By: Whitney Anthony, Guest
“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that…And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” – Louise Erdrich
To experience the full spectrum of life, to taste all of the apples, we have to face our fears. Fear is an emotion that we’re all familiar with. For some of us, it’s a constant companion, creeping around ever corner we turn. While it can save us from entering a dangerous situation on the one hand, it can prevent us from pursuing a life changing opportunity on the other. Fear can keep us from applying for our dream job, boarding an airplane, falling in love, and worst of all, from fulfilling our true and highest purpose. One thing is for certain, the more power we give fear, the more it lords over us, calling all the shots and robbing us of peace.
But facing our fears is the quickest way to squelch them. And sometimes in life, that which we fear most happens. Regardless of whether we want to face these fears, we have to. Here I list 10 fears that you’ll inevitably have to face (some you likely already have) and explain to you why you are better equipped and more fearless than you may now believe.
1. You will lose someone you can’t live without. And it will feel as though your world is crashing down on top of you. You will wonder how you can possibly go on. And the bad news is, you won’t really. Not that version of you anyhow. When you lose someone who means the world to you, you never really get over that loss. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your shattered heart. And one day, you realize that it is the very holes and cracks they’ve left you with, that allow your light to shine through.
2. You will be utterly and completely alone. For the first part of our lives, most of us are seduced by the idea that we are not alone, because there are people all around us. But some time in your late twenties or early thirties the reality hits you: you’re completely and utterly alone. Unlike childhood, when everyone appears to be revolving their lives around you, adulthood proves that everyone is looking out for their own best interest. And you have to do the same. At once, you feel the sting of loneliness and the freedom of solitude. In general, aloneness seems to be feared and avoided; yet every great spiritual teacher has attested to its importance. And the true beauty is that we’re all alone in our aloneness. Once we can grasp this concept, we may just find that life’s not so lonely after all.
3. Be betrayed by someone close to you. People will disappoint you. Everyone suffers at least one bad betrayal in their lifetime. It’s part of what unites us. But the trick is to not let that experience destroy our trust in people. We can’t let them take that from us, too. People will always be our greatest assets and our greatest liabilities. The great challenge is to keep caring for them no matter what.
4. Give up a dream. When we’re young, the world is our playground and the sky is the limit. We come out of college wanting to change the world, to get married, and have kids. But we get into the middle and discover it’s harder than we thought. People move away, addictions are formed, and opportunities are lost. And amidst it all, we change. For most of us, that means our dreams change too. It can be one of the hardest and scariest things in the world to give up on a dream. Though perhaps we should reframe this notion as not one of giving up, but of letting go. Letting go of an idea that you’ve held of how your life would be by this point in time, and embracing with gratitude all that your life is.
5. Lose total control. The truth is, most of our lives are out of our control. Yet somehow, the majority of us live with this sort of mirage that we are behind the steering wheel. We make plans, and then feel disappointed when they don’t happen. We expect things from people that they don’t do or can’t give. No matter how hard we try, we simply can’t control everything. At some point, it hits us all. A period of complete and total loss of control. Like a fast, downward spiral-shaped roller coaster that you can’t remember ever boarding. It’s scary, but it happens to all of us. And it’s our choice whether we scream with terror or simply let go to appreciate the ride, or both.
6. You’ll screw up. You’ll hurt someone you never meant to. You’ll fail a test you thought you’d pass. You’ll forget to send that all-important email that you promised to your boss. Stuff happens. And you’re not perfect. None of us are. We have to accept the fact that we’re going to make mistakes. And we have to forgive ourselves when we do. It is only when we stop expecting ourselves and others to be perfect, that we can love everyone for who they are.
7. You’ll fail. If screwing up is scary, than failing is terrifying. But perhaps a more accurate depiction of this fear is that we lose. On top of our own internal and deeply rooted competitive drive, our culture is so win win win, that when we do lose, we feel like we’ve failed. But how terribly wrong we are! A loss is not a failure. A loss means you’ve tried for something! Sadly, some people are so scared of failing, that they instead choose to not try at all. But if we don’t take risks, then we can’t succeed. And the only true failure is not trying. Besides, when you lose, scary as it might seem, you find another part of yourself.
8. Suffer a crushing heartbreak. This fear encompasses, and yet at the same time is distinct from, all the others on this list. For example, if you’re going through a heart-wrenching breakup, in many ways, you’re facing a death and failure- the death and failure of that relationship. Yet again, this is something we all must go through. In order to find ourselves, we must first lose ourselves. It takes a heart that’s been broken, to experience real compassion. And although in the wake of heart break, it may feel like we’re standing deep in a forest with no way out, we can find hope in the knowledge that someone else has stood in our exact spot, and has since moved on.
9. You’ll disappoint people. And likely face a lot of criticism on the way. I think it’s our nature to want to please. As children, we learn our worth by seeing how often (or not) we can please those around us. But as the years pass and we begin to pursue our own goals and plans, we learn that we can’t please everybody. We disappoint people on a regular basis and if we’re truly doing something extraordinary, than we face a lot of criticism along the way. But take it from Donald Rumsfeld who said it best, “If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
10. Life will throw a wrench in your plans. They say if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans. And it’s true. No matter how immaculate your organization or detailed your schemes, things usually won’t go as you expect. There is only so much for which we can plan. So we take life as it comes, one day at a time, with hope. We remain as prepared and proactive as we can, then relinquish our control. In this life, the only thing we should ever be expecting is the unexpected.
Congratulations. If you’ve already faced a number of the fears on this list, than you are ahead of the game. You’ve experienced the lows of life and you’ve come out on top. You’re living life to the fullest, though it may not always feel that way. You’re skating across the peaks, and trudging on through the valleys. It’s what life is all about! And for this, you’re braver than you believe and stronger than you think. Your character runs deep and you are better equipped than most to handle life’s continued challenges. Be grateful for your hardships that have made you who you are today.
In the words of Marianne Williamson, “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” Fears cease to be fears once we face them. Even if we don’t want to face them, often we have no choice. But the key, I’ve learned, to facing trials and tribulations, yet still managing to come out on top, is acceptance and faith. Accepting our reality at any given moment, no matter how scary it may seem. And faith in ourselves and others. The reality is that difficulties seldom defeat people, but lack of faith in themselves usually does. Ultimately, faith is what gives us the courage to face our fears, knowing in the end, and no matter what, we will be okay.
About the Author
This article was written by Whitney Anthony. Whitney, who loves singing, writing, and performing is the author of the Vehicle of Wisdom blog. Although she has graduated from school, Whitney considers herself a life long student. She believes that as we learn, we teach – at our best we are all teachers. To learn more about Whitney visit her website www.vehicleofwisdom.
Featured image credits: Iconiccontent.com