear.
But there is also a more complex answer. And in this 6 part series, we will be exploring fear more fully.
Today, though, our focus is on normalizing fear. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 30-some-odd years, it’s that EVERYONE feels fear.
Not all those fears are equal in subject or intensity, but they all impact our lives in sometimes unexpected, difficult, and/or wonderful ways.
And to be fair, we’re not talking about clinical anxiety. If you experience anxiety that is ruining your chance for happiness, I would encourage you to look into finding a good therapist who can help you.
But for those fears that naturally come with life, there are good reasons we experience those. Ones we should listen to, evaluate, and learn from, and maybe even enjoy.
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Reasons it’s okay to feel afraid
Fear keeps us alive
In its most basic form, fear can keep us alive. That feeling that you need to stop and consider what you’re doing. Or just run in the opposite direction. That is our handy-dandy fight or flight mode. It and fear kick in at the same time and warns us that something is wrong and we need to escape.
Granted, fight or flight can also kick in when not necessary. But at the least, the feeling of fear during those moments can help us stay alive when necessary.
Fear makes us stop and think
Sometimes fear causes us to slow down and put a little more thought into our actions/plans/etc. Maybe we’re on the right track, but the details need adjusted.
Think, for example, if you’ve ever rushed into a relationship and fear has told you to hold your horses just a bit. Maybe that’s because you needed to know more about that person. Or that they were only the right person during this part of your life but won’t be a good fit as you grow.
Whatever the reason, fear tells us to take a second and evaluate before barging onward.
Fear is a warning
No one questions feeling fear before they walk into a spooky haunted house. Or if they’re doing something dangerous that could get them killed. That’s because they know, in those moments, that fear is warning them that they’re walking into danger.
That same feeling can be said for things that we don’t immediately recognize as dangerous (to our physical or mental health). The fear may be coming from a part of our brain that has already analyze the situation and knows it’s a threat.
The trick is knowing when to use that warning and when to ignore it. Fear of public speaking, for example, is not likely to be a warning of impending doom as much as just a gut reaction to something that make us uncomfortable.
Fear empowers us
Have you ever felt that adrenaline spike after you’ve faced a fear and come through on the other side? That feeling is what prompts us to face that fear again and again.
And after we face it repeatedly, it’s less likely to cause the same reaction in us going forward. In that way, fear has empowered us to overcome our own fear. It made us stronger and fearless in something that used to make us want to run.
There is a substantial amount of power in knowing you can turn a fear into a victory and become stronger for it!
Fear encourages respect
If you feel your brain and body trying to set a boundary though fear, sometimes it’s wise to listen to that boundary. For instance, my previously mentioned fear of health crashes keeps my desire to over-do it in check. Because of that fear, I have a certain amount of respect for my limits.
In the same way, fear of a weapon or of something harmful encourages us to respect them and treat them appropriately. If knives and guns were not harmful, we likely wouldn’t treat them wit the same respect for their dangers as we do!
Fear tells us we’re aiming high
Living a life without fear means we have never tried anything that stretches us in any way. We’ve never done something daring that we may end up enjoying. We’ve never attempted a more difficult career opportunity because it would be better for us or our family.
That feeling of being afraid because we’re outside our comfort zone is exactly what we need to know we’re on the right track to challenging and expanding ourselves.
Fear can be exciting
Cliff-diving. Asking out the hottie. Starting a new job. Having a baby when the timing isn’t right.
For all the times fear gets a bad-rep, let’s not forget that it is also responsible for some of the most amazing things in our lives. It goes hand-in-hand with those times we’ve dared big and accomplished greatly.
Fear helps us focus
Think back to the first time you drove a car by yourself. Were you afraid? Don’t lie…we both know the answer is YES!
But I’m also guessing that fear made you focus really carefully on the road, your car, the cars around you, and absolutely everything that keeps you and those around you safe. Fear focus, as I like to call it, gives us the opportunity to laser focus on the tasks that we fear and absolutely rock it – or at the least do the definitive best we can!
Fear is physically good for us
Physiologically speaking, fear is actually pretty healthy for us. Among the many physical changes that fear creates in our body are:
-Weight lost due to increase in metabolism from accelerated heart rate
-Increase in stress-resistance and decrease in sensitivity to stress-related effects
-Increased sex drive because of the chemical similarties between fear and arousal
-Better immune system encouraged by an increase in white blood cells from the fear response.
Truly, these advantages speak for themselves and are backed by enough scientific studies to be reliable.
Fear adds spice to life
There is a certain amount of monotony that comes with doing and feeling the same thing over and over again. It makes life feel like an endless production line where you make the same trinket 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
When you add a little fear, it often comes with a whole lot of excitement, achievement, and overcoming/empowering/strengthening goodness. You’re doing new things, experiencing new emotions, meeting new people and finding new places. Without a doubt, not only do we need fear in our life, we want it also!
Bringing it all together
We’ve been taught that fear is a bad thing. That is should be avoided because it means we’re in danger or doing something wrong.
That couldn’t be further from the truth!
Yes. It CAN mean those things. But it can also mean so much more. Fear keeps us alive but also makes us feel alive. It make us stop and think but it also makes us move forward and be brave.
If you’re feeling fear, try to figure out what is causing it. But once you know, embrace it and and let it improve you life. Either through action or in-action.
So in the end, the answer to is it okay to be afraid is YES! It’s better than okay!
In the following weeks, we’ll be delving more deeply into fear. Topics to be covered include:
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