Fear Is Not A Dirty Word
In New Age spirituality, fear is probably the most demonized emotion. “Stop living in fear!” everyone likes to preach. And, you know, in some instances, this is a good thing to do. How many opportunities in life do we miss because we were simply afraid to take the risk and instead, stuck to our comfort zone?
In this case, the whole False Evidence Appearing Real narrative is somewhat correct. When we are afraid of failure, rejection, pain, of not being good enough, etc. it keeps us small. When we’re afraid of the boogeyman and things that go bump in the night, it keeps us on edge. Religion has used fear of Satan, Hell, and demons as a mechanism for control for centuries. All of these fears are based in total illusion or superstition with no foundation in reality.
But there’s another kind of fear that has every basis in reality which serves as a biological survival instinct: fear of actual real and tangible danger. Like physical pain, without this evolutionary protection mechanism, the human race would be extinct. Fear in the face of clear and present danger is what keeps us alive.
Could you imagine telling a child not to look both ways before crossing the street because it’s considered “living in fear”? How about intentionally exposing yourself to a potentially deadly virus because wearing a mask was “living in fear”? Or maybe attempting to take a selfie with a wild buffalo at Yellowstone? You catch my drift. These are Darwin Award-worthy acts of stupidity, not conquering fear for any useful reason.
There’s a marked difference between fear-based beliefs and belief systems and actual bodily self-preservation.
On Pushing Through Fear and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
Some people pride themselves on getting out of their comfort zones, and certainly, if you do what you’ve always did, get you’ll get what you’ve always to gotten. But like anything, this all depends on context.
If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before, like uprooting your entire life to move across the country with no safety net, and that scares you, that’s an opportunity you might miss because of your comfort zone. It might be worth the risk.
If you’re talking about doing something you’ve never done before that might actually violate your personal values or expose you to harmful relationship dynamics, that’s a whole other ballgame. That’s risky behavior because you don’t recognize risk when you see it.
Sometimes our comfort zones exist because we’ve been severely traumatized, and pushing ourselves out of them too fast, too soon is just like the trauma that created them in the first place. This is harmful.
Sometimes, because of abuse, we don’t actually fully understand what our comfort level is. We ignore our discomfort because that’s what our abusers taught us to do, and when we come up against some similar, subtle, but potentially harmful experiences, we stick around too long, not realizing what’s happening until it’s too late.
Those with people-pleasing or codependent tendencies are not great at recognizing risk or when their boundaries are being violated, and a lot of folks think that pushing through this is somehow conquering their fear in the name of spirituality.
If you’re a recovering people pleaser, or have a history of trauma and abuse, I urge you to ignore the comfort zone messaging on Instagram when it comes to really personal things like relationships, sex, and things which are directly tied to your physical and emotional well-being.
Fear isn’t all bad. Fear is a useful emotion that alerts us of danger. Fear only becomes detrimental when it becomes overprotective.
Pay attention to your discomfort. Explore it. Honor it. Sometimes it’s all in your head. But sometimes it’s there for a reason.
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