“Courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.” -Dorothy Bernard
In a society that values bravery and equates fear with weakness, we often try to “get rid of” fear as soon as we feel it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean it isn’t there!
If you think you are fearless, you’re wrong. If you judge yourself for experiencing fear and try to convince yourself out of it before acknowledging and owning it, you’re doing yourself a serious disservice. Instead of suppressing fearful emotions, it is best to acknowledge them and convert them into something productive, like courage!
The fears that we experience as most threatening vary from person to person. Some fear rejection more than anything else. For others, it’s abandonment, loneliness, failure, inadequacy or embarrassment (just to name a few). What it is that we fear most as individuals does not matter. What matters is that we understand two things:
1.) No one is fearless. EVERYONE experiences fear and we need not be ashamed of feeling fearful.
2.) Fear makes bravery possible. We cannot be brave or courageous if we are not fearful in the first place!
Don’t judge yourself or your children for being fearful. Fear is a completely natural and unavoidable emotion. Whether we admit it or not, we all experience fear. It is what we do with that fear that matters. Courageousness and bravery are qualities that we value, but in order to truly be courageous or brave, we have to first recognize our fears, buckle down, and proceed through them. Not around them. Not over, or under them. THROUGH them. That is what true courage consists of.
Fear is an emotion that we humans are hard-wired to experience. The fight or flight response often triggered by fear saved our ancestors‘ lives when threats to life were a part of everyday experience. Today, we face different dangers than our ancestors did but the experience of the associated feelings remains the same. Fear is uncomfortable and it is designed that way in order to elicit a self-protective response.
Threat. Fear. Response.
Bear. Fear. RUN for your life.
It is true that children often fear things that adults know are not nearly as threatening as kids perceive them to be, but this does not make the child’s experience of the fearful emotions any less real! We have to remember that children’s reasoning skills and coping mechanisms are not nearly as well developed as ours and therefore they experience things very differently from us. Validating our children’s fear, and then helping them learn coping skills and tools to handle it is very important!
As parents, teachers, coaches and role models we all need to be aware that one of the main ways children learn is through observing the behavior and interactions of the adults around them. This is why it’s important for us to teach our children that fear is an emotion that is both okay and natural to feel. This involves acknowledging our own feelings when they arise, owning them, and responding in both appropriate and adaptive ways. The way to quell fear is not to deny oneself of feeling it altogether, but to acknowledge it and convert it into adaptive thinking and behavior.
If you find yourself challenged with fearful feelings, remember that “courage is fear that has said it’s prayers.” Try to find comfort in the idea that everyone experiences fear, and we all have the power to convert this fear into courage by adding a bit of hope and faith in ourselves and/or others into the equation. Those who are truly the most brave are the ones who can admit feeling fearful in the first place. This doesn’t mean we have to run around telling everyone about every little thing that worries or scares us. Sometimes all owning feelings means is acknowledging them within ourselves. “I feel __(emotion)__ because __(situation)__ and that is okay because I am going to ___(make this change, internally or externally)___ to better my situation.” It is only when we know and own what we are feeling that can we problem solve in the most effective ways.