Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life


26- Fear: An Underrated Tool for Personal Growth


Fear gets a bad wrap. For some, it’s a speed bump for their dreams. And for others, it’s been a constant and life-long adversary. But, for all of its vice, I’ve come to see that fear can be more than just a negative emotion that we must overcome. Here are three ways we can use fear for our personal growth:

1. To Find the Root of Your Problem

In 2011, I unwittingly believed that I wasn’t good enough for some people’s love. So when I began dating a man “out of my league,” I assumed he wasn’t considering me for a serious relationship. While I reveled in the nervous excitement of every interaction, I shut off all deeper emotions, vowing to have as much fun as possible. And when the relationship ended nine months later, I was devastated to hear how I’d made him feel.

Replaying the relationship over and over in my mind, I started to get a glimpse of a deep fear hiding just below my every step. As I examined and listened to it closely, it revealed the lie I had been telling myself from the moment the man spoke to me: I’m not good enough. 

The problem was not how desirable he was but how little I valued and appreciated myself. Listening to my fear was the first step toward changing that.

2. To Identify Areas of Weakness

Because of that experience, today I’m more attuned to watching the feelings and behaviors across my life. I see fear picking at my desire to build a home. I notice it needling when I procrastinate ‘99's repairs. I catch it laced into the patches of trash bags and duct tape that I’ve used on her more times than I’d like to admit. 

Yet, I know that this particular fear speaks more to my limited carpentry skills than to any innate moral defect. So, I’ve decided to take some carpentry classes and learn to bring some of my small designs to life. (Stay tuned on Instagram to see what I make.)

3. To Be More Intentional

I quit my job and started this new life to bring the truth of who I am to all that I do.

Fear constantly questions my commitment to my goals and values: Are you willing to risk “failure” to learn and to grow? Would you sacrifice accomplishment to be authentically self-directed? How much more are you willing to do to build and maintain community? Will you let go of ego to live in truth?

These questions are not a personal affront or even a threat. Today, I can look back and see how some of my most meaningful lessons began with “failure.” These questions are more of a challenge, a reminder to make more proactively intentional choices.

I’ve said it before: when it comes to lifestyle design, what you believe—positive or negative, true or false—is reflected in everything you do. Fear is inevitable. If you look at it as an adversary, you will be in for a constant, life-long battle. But if you can learn to see it as a teacher, you’ll find countless ways to grow. 

When you have a moment, take a scan of your life— your core values, your goals, your relationships and desires. Where does fear question your commitment? Where does it point out areas in which you need to learn more? How can you take a moment to sit with and listen to that fear? How can you address it?