“Self-doubt is inward looking fear.”-Jasmine Wilborne, CEO and Founder
I wish I could tell you that I’ve conquered fear.
But I haven’t.
In fact, in the last month, I learned that fear destroyed my plans to start my life coaching company. Last week, I realized that my meditation and mindfulness practice has been the foundation of my most recent self-knowledge and understanding. Today, I connect the dots between unacknowledged fear and how it has played a destructive role in my life.
Fear, like all emotions, harnesses valuable teachings for the one who is brave enough to notice it, embrace it, honor it and learn from it. Fear, when unacknowledged, as it was in me, can lead to inaction, paralysis or self-sabotage. All which I have experienced.
For instance, last month I had an idea: I should get my Masters in Clinical Psychology and practice as a therapist. This thought sent ripples of excitement surging through my body. For years I was intuitively coaching myself and friends using techniques that I had realized were related to cognitive behavioral therapy. Better yet, I loved the feeling of satisfaction and joy that came with guiding my friends to their own Eureka! moments. Empowering people to think anew and creatively tackle their challenges was fun and life giving. This was a promising idea.
I was excited until fear flooded in.
“What if you get the degree and the field is saturated?” “What if no one wants to practice with you because you are Black?” “What if there is too much competition in the field, I mean, look at how many psychologists work at this one company.” “What if you go deeper into educational debt and find that your income doesn’t change enough to support the degree.” “What if this is all a mistake?”
Those thoughts destroyed my every desire to explore the feasibility of a psychology degree. But I didn’t know that’s what happened. I just realized that one day I was super excited about doing the research and then, suddenly, I was no longer interested. I wasn’t even mad about it. All the wonder and possibility of this tantalizingly possible idea were snuffed out. It was dead along with all the emotional connection with it.
My fear and the self-doubt it conjured sent visceral visions of a future full of regret, poverty and remorse. I believed in the visions so acutely, that I had declined to even talk to a friend of mine who practiced as a therapist. My only goal was to get advice and direction for this idea. But an insidious thought emerged, “I can’t take her opinion or perspective seriously. She’s a white chick. Things are different for them, easier. Her experience can’t inform me. It’s misleading.”
So how do I move on from here? How do I pull myself out of this paralyzing loop? How do I overcome my fear of the unknown? How do I propel myself forward into an uncertain though potentially rewarding future?
Answer: Practice bringing awareness to how fear manifests itself in my thoughts and emotions. Notice the content of the thoughts. Notice how these thoughts impact the quality of my decisions. Grow comfortable with feeling fear and then, get curious.
I can honor and question my fear like a teacher: What am I really afraid of? What is this feeling asking me learn more about? What do I need to know in order to move forward more carefully? How do I need to grow in order to meet the challenges ahead?
Fear when utilized appropriately, is a guide, not a deterrent. Fear is communicating a need for information and preparation. Without becoming friends with my fear I will never become the person I dream about. I will never do what I desire. I won’t live as richly as I’ve imagined.
Fear has played an important role in my past and mastering it within myself will create an amazing future.
I never understood famous quotations about fear until this moment. Now I can agree with Nelson Mandela when he said, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”