“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~Pema Chodron
For the past three weeks, I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to move to Korea for a year. Some days I’ve completely made up my mind to take the trip. I get excited about teaching myself Korean and spend hours and hours online learning about the culture.
Other days, I’m an emotional wreck, terrified that I’m making the wrong decision.
What if I get homesick? What if I’m supposed to be doing something else? What if I don’t like kimchi? What if? What if? What if?
And then there are those days where my mind resists all attempts to make any kind of decision at all. I’m immobilized, unable to push through the debilitating fear.
Being the self-reflective (over-analyzer) type that I am, I decided to dig deep within myself to find the root of this pesky little emotion that has been sabotaging my efforts to move forward, or in any direction, for that matter.
I realized that the issue isn’t about being afraid to go to Korea. The real issue is that I have an overall fear of making the “wrong” decisions in my life.
Interestingly enough, I also realized that this brand of fear directly coincides with my decision to live a more purposeful and spiritually centered life.
Huh? I embarked upon this journey hoping to find inner peace, bliss, rainbows, and unicorns, and I actually seem to be experiencing more negative emotions than before. Seems counter-intuitive, right?
What I’ve been interpreting as an increase in negative emotions can more accurately be described as a greater sensitivity to myself. I’m hearing the messages my mind, body, and spirit are trying to tell me because I’ve made a conscious decision to listen.
Listening closely to my fears about Korea made me aware of some pretty negative beliefs I held about myself and doubts I had in my abilities. The fear I was avoiding actually turned out to be the one thing that made my decision clear and gave me the courage I needed to prepare myself to go to Korea.
For those of you who may be struggling with your own fears, I’d like to share some lessons I’ve learned along the way:
Make peace with your emotions.
Emotions, even ones we assign negative value to, (like fear), provide us with valuable information and serve very specific functions. If you can get over the hostile relationship with emotions, they can be highly useful.
- let you know what’s important to you
- prompt you to take some action
- guide you toward an aspect of yourself that needs to be exposed and healed
- let you know when you’re out of balance so that you can bring it back to center
Understand that there are no “wrong” decisions.
It really takes the pressure off if you understand that every experience you have, whether you characterize it as “good” or “bad,” is exactly the experience you need to have at that moment. Some choices may lead to more painful lessons than others, but nothing hurts like living in fear.
When I was trying to decide whether or not to go on my trip, I had a friend who flipped a coin and made me commit to the outcome. Life involves some risk. Flip the coin and see where it leads you.
Intuition can use fear to help you grow.
Fear is often described as a psychological response to a perceived threat. Most scientists agree that when it comes to survival, fear has served an evolutionary purpose. It only makes sense to avoid things that can potentially harm you.
However, many of us have developed fear from negative experiences in our past. We have built a protective fence around our emotional scars, and learned to ward off anybody or anything that triggers an unconscious fear.
Sometimes our intuition guides us toward those things we fear the most so that we can push past them and become stronger as a result. The next time you feel fear, embrace it, examine it, and if guided to do so, move boldly toward it.
Photo by pasotraspaso