Stop Trying to Overcome Fear and Do This Instead

self-empowerment self-learning Jan 25, 2020


This post was originally published on


“Hi, my name is fear,” said that palpable, shivering sensation in my chest. It was a familiar sensation. You see, fear and I were old friends. She (fear) had graced my life when I first found out, at the age of 11, that my mother had breast cancer. She was with me during that 4th grade spelling bee where I embarrassingly misspelled “shepherd”. She was with me when I moved to California, by myself, at the age of 21 and drove on the freeway alone just a few months later. She was with me as I mustered up the courage to tell the attractive guy at the gym (who’d been playing eye-tag with me for months) that I was interested, and she was certainly with me last year when I found out that one of my dear friends was in critical condition after a mountain-climbing accident.


Given how often and how long fear seems to grace our lives, some might expect it to slowly wither and eventually go away. But the fact is – it doesn’t. Fear never goes away. She (I call my fear “she”, you may call yours “she”, “he, “it” or anything else that resonates) takes vacations, she gets smaller, she morphs into different physical sensations, on occasion she lets me pretend she’s not there, but she never goes away completely.


When I realized, a few years ago, that fear was here to stay, I stopped fighting with her. I stopped trying to make her go away, and I listened to her instead. Here is what she had to say:




She told me that fear is always on our side. Fear isn’t out to get me and it isn’t out to get you either. Despite popular belief, fear isn’t trying to ruin your life or prevent you from getting what you want. It’s simply showing you those areas of your life that you have learned to approach more carefully, those areas where you have some history, where maybe a bit of protection and trepidation was previously helpful. To see fear as the enemy is a disservice to why it is here in the first place. It is here for your benefit. It houses your goals, dreams, and ideas. It shows you your growth points and it connects your past to your present and future. You can’t overcome fear, but you can befriend it.




You can befriend this fear simply by getting to know it, as you would any friend, human, or other. Begin to ask your fear questions like “What’s your story?”, “How long have you been around?”, “Why are you here?”, “What role do you play in my life?”, “What purpose do you serve?”, and “How can I get to know you better?” Often, we take the stage for our first 500+ person talk, pick up the phone to talk to someone we’ve been in conflict with, decide to take that job 2,500 miles away, or make the decision to ask someone we’re interested in out on a date without acknowledging the fearful emotions in our heart and the sensations in our body that come along with them. One thing that was clear to me in my interactions with fear, and with anyone in my emotional family for that matter, was that she wanted to be acknowledged. Courage isn’t acting as if you’re unafraid. It’s acknowledging that you feel fear, that you – like everyone else – are not immune from it. Courage, therefore, isn’t about whether you have fear but how you relate to it.




When I paused and said, “Hey, my friend fear, what is it that you want me to know?”, I heard some of the most kind and caring things that you would expect, or hope, a loving parent would say to their child. Fear said that she doesn’t want me to get hurt, or to feel embarrassed, or to think badly of myself if things don’t go as I’d hoped. When I asked “What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t around?”, she told me that she’s afraid I would feel more sadness, disappointment, and angst. She wanted to make sure I didn’t feel those things, but she also wanted to make sure I reached my highest potential and that I felt as much joy and fulfillment as I could. Her purpose, she said, isn’t to stop me from acting upon my wishes and dreams, but to make me pause and yield for a moment before proceeding to pursue them. So, take that pause, yield for a moment, and get to know fear’s story. Any good psychologist, counselor, therapist, or other professional will tell you that you can’t let fear drive your actions and life decisions. You do it, not by forcefully telling it to get out of the driver’s seat, but by giving it a voice.




In her book, Wild, Cheryl Strayed wrote that “fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves”. Well, if fear is a story that our minds generate, then telling ourselves a different story and taking action on it is the way that we address it. As I continued listening, fear told me a few things that I wouldn’t have wanted to hear while I was at her mercy all those years earlier, before I really got to know her. She said that Nike wasn’t the first to be branded with the slogan “just do it”. It’s been her motto for thousands and thousands of years. In addition to vetting the person and/or situation at hand, a very plausible and preferred option for relating to fear is to “just do it”. “It” being that thing that you’re afraid to do. If you’re afraid that your voice doesn’t matter, you’ve got to let your voice be heard. If you’re afraid that you’ll be rejected by that job or that person, you’ve got to get out there and start the conversation or send the application. If you wait forever for fear to go away, you’ll be waiting forever to do all the things that you dream of doing, all the things that bring you joy, all the things that are leading you to a more complete, more present, and more fulfilled version of you. So go and find that seed of courage inside you. It’s there. It always has been. See it, feel it, be it. When courage meets fear is when you meet your greatest life story.




You may remember that when fear told me she was here to stay, I chose to get to know her. “Since you’re not going anywhere”, I said, “let’s see how we can do this thing called life together”, and she obliged. The result? I learned, in a very genuine way, that the most important lesson of all, is that the only way to loosen fear’s grip on our lives is to Stop trying to overcome or conquer fear. Get to know fear instead. The best thing that came out of it though, was that I gained a very real and unwavering faith in fear. Some say that “we must live by faith, not by fear”. I say we must live by a faith in fear. When you put your faith in fear, you acknowledge that it’s on your side, that it serves an important purpose, and that you and it are one. Above all, you make known that fear is not in the way – it is the way. EVERY SINGLE TIME.


Take a moment right now to pause and listen to fear. What is fear telling you? Let us know in the comments below.


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