The Beauty of Learning to Dance With Fear

Written by on September 30, 2020 in Emotional Mastery, Perseverance, Self-Determination

Life is a never-ending dance between your greatest desires and your greatest fears. Your willingness to listen to the music (or not) will define your journey. Remain in the shadows and always wonder what might have been, or dance with fear and find out just how good it feels to live life on your own terms!


Fear can be a tricky emotion. In itself, it’s not a bad thing. The natural intention of fear is always positive, helping to protect you from harm and injury.

The challenge is that fear has many faces, and it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between fear that urges caution in an effort to protect you, or the fear that is a signal you’re about to step into something important and life-changing.

But the most deceptive of all is self-inhibiting fear.

It begins as a seed of uncertainty that grows over time into an invisible obstacle course throwing up walls at every opportunity to prevent you from moving forward.

And it is effective, because rather than risk the discomfort that comes with pushing through the doubt and fear, most people will settle for a life that is far smaller than the one they are capable of creating.    

Could Fear Be Holding You Back?

We may not always be consciously aware of our fears, but look closely at the choices that we make on a daily basis the patterns become clear.

  • Someone who fears rejection or being abandoned, may cling too tightly to others, avoid setting healthy boundaries or exhibit people-pleasing behaviors to make it harder to ignore or leave them. 
  • Many people stay in unhappy situations and relationships because they fear being alone, or lack confidence in their ability to cope with change or find something better.
  • Those who fear failure or never being good enough, often struggle to finish what they start or go out of their way to avoid trying anything new.

There are many reasons we become fearful of certain situations or experiences, but whatever our fear may be, it’s worth understanding that there is a deeper layer, a place few ever venture.

It is a single core fear that affects each one of us and is more vital than all others.

Lack of trust in our ability to cope. 

We worry about things that may (or may not) happen because we doubt our ability to deal with the consequences.

Building this type of trust doesn’t require that you know all the answers, or that you will always do the right things. It’s not about perfection.

It is about refusing to give up on yourself.

It’s learning to trust that even if you make a mistake or take the wrong turn … even if the worst happens, you will handle it.

You will find a way and you will be okay.

Master the Dance

I approach managing fear from the perspective of mastering a skill. Something you can practice and get really good at.

This not only acknowledges that fear is a natural part of life, it makes the process seem less like repair work and more like an opportunity to grow.

While there are no one-size-fits-all strategies to overcome fear, I’ve used the following process successfully both personally and professionally.

Face It

It is amazing the lengths we will go to accommodate and shield our fears. Simply saying that you’re just being sensible, or waiting for the right time or circumstances, is an effective catch-all shield for avoiding all sorts of risks.

No matter what the excuse, it always comes down to avoidance. It’s our brain’s way of trying to protect us from feeling exposed and vulnerable.

Before you can begin to reclaim your power from fear, you have to stop pretending it’s not there, that it’s not affecting you, every day of your life.  

Name It

Sometimes merely naming your fear gives you clarity and the strength to take the first step to deal with it.

Make it a real thing that you can confront by writing it down.

Take some time to describe how it makes you feel and list all the ways this fear may be holding you back.

Face your fear, fully own it, and it will begin to lose its power over you.

Are you feeling a bit shaken, maybe fearful and doubtful and completely utterly, wildly terrified? Good. Keep going!

~Victoria Erickson

Break the Pattern

Gradual exposure, sometimes referred to as the ladder technique is a process where you slowly and repeatedly face the thing you fear until you break the destructive pattern and begin to feel less anxious.

It doesn’t matter how small that step is, as long as you keep moving forward.

Let’s use one of the most common fears, public speaking.

You would make a list of every situation you can think of that you typically dread or try to avoid because it triggers discomfort or anxiety.

The list might include speaking up at meetings, doing presentations, talking to strangers, walking into a room of people you don’t know, or even having to ask for help.

Once you’ve listed every situation you can think of, put them in order from the worst that could happen to the least stressful.

Then try to break the list down into even smaller steps that you can use to work through each level of fear.

Begin with the least stressful step and work it until it no longer has power over you. 

This process allows you to gradually build your tolerance and trust in your ability to cope. It also allows you to recognize your progress and celebrate milestones.

The Takeaway

I could list a dozen reasons why it’s important to overcome your fears, but if you don’t want this for yourself more than I want it for you, you’ll find just as many excuses to avoid making the effort.

What if you stumble? You probably will, more than once.

You’ll learn what works, and what doesn’t, and you’ll do better and feel more confident with each step you take.

One step forward, one step back, one step to the side, one step forward … keep moving alongside and through the fear.

When fear tries to pull you back into the shadows you take a step into the light.

Each gesture and response in the dance bring you closer to fearlessness and finding out just how good it feels to live life on your own terms.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, resilience coach, and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies, and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here.

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