Fear is so often expressed as a feeling, an emotion that feels like being frozen in place or watching your life pass you by. It is what we use to describe how we feel in car accidents or the first time someone hit us or yelled at us. It is how we convince ourselves to remain stagnant, because ignoring our fear is better than trying to defeat it—we’ll just save that for another day.
I feel like fear is much bigger than any emotion fleeting feeling—it’s a state of living. It erects walls around us, shackles around our ankles, and keeps us rooted in the sedating force of not feeling like we can or should move forward.
Fear manifested for me in its most debilitating way when I realized it was not good enough to endure abusive people and situations in my life, I had to actively fight against them. Every single day. Every single second. Active resistance, advocating for myself, and training myself to stop seeking validation from those who abused me. Then, I had to reprogram myself to not anticipate this abuse in every relationship and situation I entered. Finally, I had to discover within myself that I was not inherently deserving of abuse because I’d endured abuse for such a long time.
Fear kept me bound in the confinements of my abuse, straddled between knowing what to do to break loose and being fearful about the execution. I feel like many people are or have been in similar situations, and I applaud those who were able to break out of an abusive relationship or cycle with relative ease and never looked back. It’s not always easy, and it’s not for the faint of heart, especially when fear programs your mind to believe it’s all your fault or that you’re somehow deserving or innately abuseable.
Once I began to see fear as a state of being, a home I lived in, opposed to a passing emotion or feeling, it became easier to search for ways to break out of that fear. I won’t sit here and pretend I’ve completely broken free from living in fear, or that I don’t have more to learn—I absolutely do, and I’ve dedicated time and energy to doing so more enthusiastically once my understanding of fear shifted.
As Iyanla Vanzant once said, “Fear is born of a lack of understanding…and, more important, the absence of love.” Once we understand fear and love ourselves enough to know we do not deserve to live in it, it becomes a little bit easier to break free from it. The most important part is to remember to be kind and gentle with yourself as you ease out of that situation or circumstance and embrace the endless possibilities that are available to us once we are no longer frozen in fear.