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Finding Meaning In Fear

Illustration of black woman in water floating on her back - by Tasha Black
I’m not gonna sugarcoat this

Brilliant women never seem to see their brilliance. 

I spent the first few years of my business convincing myself that I needed more experience, more time perfecting my talents, and more refinement.  It turns out my inner critic generated that narrative to keep me tamed and taking direction from fear.  Which of course, furthered the distance between what I was doing and what my true nature wanted.

I got curious about the fear that was constantly popping up in my life, I looked internally and externally for answers and found that it's not our fault. Women have a long history of fear, because up until the 1950’s we couldn’t vote or hold property in our names. We couldn’t protect our safety through physical, legal, or financial means. Women have feared speaking out or speaking up for anything they believed in or wanted for fear that those with more power could deny us if we didn’t comply.

So many women are becoming more of themselves and releasing the death grip of fear so their dreams can become a reality. 

I recently learned about two interesting definitions of fear from Rabbi Alan Lew.  Full disclosure I’m not religious by any means; however, spirituality is foundational in my life and business and has contributed to my success on many levels. 

The Rabbi talks about two different kinds of fear in the Hebrew Bible. One is called Yirah and the other Pachad. 

What Fear Can Teach Us When We Listen

Yirah is defined by:

  1. The feeling when we inhabit a larger space than we are used to.
  2. The feeling of having more energy for something than we are used to having.
  3. The feeling when we experience divine alignment with something bigger than ourselves. 

The symptoms

  • Feels expansive and spacious
  • Focused on the present moment
  • Identified with your inner GPS
  • Abundance mindset

Here's an example:

I worked with a client in my consulting practice, Casey. She graduated from Berkley and worked in philanthropy for more than fifteen years. She was successful, but her job was affecting her well-being. We worked together because she wanted to move to Mexico and start her own wellness business. Every time she talked about her ideas, she would light up. When we talked about turning her insights into action she got quiet. I asked her what was challenging for her? She said that she was scared of what success looked like, she thought about what responsibilities she would have, if she would have the same circle of friends, and how it would change her. I asked her if she noticed her narrative about change and that it doesn't always mean something bad? I saw her eyes brighten up and she said that the narrative about change and fear traces back to her childhood. I explained that change is often the catalyst to getting closer to your true nature but like Casey, many women typically respond to change by playing small especially when it's related to showing up in a big way professionally. 

The Practice

When you’re experiencing yirah, you’ll want to notice and name it. Being more expansive may trigger some uncomfortable symptoms often associated with fear, but hold on and breathe through this. Affirm that it’s safe to align with your true nature and to do big things. Thank yirah for acting as your inner mentor, showing you that you’re on the right path.  

How To Overcome The Fear Narrative?

The second type of fear is Pachad. The fear that most of us identify with.

Pachad is defined by:

  1. The fight or flight type of fear.
  2. Worse case scenarios that we imagine - the things that could happen.

The symptoms

  • It feels closed and constricted, getting smaller
  • Focused on the future, what if’s
  • Identified with your inner critic
  • Activates your adrenaline, making you feel anxious
  • Scarcity mindset

Here’s an example:

Pachad shows up when we feel physically and emotionally threatened. It wants to keep you emotionally safe by protecting you from failure, hurt feelings, and humiliation.  

The Practice

When you’re experiencing Pachad, you want to shift your thinking out of the fear zone into your wise mind by using one or more of these methods.

  1. Get curious. Ask yourself, "is the thing I’m worried about happening at this moment?" "Is the thing that I’m afraid of, is it true?” Getting curious can help you unpack and dismantle fear on the spot. Check out the work of Bryon Katie; it’s powerful. 
  2. Focus on your breath. Somatic tools help to shift your focus from the mind back into your body. Practice mindful breathing by taking deep breaths. When inhaling, say “this is my in-breath” and say “this is my out-breath” when you exhale. The mind can only focus on one thing at a time, and when you practice mindful breathing, you bring your awareness to the present moment and stop thinking. 
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Q & A with

Gigi Thomas

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