Let me start by sharing a mnemonic definition of “fear” that 100% resonated with me when I first came across it.
F∙E∙A∙R is an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. This refers to the fact that, much of the time when we are afraid, there is no actual threat of immediate physical danger, nor any threat of a loss of someone or something dear to us; there’s actually nothing there at all. This F∙E∙A∙R is an illusion.
I’ve only recently come to realize that F∙E∙A∙R has paralyzed me for decades. For example, throughout much of my life my mind has tricked me into believing that I procrastinated solely because I feared disappointing others around me. Although I had never pinpointed WHOM I believed I’d disappoint, I nonetheless did my Snoopy “happy dance” upon realizing that False Evidence was behind my (in)action and thought to myself… now that I am aware that my procrastination is rooted in fear, I can move beyond it. Little did I know that this was only the beginning. I mean, I felt a shift – I was no longer oblivious to my procrastination and would in fact use my new awareness to do a lot less of it. The thing is, the tendency wasn’t entirely gone.
Fast-forward 14 months and I am now convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this F∙E∙A∙R was rooted in being afraid to “reveal” myself. You see, I’m gay and I’ve known this since I was 10 years old. Back then, as I was coming to terms with this realization, I was also targeted by several students in my grade 5 and 6 classes who took pleasure in making my life a living hell. Did they know I was gay? Probably not. Could they sense I was different? Possibly. Bottom line, I was bullied on a quasi-daily basis and, as a result, my self-esteem took a beating at a very early age.
Fast-forward to coach Ryan Mathie explaining a theory about “the stories we tell ourselves,” and an eager me in a webinar full of strangers raising my hand to take part in a demo. Although I used a different scenario in the demo, this was the first time this theory had been explained to me so simply yet so powerfully.
The story that I made up as a child (and continued to tell myself years later) was this one: I can’t reveal myself because I can’t deal with things getting worse than they are. Also, if I do reveal myself… what then? I’d get beaten up at school, my parents might abandon me (and it didn’t help that my parents had recently separated, and I was going through a hard time already), etc. As you can see, the false belief that “revealing” myself meant danger was hatched… and so this F∙E∙A∙R followed me, plaguing me for decades.
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, “Oh, the times, they have changed.” Thankfully, most of the world is a more accepting place in the 21st century (compared to 1985), and although bullying still exists in 2020, I don’t think things would have played out the same way had 10-year-old me been faced with the same challenges nearly 40 years later.
But what if F∙E∙A∙R meant something else?
Earlier, I mentioned that F∙E∙A∙R was an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real… with this so-called evidence playing a central role in the story I’d been telling myself. In fact, I was never in any real danger; my story was my mind’s version of “the boy who cried wolf.” My breakthrough came when I finally realized that this narrative, and its focus on a self-defeating premise, no longer served me. Instead, it became a l∙i∙a∙b∙I∙l∙i∙t∙y – yes, you read that correctly. LIABILITY.
I’ve come across a much better acronym for F∙E∙A∙R. For me, it now stands for Face Everything And Rise. What do you think of this updated take on the acronym? I find it serves me more powerfully, and I can in turn show up powerfully for others!
So, I ask… where and how does your mind play tricks on you? Are you even aware that it does this? Are you realizing that certain issues keep coming up in your life (over and over), but you can’t figure out how to change the pattern? If you’re interested in transcending it and moving forward with your goals, I’d love to hear from you and have a conversation to see how I can help!
P.S. I don’t think I’d have felt comfortable enough to write about this topic had I not blasted through another level (with the assistance of a few coaches). I’m grateful for their help AND for the journey that has me #RightHereRightNow
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