Fear: How to use it as a tool

We have always been told that fear is bad. That you have to escape from it. Set it aside. Eradicate it. Wreck it. Make it disappear. That fear is for cowards, children, irresponsible people. That fear is irrational and useless. A reason for shame and humiliation. That it’s experienced alone, you hide it, you don’t share it. You don’t ́t speak up because of what people might say.

And all that runs around in my head, sometimes consciously and sometimes not. I feel bad and I don’t know if it is because of the fear I feel or because of everything they have told me about feeling scared. And I feel fear all the time and waste my time trying not to feel it instead of dealing with the fear itself.

What is fear? A feeling, a defect, a sensation. Some get cold, others get hot. Some are accompanied by it day by day and others are visited by it intermittently. It can be a voice that screams inside your head or just a whisper. Goosebumps or uncontrolled crying. It may be an uncontrollable desire to attack the refrigerator or a total lack of appetite. Fear can make you sleep for hours to avoid facing what is so scary. Or it can leave you sleepless going over and over that which frightens you so much. Some even visit them in dreams and transforms them in nightmares. Others live their nightmare every morning upon waking up.

There is fear of flying. Of falling. Of swimming. Of drowning. Of water, of fire. There is a fear of animals, insects, insects that live in animals. There is more. There is a fear of drugs and drugs to forget fears.

The fear of never graduating, the fear of graduating and not finding a job, the fear of finishing the degree and finding a job. Doing the job wrong, doing the job well and not get recognition. Doing the job well, get recognition but not as you expected.

There are people who fear their own parents and people who fear other people’s parents and parents who fear what their children are doing with their lives. And children who fear that one day they will no longer have their parents.

Fear is so extensive that nothing escapes it and there are the most ridiculous and at the same time the most widespread fears: the fear of love and being loved. The fear of loving and not being loved. The fear of love even when fear and love are opposites.

I have always felt fear. First of the dark. My mom bought all the lights that were available for sale. One was like a giant button that turned on and off when pressed. Another was connected to the wall like those devices against mosquitoes.

But nothing was more effective than the corridor light that went through my half closed door. As I grew the door was closing more and more until only leaving a slit of light that was still enough to make the stars that were attached to the ceiling shine. Of course, the hallway light bothered her because it also faced her room. But that is the thing with fears, they are faced little by little and it is better if you feel accompanied.

I don’t remember when I got over it. Not even when I went from crying on the edge of the pool to get into it effectively. I never overcame the fear of riding a bicycle. My mom was very afraid I would hurt myself. And that is one of the aspects that call my attention to fear: it is contagious. If you start thinking, you will realize that both you and the people around you bring many fears from home. Fears, like so many other things, are taught.

But why would they teach you something so ugly? Do your parents want to torture you when they say: “Do not walk alone at night on the street.” It is a clear way to share what I think is my definition of fear; fear is a tool that serves to warn us of imminent danger.

It’s a part of our defense mechanism. That is why, to a lesser or greater extent, we all feel it. It is something that is activated within us to let us know that we may be in danger, that we have to be alert. And sometimes, even take shelter. Sometimes attack.

For a long time I let it paralyze me. I believed all the horrible stories in my head that could happen and all the terrible outcomes. Sometimes it still leaves me still. Unable to react. Or worse, it makes me act from fear. But I think it’s happening less and less often.

Now, when it arrives, I try not to judge myself. I understand that it is normal, that it is part of life, that we all feel it. That I am not more nor less for being afraid. That I choose if my fear defines me, that it doesn’t have to.

I no longer repress it. I do not push it. I let it be. I recognize it, I identify it, I ask him questions. I understand where it comes from and what it tries to tell me. I listen to it’s advice and make them my own. I appreciate it’s presence and it’s guide. I know it is a way, of the many we have, to take care of ourselves and ensure our well-being.

Then I go on, it accompanies me. I don’t let it paralyze me. I give it it’s place, it’s place, not another. Finally I make a decision and keep going. Not from fear, from the heart.

That’s what it is all about, to understand what role each of our feelings, sensations, intuitions plays. Fear is a place of doubt and a decision cannot be made without some certainty. And I don’t talk about rational certainties. Sometimes yes, other times, our security comes from a place far inside us much more complex than our minds can codify.

5 aspects to consider when you decide to face your fears:

1. Self growth

As you work actively to be the best version of yourself, you get to know yourself more and more and identify patterns. There are people who auto-boycott, others who blame themselves and some who are paralyzed by what others may say. By identifying the aspects that are repeated you can start working on them in an active and effective way. Know yourself, how you work, how you make decisions.

2. Clear goals

It is easier to cross obstacles when you know where are you going and what is waiting for you on the other side. When you have set goals, the incentive to accomplish them will be stronger than fear, or at least will give you the push you need.

3. Everything is relative

El miedo suele ser absorbente. Cuando estamos asustados tendemos a exagerar, en especial lo negativo. La realidad es que nada es tan grave ni dura para siempre.

4. Support system

It is crucial that you have a group of people to lean on. They don’t have to be many, nor do all the people in your life serve to fulfill this function. Identify those who reassure you, help you keep your feet on the ground and make good decisions. It is essential that you feel that you can ask for help and listen to other opinions before moving forward.
At the same time, that they support you in your decision and that they are not some of those people who are only going to transfer their own added fears.

5. Baby steps

In general, fears are not overcome overnight. It is a learning process, respect it. Learn to celebrate small victories and move forward one step at a time.

Many of our day to day fears have to do with doing or not doing, saying or not saying something. There’s a quote that helps me that says: “You already have no as an answer”. And I also ask myself: What is waiting for me on the other side of fear? What am I missing?

The good thing is that this is a cumulative process. Once you overcome one fear, you fill yourself with confidence to face others. Sometimes it is not an easy process. If you feel paralyzed by fear or that you are not being able to handle it in a healthy and responsible way you can go to a professional. They will help you learn how to manage it and get ahead with the techniques that best suit your needs.

Valentina Carbajal Journalist and content creator

Journalist, communication and content creator, there is nothing that I love more than writing. I love being able to explore different themes and empathize through my writing.