i've talked a little bit about how much fear has impacted my life, especially recently. back on november 8th, i shared an instragram post about how i've been struggling with fear - fear of failure, of not being enough, of rejection - and how i've let those fears keep me from living my life to the fullest. this is a battle i will continue to fight, and i hope to grow stronger and wiser against this formidable foe. here are a few things that i have learned about fear in the last couple of years.
1) fear keeps me out of the game. not just on the sideline, or even the bleachers, but at home on my couch, watching the game on the TV. (maybe analogies aren't my strength, but you get the idea). over the last few years i have had countless opportunities to take my photography business to the next level, or to try something new within my State Farm job, or to try a brand new career in an area i'm passionate about. rather than jump on those opportunities and give it my all, knowing that i might fail, but i might succeed, i've waved at those moments and watched them pass. i've come up with every excuse in the book for why i can't, or (even better) why LOGICALLY i shouldn't. WHY? because... it would be too much work, it would take too much of my energy and my heart and my hope - and i might fail anyway. so, logically, it's much better to stay within the boundaries of where i feel comfortable and in control than to put myself out there. better to stay safe and watch these things take place than to participate. EXCEPT IT ISN'T!!!! i was a soccer player for twenty-two years (and i still would be if i hadn't torn my ACL and meniscus in june), and i absolutely HATE watching soccer. it gets me all riled up because i want to be out there, playing. giving it my all. knowing that i may fail, that injury and loss are real possibilities. but the effort itself and the goal i'm working towards are completely worth the possibility of losing. i know, with soccer, that if i give everything that i have i will walk off of the field at the end of the game exhausted (and probably a bit banged up) but so much happier than i was when i walked on. just like i know, if i sit and watch a soccer game but all i can do is yell or make comments from the sideline (or my couch), that at the end i will feel tense and anxious and unsatisfied. so get in the game, don't let fear keep you on the couch or the bench or the sideline in your life.
2) when i make a decision from a place of fear, i'm not protecting myself and others from pain - i'm guaranteeing it. when i make a decision out of fear it looks like me cancelling on new potential friends because they might not like me - or how i dress, or the fact that i suck at putting on makeup, or that my hair never actually looks like i want it to. (because those things are all soooooo important) i lose, they lose. fear wins. when i make a decision out of fear it looks like me instantly assuming the worst of a friend and projecting that fear onto their actions. i lose, they lose. fear wins. and we all hurt. making decisions out of fear has never once brought me closer to someone i love. not once! sadly, i've lost track of all of the times that it has brought pain and separation between me and those i care about most though. so WHY is it something that i still struggle with? self-preservation. the voice of fear (which can often disguise itself as shame or, oddly enough, self-righteousness) has some very convincing arguments. if i look in the mirror and see only a mess, how could anyone see something different? better to hide than be seen as the messy failure i am, says fear. if i look at the situation, and just knowwwww someone has done me wrong, then it's fine to question others and their motives and actions and thoughts and make it perfectly clear i don't trust them - even if they haven't actually done anything wrong, says fear. (enter face-palm emoji here) PLEASE, i beg of you, learn from my mistakes. don't let that voice misguide you. don't slip into self-preservation mode, because there's a very good chance once you get there, the decisions you make will actually only cause you self-harm. and harm to those you love.
3) as soon as i think i can do it alone, fear shows up. i remember sitting outside with my best friend last summer, talking adamantly about how i was done living my life from a place of fear. i kept going on and on about how i was going to just be better, do better, that i was completely capable of beating this all by myself and making good, brave decisions. bottom line - i was not going to let myself be afraid anymore. AND THEN A SPIDER CRAWLED ON TO MY HAND. and guess what happened? I FREAKED OUT. i mean absolutely freaked out. jumped up with a scream and started flailing - because of course that was the brave and graceful way to get the spider off of my hand. as soon as you make the decision to go it alone, to fight fear and do it your way, it's going to start showing up everywhere. you will be tested and tried and challenged, and if you're really trying to do it all by yourself... you're going to fail.
4) overcoming fear is taking every thought captive. i don't know about you, but i have an exhausting inner monologue. it's a rare moment when i'm not thinking about anything at all. and because i'm so used to this inner chatter, i don't always pay as close of attention to what i'm thinking as i should. i'll catch myself thinking about something with no clue how i strayed so far from my original thought. sometimes this is fascinating, and i'll try retracing my thoughts to figure out how i got from thinking about how a song sounds on the piano to wondering about how snakes actually move. but other times, it's quite dangerous. when i'm not paying attention to or directing my thoughts, sometimes i'll get myself into trouble thinking about things i shouldn't. sometimes those thoughts are about people, questioning their actions or reading in to things that they said. sometimes it's a bunch of negative self-talk - i have to be especially cautious about this when i'm getting ready, working out, or trying to find something to wear. i can be downright cruel with my negative self-talk, and no one needs that kind of negativity in their life! those thoughts don't come from a place of bravery or confidence, they are 100% fear based. remember in the verse i mentioned from my first blog post (2 Timothy 1:7) how it says God did not give us a spirit of fear, He gave us a spirit of POWER, LOVE and SELF-DISCIPLINE. in my mind, that means that the opposite of fear is power, love, and self-discipline. if i'm not being diligent and intentional about my thoughts, if i'm not taking each thought captive and holding it up to God's truth, i am only feeding a spirit of fear. but when i am intentional, when my thoughts do come from a place of power, love, or self-discipline then i am winning the battle against fear.
5) overcoming fear is a spiritual battle. over the last few years, i have experienced fear in a new and explicit way. if you have never experienced sleep paralysis, count yourself lucky! it is a horrifying ordeal. according to webmd,
"Sleep paralysis is a feeling of being conscious but unable to move. It occurs when a person passes between stages of wakefulness and sleep. During these transitions, you may be unable to move or speak for a few seconds up to a few minutes. Some people may also feel pressure or a sense of choking."
but, if you google sleep paralysis you will also find countless stories of people who deal with partially-waking during a nightmare which doesn't end with waking, and terrifying hallucinations. usually, they deal with demons or some dark figure. unfortunately, i am one such person. what would start off as a bad nightmare would turn in to complete terror, which would turn into sleep paralysis. i remember four separate occasions where this happened, and my nightmare would escalate to the point where demonic faces would be soaring towards me, yelling as they came. they would morph and change as they flew towards me, and it was completely terrifying. finally, i would wake myself up - but not completely. i would be stuck in that in-between stage where i knew all i needed to do was roll over and turn on the light, but i couldn't. and even though my eyes were open, those demonic faces didn't go away. they were still there, soaring all over my bedroom and taking turns flying at my face. i don't think i've experienced a panic or a fear quite like that in any other situation. slowly (i'm sad to admit), i would remember that i am loved and belong to the all powerful God. over and over and over i would pray to Him for protection, for His presence, and for courage. i'd ask for just enough strength to turn on the lights - just enough strength to move. and that strength would come. obviously, this is an extreme example of fear being a spiritual battle. but i truly believe this applies to our every day lives as well. if we actually believe that God is all-powerful and in control, if we truly believe that He has a good plan for us and is active in our daily lives wouldn't our lives then reflect that faith? shouldn't every decision that we make, no matter how big or small, be demonstrations of our trust in Him? i believe so, and i am working daily to be better about placing my trust in God and acting on that faith.
what about you? what lessons have you learned about fear in your life? i'd love to read about them in the comments section!