Fearless Is a Dangerous Trend
We can't quite pinpoint the exact moment that fearlessness made the jump from occasional social media meme to full-time trend, but it's happened, and it's dangerous.
Dangled in front of us from every angle, the state of being fearless has become synonymous with courage, bravery, and enlightenment.
The truth? Tell us you're fearless and we will know you are either a liar or not in touch with reality. 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 fear: 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've worked hard to get to the point where we don't feel weak or damaged for having it, but instead look at it as an uncomfortable companion, warning us at appropriate times that something's going on that we need to be especially aware of, and prepared to act should a real danger emerge.
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.
Also check out our annual I Am Power Retreat - a full weekend of breaking down the walls of shame that so often accompany our fear, and learning how to turn fear-based paralysis into action.
We'd love to hear from you. Do you consider yourself fearless, fearful, or someone who has fear at appropriate times? How would you describe your relationship to fear? Comment below to share your thoughts and experiences.
Until next time, be safe and be well...