“God does not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind.”
—2 Timothy 1:7
What scares you the most on a day-to-day basis? Are you concerned about your job, or your kids or testing positive for cancer?
Fears are normal and natural. They help us plan and think and prepare. But they can also become deep-seated anxieties that monopolize our thinking to the exclusion of problem solving.
They can appear like huge dragons or monsters threatening everything we do to the point where we no longer see options or opportunities.
The excessive fears we create in our mind seem just as real as any physical danger we might encounter. In fact, they are probably more resistant and difficult to deal with because once created, we go to great lengths to prove to ourselves and others that they are real. When we do, we set ourselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are valid reasons for paying attention to fear.
It is a survival mechanism that tells us to stop, be careful and proceed with caution. However, if our focus remains on the feelings only without searching for solutions to problems they may be pointing to, it creates a sense of helplessness and we stop looking for answers.
What triggers your fears?
Often, fears begin with what ifs:
- What if I lost my job
- What if my husband leaves me
- What if I get really sick and can’t take care of my child
- What if I don’t get this job
- What if they don’t like me
- What if I’m not good enough
- What if I can’t pay off my college debt, mortgage, etc.
- What if. . . .
Our lists of what ifs can go on forever. The problem isn’t that we shouldn’t pay attention to doubts and uncertainties, or that any one of them might happen. It’s when the what ifs activate beliefs that say we won’t be able to make it; we don’t have what it takes to meet the challenge.
We can become so consumed by the terror of what might happen, that it is what we hang onto and if anyone suggests an opposing view, we go to great lengths to prove why they are wrong, and we are right. In that moment, we have created a “fear dragon” that needs to be continually fed.
The problem with fear dragons is that they are created; they are not real. There might have been legitimate underlying concerns which have spun out of control.
But, if we can create fear dragons, we can tame them and make them work for us. We can look at our fears and ask, what are you telling me? Is there a problem in the real world that I need to deal with? Or are you telling me I’m the problem? You are not.
Here are ten things to consider when your fear and anxiety buttons are pushed:
- Is the fear I am experiencing based on identifiable facts and circumstances in the here and now? Or is it coming from old intense feelings of insecurity? If the fear comes from feelings of insecurity, challenge and replace the thinking associated with it. We can change our responses.
- Have past experiences intensified the feelings of fear today? For example, as you were growing up, you may have been constantly yelled at or punished leaving you hyper-sensitive to anything that might be threatening. Take the necessary time to work through past issues. Expectations become a by-product of how we think. Expect good things to come from any situation – even the most difficult ones.
- Fear tells us to stop and pay attention. Are you in potential physical danger? If your gut is telling you that you may be in a dangerous situation, stop, look, and listen. Don’t just automatically dismiss it. People have been assaulted in public places because they were too dismissive of that gut feeling.
- Fear is protective. It can protect us from doing foolish or careless things. Pay attention to warning signs. Are you minimizing risks when you should be paying more careful attention, such as hiking alone on trails because you want to do it and it looks like fun?
- Fear of failure reveals our insecurities. Face them and grow from them. Each of us has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t allow this fear to take over your life. Use it instead to find authentic ways to grow in confidence and become genuine.
- Fear can drive us to God. It is where I draw my strength and hope for the future every day. Understanding that we have a loving Almighty God who cares about us, guides and strengthens us is both humbling and empowering. Don’t leave home without Him.
- Fear can isolate us. We need the support of others. If we constantly fear rejection or humiliation, we will miss out on the wonderful relationships we can have.
- Fear challenges us to get out of our comfort zone. For example, public speaking is a challenge for most of us and is often avoided. While being pleased at being asked to speak, fear of failure can take over. We can overcome much of our apprehension by looking for opportunities to speak in small comfortable gatherings of friends you trust and share common interests. The more you do, the more confident you will become.
- Fear begs the question, “What am I really afraid of?” Listen to those inner thoughts. What they are saying to you? Healthy fear tells you to pay attention to what is happening. Excessive and unhealthy fear tells you nothing will ever be okay.
- Face your fear. Sit down and have a conversation with it. Everybody has fears – some rational, and some irrational. Just as fears protect us, they can also help us grow.
Speak to yourself from a position of strength. You have a multitude of talents and abilities. Accept your weaknesses along with your strengths. Take that risk and step out of your comfort zone.
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