The Gift of Fear

Nimita Shah
Nimita Shah

Article by, Nimita Shah

Five years on after making my career change, I felt fear. Fear that I am not working hard enough. Fear that maybe I am not doing the right thing and wasting time. Fear that I am not good enough or achieving as much as the next person. And yet this is the life I have chosen!

After feeling stuck for so long in a career where it felt like a part of my soul was dying at every waking moment of every day, I decided to go back to university and pursue a Masters in Occupational Psychology. I was petrified but it also felt liberating to do something simply because I liked it without thinking about where it would take me. A few years later, I am fortunate to be able to combine my love of Psychology with the science of career decision making. Yes, life is definitely better now, but it was no stroll in the park to get here!

I get to do what I love but by moving in a direction I really value I also open myself up to what I really fear. By caring so much about pursuing a meaningful path, by definition I am scared by it too. It represents my highest hopes and my darkest fears! Oh the turmoil!

The truth is that you can live a life where you do avoid difficult emotions like fear, or you can choose to move towards something that you really value. If you want to live a fearless life, be prepared to stay in your comfort zone, or worse still, stuck like I was. Both options can be painful but the latter makes the experience of fear worthwhile with a sense of meaning. I have come to realise that to pursue a life of meaning, we must be willing to have the fear. Like the flipside of a coin, I can’t have one without the other.

Fear is here ultimately, I believe, to protect us. Our minds did not evolve to ensure our happiness. It evolved to scan the environment for mortal danger constantly. “Is that a bear I see in the distance or a blueberry bush”? Our minds evolved to detect the bear to ensure our survival. After all, you can have lunch many times but actually be lunch only once!

Fear is not a bad thing in itself but, sometimes, we forget its true evolutionary purpose. In order to pursue what really matters to us, it also means risking failure and taking steps into the unknown. And when we do that, guess what happens?! You guessed it – fear shows up. Right before any major good thing in my life, I was scared.

When I walked away from my soul crushing job – fear.

When I decided to study and go back to university – fear.

Right before I deliver a workshop or speak at a presentation – fear.

Writing this blog piece – fear!

So, if you feel fear, nothing is wrong with you. If you are feeling fear because you are in danger, then that is how you should feel. It is protecting you and keeping you alive! If we can use fear as fuel, it can act as a compass keeping us on our chosen path. So, my question to you is, Are you willing to carry your deepest fears with you if it meant you get to pursue and live your dreams?

Note: This blog was first featured in the online Womanthology magazine. Web:
Republished here by kind permission from Nimita Shah