Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fear --

I'm going to take a little foray away from the topic of nutrition, and focus on mental health - which I also think is key to staying healthy.

I wanted to discuss fear, which I believe can be an emotion that often limits us from living life and pursuing our goals. Fear can manifest in many ways (worry, stress, unhappiness, depression) and often we may not even realize that we are feeling fear. Fear can keep us from following opportunities, pursuing our passions and taking risks; it can stop us from working on our relationships. It is often linked to the unknown and to something we cannot completely control. We feel uncertain about what the future may hold; going down a certain path may seem scary, so we stick with what we know. Even when an opportunity presents itself, feelings of inadequacy may limit us from grabbing hold of it. We may convince ourselves to avoid taking a chance, perhaps applying for a job, joining a club or making a commitment because we think we don't have the skills or knowledge to succeed or because we fear failure. However, in so doing, we end up limiting ourselves, and denying ourselves experiences or successes.

Sometimes fear can also keep us from realizing something remarkable that is right in front of us; fear can be blinding and keep us focused on our current situation, without striving for the possibilities. Fear can keep us from trusting others and trusting life and can keep us from achieving our true potential. Humans are adaptable creatures, but at the same time we fear change, which can lead us to become creatures of habit, not because there are not other things we may want to pursue, but because we are afraid of how to pursue them, or what the ramifications might be.

Sometimes we are afraid to pursue a certain path because we are afraid of how others will react. Humans are sensitive to how others perceive them, and we don't like to fail, especially if that failure is visible by others. This can lead to embarrassment and shame, and past experiences can keep us from seizing new opportunities. What is important to realize is that what we worry about or think about is often not even noticed by others; and when it is it is usually quickly forgotten.

Humans are also very good at imagining, and thinking up worst-case scenarios. However, the worst case is often not as bad as we imagine, and most often does not materialize. It can be hard to change our mindset, but life should be about seizing those opportunities, taking chances, even if you don't know if you will succeed or how you will reach your end goal. Living in a world of fear can keep a person down, people often begin to convince themselves that certain things are not possible, even without trying them. In taking risks and chances, we often learn about ourselves, realize our capabilities and build confidence.

While setbacks may occur, try to see them as a learning experience and not as impossible obstacles. No one would ever succeed if everyone let failures get in the way, and stopped them from continuing to try and reach their goals. We've all heard stories about famous writers or artists who were rejected numerous times before finally having their work published or exhibited. Setbacks and rejections can be difficult to take, but once we realize that they are part of life, that most people experience them and that they are not a reflection of who we are, we can become more comfortable in taking chances and trying something new. Although we might not be successful, taking a chance could also lead to the most wonderful opportunity or lead us down a path we had not earlier even imagined.

However, taking risks does not mean that we should take actions without thinking. It is important to think about how we want to accomplish our goal and to be logical about our actions. Fear is not completely a negative emotion. It keeps us safe and helps us realize when there is real danger. It can also encourage us to be thoughtful about our future, so that we think through our actions, and don't make rash decisions.

Taking risks means trying and not giving up because the path ahead seems difficult or uncertain. It means making efforts towards reaching your goal. For example if you are interested in making a career change, examine the possibilities in terms of your interests to decide what direction you may want to go. If you already know what area you are interested in, take some courses to obtain the qualifications for the position, or talk to others who are working in your desired profession to learn more about the position and make connections with those working in the field. People are usually more than happy to talk about their careers and how they got to where they are - most people enjoy being helpful, and are willing to assist when they can.

Recently in my own life, I have struggled with fear in two different areas of my life. I have struggled with it on a personal level in terms of my own relationships, and on a more superficial level as I have taken up mountain biking.

In mountain biking, confidence and mindset are two of the most important parts to the sport. Having confidence allows you to be a better biker and to take the necessary risks to enjoy the sport. I, however, seem to have a higher fear level than many other people. What this means is that although the logical side of my brain knows that I can ride a certain obstacle, the fear side of my brain steps in and stops me from even trying. This has been frustrating because sometimes I look at something and know that it's no big deal, but have a hard time conquering it. Other times, I gain confidence and feel strong and ride over obstacles that I have found challenging in the past, realizing that in fact, they are no big deal. A lot of it involves letting go of my fear, trusting in my abilities and realizing that there is nothing to be afraid of. I think this translates well into many other areas as well - as when we can let go of the fear, worry, stress or concern and trust in ourselves, we realize that there is nothing to fear and can step into the world with confidence and overcome obstacles that might have seemed insurmountable in the past.

The fear that I have in regards to my relationships is harder to deal with since I am not the sole controller of the result. Fear often creeps up when we cannot control the outcome. This type of fear can easily lead to stress, which is often counterproductive because the stress can lead to illness and unhappiness. Most times when I begin to either feel fearful or stressed because of something that I cannot control, I try to remember that I have done everything in my power in the situation, and to try and find comfort that things will work out okay. Things may not always go as planned, but the result is usually not disastrous either.

Although we like to control things, we are not always able to control everything, and sometimes it is best to just let go and allow things to evolve. For instance, if you are stuck in traffic and are late for a meeting with someone, getting stressed about the situation does nothing to resolve it and just makes you anxious. Instead it is better to do what you can about the circumstance (eg: give your friend a call, if possible to explain), and to try and not get too worked up about the situation because there is nothing more you can do to change it. When I am not in complete control, I try to focus on what I can do and not to worry about the rest. I try and work on my own mindset to focus on the positive aspects, and to exhibit positivity, love, hope and happiness. While, this may not change the result, drawing from a position of strength within yourself will make it easier for you to deal with the outcome.

If there is something that you are passionate about or are interested in pursuing, seize hold of it, trust in yourself and do what you can to achieve it. Don’t be afraid of what the future might hold and understand that we cannot always be in control. If there is a situation in your life that you fear might happen, take control and do what you can to bring about the result you want. Do what you can to bring positivity to the situation, while remaining realistic, and appreciate the beauty and wonder that already exists in your life.


  1. Hi, Thank you for such a great message. It was important for you to write it, just as it was important for me to read it! I am so glad you set up a blog. It's awesome!

  2. Great message, Sonja! So powerful and insightful. You have the inner strenght to conquer all kind of terrain in your life. Thank you for sharing, it's so important!