Fearless Is a Dangerous Trend
We can't quite pinpoint the exact moment that fearlessness made the jump from occasional social media post to full-time life objective, but fearless is a dangerous trend.
Dangled in front of us from every angle, the state of being fearless has become synonymous with courage, success, presence and living life to the fullest.
The truth? Fearlessness doesn't truly exist. You cannot outrun, outwork or out-will fear. Fear is here to stay. And it's a good thing that it is, because it helps to keep us safe, questioning circumstances and prepared to make changes if necessary.
So why the recent insistence on the abolishment of fear altogether? Our best guess is that it stems from a common way in which people have an unhealthy relationship to their fears: an overwhelming obsession that affects and negatively influences thoughts, emotions and actions. This might mean the person who compulsively checks the locks on the doors and won't go out at night alone, but it can also be present in the person who stays in an unhealthy relationship or career because they are afraid of what lies on the other side. We believe that the motivation behind the "be fearless" craze is a well-meaning one, aimed at helping to overcome the paralysis that often comes when someone is fearful. The reality, however, is that this recent push toward the mythical state of fearlessness is almost as unhealthy as the state of being controlled and manipulated by fear.
When we emphasize fearless as a desirable and courageous way of living we inadvertently suggest that having fear makes us weak, vulnerable or even broken.
We then either shame people with fear, adding to the burden, or push people to deny fear of all shapes and sizes which can lead to inaction just as easily as having an overabundance of fear. "I don't need to learn how to protect myself because I'm a badass and can handle myself," begins to looks a lot like, "I'm too scared to learn how to protect myself because I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do so effectively." Different roots, same outcome.
If fearLESS and fearFUL both fall in the “unhealthy relationship to fear” category, then how can we begin to think about fear in a way that will honor its intended purpose? For us, it's this statement: "At certain times, and in certain circumstances, I have fear." And that's it. No judgment, no shame, just an acknowledgment of what is.
Collectively, we've been training in self-defense for over two decades and we still have fear when we train sometimes. We still have fear when we walk to our cars in an empty parking lot, when a noise wakes us up in the middle of the night, or when we think someone is following us. But we continuously work hard to not feel weak or damaged for having that fear. Our goal is to look at fear as an uncomfortable companion who warns us when something's not quite right so that we can take a moment to assess the situation and make a decision about how, or even if, to act.
Do we still struggle with identifying fears that stem from our imagination and our memory versus a “real” fear that’s in response to a potential danger? Yes! We’re not suggesting it’s easy.
It's still a work in progress, but this healthier relationship to fear is beginning to spread to personal, social, and professional areas of our lives as well.
Our goal is to live in the middle of the fear spectrum, settled between fearful and fearless, where we can acknowledge fear as a functional and invaluable part of how we exist in the world, and something that we're neither ashamed of, nor a slave to. It's from that place that fear becomes the ultimate sounding board.
So what's the secret to learning how to live with fear when it's present, and not in it or in denial of it? Well it's not the same path for everyone, but we believe that it most likely begins with looking at fear as a necessary and valuable part of who we are, albeit one that doesn't always feel good; to reject the notion that having fear makes us less than; and to be aware of times in our lives when fear controls, manipulates or dictates actions that go against what we actually want.
We strongly suggest reading, or rereading if you've already experienced it, a book that has had a tremendous influence on our own journeys with fear, "The Gift of Fear," by Gavin DeBecker.
We spend a lot of time in our training events working on practical steps that can help you take action in the face of fear and/or shame. Connect with us so that we can chat about how our programs might best serve you and your organization and community.