Fear reminds me of contaminated water.
We don’t notice it in the beginning.
It seeps into our spirit in subtle ways — through the avenues of hesitation, security, perfectionism, judgment, anxiety, and excuses.
fear loves to…
Tell us to do more research and over-thinking before taking action;
Convince us to go it alone before asking for support;
Taunt us to second-guess our instincts and intuition;
Demands we gather more perspectives before taking the action we know is meant for us;
Encourages us to wait until we are ‘ready;’
Asks us to be safe & realistic, all the while fostering apathy;
Disguises itself as wisdom when we’re uncertain about our decisions;
Encourages us to know the forecast before taking a risk on our brilliance;
Demands positive outcome predictions before stepping forward into our courage.
THE FLUIDITY OF FEAR
Fear first takes hold quietly and subversively in our thoughts, creating an inner loop of questioning our decisions, abilities, and most cunningly, our worthiness. Once rooted in our mind, fear then seeps into our habits, behaviors, and beliefs. We begin to unconsciously identify with the fear and live according to its guidance.
Simply put, as with contaminated water, when we regularly hydrate on fear, it fortifies our life choices and drips into our consciousness.
We start choosing the safe route. We keep the extra everything ‘just in case.’ We keep our inner circle looking, feeling, believing, and acting like us. We choose repetitious cycles of behavior, extolling the virtues of tradition as our mascot with a side of fear-infused living.
We enter into relationships, careers, habits, and belief systems which offer a dull comfort rather than an empowering nudge toward the edge of our evolution. We work hard to avoid the mess and allow our to-do lists to govern our days and our feelings. We proclaim busy as a badge of honor and declare our dreams something we’ll get to when we have more time and space for them.
Sometimes we run out of time.
How is fear running your life?
Fear used to run my life every single day.
Its hold over me was so embedded in my day-to-day actions that I couldn’t even seen how pervasive it had become.
In school, I wanted to get things right on the first try or I wouldn’t do them. I didn’t want to take the time to practice to improve over time.
Oh the irony, right?
Sure, I knew about courage in theory but seldom did I actually practice it, save for a few difficult conversations here and there and the occasional exhilaration of risk.
As a young adult, I wanted to do things with an obnoxious level of excellence, perfectionism serving as a fabulous cloak for fear and shame. I had attached my value and worth to being perfect and offering razor-sharp precision in everything. This habit drove me to working endless hours, allowing others to run rough-shod over my unspoken boundaries, and suppressing my sexuality. I was hell-bent to fit in, you guys, and so I shaped my potential around what I should do and be.
It was nauseating, exhausting, and nearly broke me.
I first became conscious to fear’s power over me when my mother died. What did I really want to do with my life? How did I really want to show up, even when life got brutally hard? Who did I really love? What did I actually believe and what had I inherited and labeled as my own?
My mother loved life immensely and yet was powerfully honest in sharing she had many a dream left unrealized, including vacationing in Hawaii. (She just never got there, friends, even though she tried on several occasions.) In her final week of life, she offered this reminder:
We can dream or we can awaken. You’ve got the former down, sis; the latter will take some practice. Remember tomorrow is not promised. What will you do with today, Tonyalynne?
— Sandra Wildhaber
making friends with courage
In response to her questions, I spent that day loving her as well as I could under the circumstances. But I never forgot what she told me.
I didn’t want to only dream the rest of my life. I wanted to awaken to my true potential and purpose. I wanted to live well in every kind of life weather.
I wanted to stop moaning about my circumstances and start living powerfully in the midst of them. The complaining was just a fancy conduit for making excuses about why I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do. It was time to start living according to my courage instead of my fear.
But damn, courage is hard.
I read every book I could find on courage, watched the TED talks, devoured Dr. Brené Brown’s incredible research and work, and even took a handful of her courses. No matter how much I read and saturated myself in the concepts and theories of courage, though, one truth remained: I had to actually practice it. Day in, day out, in any life weather.
