Recently I’ve seen so many memes, quotes, and articles floating around social media lately encouraging us to be fearless, or even more strongly, telling us that fear itself is a lie. Yikes. A LIE. At first impression, it made sense to me. Sure, yes, being fearless sounds great. Saying it out loud sounds great. I am fearless! It feels strong, fierce, empowering. I get the intent behind it, but is fear really a lie? Something to completely disregard? Should we expect that fearlessness is actually a human possibility? To me it seems like that goes against our primal instinct, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
I live with a fierce and powerful little toddler right now. She is brave, wild, impulsive, smart and compassionate. She is NOT fearless. Now that she is starting to have more of an understanding of how the world around her works, she is showing a little more fear and anticipation than she used to. In those moments of fear I find myself telling her that it’s okay to be afraid. We work through those moments together.
During beach trips at the beginning of the summer she desperately wanted to be in the water, but wasn’t read for the ocean yet. Put her in a lake and she would run right in, but the waves were a different story. We worked on it by saying “It’s okay to feel afraid of the waves. They are big and fast! That might seem a little scary, but let’s go in together and see how it feels. Maybe then you won’t feel afraid anymore.” By the end of the summer I couldn’t get her out of the water. I want her to have healthy fear, but I also want her to know that fear doesn’t always mean there is danger involved. I want her to learn that fear is her gut telling her something is different, and learn to pay attention to that. It could be different in a wonderful way, or it could be different in a way that she needs to be aware of for her own well being. Fear is not a lie, it’s a signal that we can choose what we want to do with.
I also don’t want her to be ashamed or feel guilty for feeling her instinctual fear. What I DO want for her is to learn how to work through the fear to come out on the other side and in a better place. I want her to have courage. Courage and fearlessness are very different things, and courage sounds much more empowering to me. Feel fear, explore the feeling, and take the right steps through the fear into the unknown. OWN the fear. Acknowledging our fear lovingly and discovering where it comes from seems far more beneficial than trying to erase our fear altogether.