I recently listened to an excellent podcast that planted a framing of fear in my mind that I’ve repeated as advice to several people over the past month. Since it seems to be so often relevant, I repeat it once more here.
Be better friends with your fear than with your pride. When we say things we don’t mean, do things that hurt others or ourselves, miss opportunities, or generally behave in ways we later regret, so often the cause is fear. Fear of rejection, fear of offending, fear of embarrassment, fear of failure, fear of harm….
Recognizing our fears should be a high priority, then, and yet we’re all supposed to get over our fears, ignore them, conquer them. At best, maybe use them for motivation. This inhibitory reaction to fear is fueled by pride and its immediate rewards. It feels good to feel strong in the face of a challenge even if we pay for it later. Instead of succumbing to pride’s blinders, we should treat fear as we treat our friends. We should acknowledge, recognize, listen to, understand, and accept it. We shouldn’t be embarrassed by it and send it away.
If we can be friends with our fears, we can be honest with ourselves and make better decisions for ourselves and those we care about. We don’t have to listen to everything our friends tell us, and likewise with fear. But we’ll miss the chance to decide if we refuse to listen.
Try thinking of something you wish you hadn’t said or done yesterday and probe: what was the fear behind it? How could you have acted differently if you’d recognized your true motivations? How might this fear affect your future interactions? Can you recognize this fear the next time it appears? Can you ultimately assuage this fear?
To be sure, I fail at this over and over every day. But such is learning. I can do better tomorrow.