Given that I was deeply out of practice, I started small — little decisions, conversations, choices, and habits. Even clothing I wore. Then came bigger moments of practice, such as coming out of the sexual and spiritual closets and navigating health challenges, chronic pain, career changes, homelessness, job & relationship loss, and starting a business with $800 to my name.
Beneath all life circumstances in the past few years—the highlights and lowlights—have been my mother’s words and conscious, courageous action on repeat. The practice of courage is rarely easy but it is always, always worth it.
I’m still making friends with my courage in the amazing moments of life too. Trusting myself and trusting others, for example, continues to be a deep practice of courage for me. Even as I write this blog, my practice today was an extra mile in my workout, writing more content for a new business offering coming next year, and an overdue conversation with someone I love.
Here’s the thing, friends. Fear is real, for all of us. It doesn’t go away if we hang out in our comfort zones long enough either.
When we are waiting for fear to dissolve, we wait forever and miss out on the dreams made for us. We can, however, learn how to move through fear with greater ease through the practice of courage.
Fear disguises itself so well in our lives yet it is actually our untapped potential that creates the deepest contamination to our spirit. Untapped potential looks a lot like fear; it first manifests in subtle ways in our lives and then permeates everything, leaving a residue of resentment, judgment, noise, and self-destruction. When we delay or distract from our highest potential, our body remembers.
HOW TO LOOK FEAR IN THE EYE
When our human hesitation rises up, we are invited to choose expansion over limitation. Even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. There is no formula — being present to our fear is what matters. We cannot courageously move through fear without first accepting its existence.
As my mother’s body grew riddled with cancer, the way she approached death reminded me that courage is a force far greater than fear. She accepted her death rather than resisting it. She honored what she had experienced in life and released the unrealized dreams. It wasn’t easy for her (she wanted more time) but it was her practice of courage in motion. (And I promised her I’d get to Hawaii one day in her honor.)
Ultimately, she died the way she lived — choosing heart over hurt, ease over anxiety.
Courage isn’t about overcoming fear at all; it’s about how we keep walking within it.
As my friend and industry colleague, Tommy Baker from Resist Average Academy says,
“We all know we are capable of bold dreams and ambitions, no matter how off track we feel today. But when we’re not moving towards our true potential, we get lost in the noise.
We get lost in our excuses. We get lost in endless distraction. We get lost with destructive habits. And then we wake up years down the line as a cynic….there is nothing more destructive than the pain of untapped potential but it’s never too late to reverse course and step into your power.”
It’s never too late, friend. Never, even in the final moments of life. Where do you want to change course in your life? Where are you being called to be more courageous? Wherever this finds you this week, allow your heart to look your fear directly in the eye.
Tomorrow’s not promised. What will you do with today?
With you in this practice,
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
An intuitive leadership and life coach for 14 years and founder of The Courage Practice®, Tonyalynne Wildhaber coaches individuals, leaders, coaches, and soulful entrepreneurs to make friends with their courage in a conscious way.
With a unique approach of integrating inner wisdom with outer strategy, she partners with you to courageously step into your highest potential, navigate challenge and transition with greater ease, and transform your abundance and life from the inside out.
Tonyalynne is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council specifically for her integrated leadership and life development approach. She is a frequent contributor to Forbes, WomELLE, and Thrive Global. She is head-over-heels in love with the Pacific Northwest, drinks iced coffee in all weather, regularly nerds out on women’s soccer, and is attempting to train a little Yorkie named Ollie.
ABOUT THE COURAGE PRACTICE ®:
The Courage Practice offers development from a deeper place. With an inside-out, soul-to-strategy coaching approach, we guide you to make friends with your courage and intuition in the ways that matter most to you. Join our thriving community to awaken and cultivate the courage deep within you, strengthen your relationship to your intuition, elevate your success and inner peace, and build a consistent practice to lead, live, and love more consciously.