Fear is an extremely powerful force. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing control. Fear of others. It keeps us from connecting at a deeper level, and can prevent us from being our best to ourselves and those around us. This is the real “F word.”
Fear, legitimate or not, dictates behavior, builds walls both physical and emotional, and suppresses authenticity. But what were to happen if we put that beast in its place in order to create more respectful communities?
I believe a lot of the ugliness that divides us stems from fear, and that fear originates from a lack of empathy and understanding. I personally enjoy the concept of assuming the best in others. I can free myself of fear when I first assume that others are doing their best, and to not take things personally. It’s not always easy, but it’s certainly not naïve. Rather, it’s entrenched in human dignity and compassion. At the very least, I can control how I think and behave, and always strive to do my best. Others need grace, and possibly a positive example of respect and love.
But fear can also be directed inward at ourselves, which in turn sabotages our ability to truly enjoy our own lives and communities. What are you afraid of? Do you suffer from feelings that inhibit you? I think we all have, to some degree at different points in our life. Are these feelings holding you back?
I’m afraid I won’t be loved.
I’m afraid I won’t do it perfectly.
I’m afraid I’ll be judged harshly.
I’m afraid I’m not good enough.
I’m afraid I’m not worth the effort.
I’m afraid someone else’s issues will affect me.
What if you let go of fear and self-doubt, or at least gave into it a little less? It exists for no purpose other than to keep you from growing and progressing. Self-limiting beliefs are not truths. Your beliefs can change. Your perspective of yourself can change… and (gasp!) the way you interact with others and the rest of the world can change for the better when you accept yourself first, and are not ruled by that which you are afraid of. Dig in and enjoy the ride!
For example, I had a person close to me who had not yet come to accept a critical part of their identity. In fact, they were crippled by self-loathing. That in turn made their behavior towards others toxic. With time and maturity, self-acceptance was reached, and they were able to change their outlook and actions towards others, but it had to start from within.
Fear must also be placed on the back burner when you are looking for positive change in your life. Committing to a goal takes courage to take the initial leap, but also because it will require vulnerability. Maybe your goal won’t be attained in its original form, but I know from experience that you’ll grow and evolve along the way, and realize that this alternate path holds as much meaning and purpose as what you originally set out to do. Perhaps you won’t “win” in the manner you thought, but in your “failure,” or most certainly in the process, you will gain so much more. You can’t let the fear of failure be an obstacle to your growth.
To anyone who has an inkling in their heart to aim a little higher, in whatever area of your life, there is nothing holding you back except that little voice within that says you can’t. And that voice has zero power over your life, only what you give it. Believe in your dreams, you are 100% worthy of them. 100%. Along this journey, we can also find and build more meaningful, respectful communities.
Darcy Castro is the 2019 Elite National American Woman of Service, representing a national pageant focused on community service and empowering women. Cultivating Respect with Darcy Castro is a year-long project to promote the program’s Crown CARES platform (Creating a Respectful Environment in Society). Follow the Cultivating Respectarticles and podcast at DarcyCastro.com, and learn more at AmericanWomenOfService.com.