5 Life-Changing Realizations About Fear and Anxiety

Written by on December 22, 2017 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living with 0 Comments

By Berni Sewell | Tiny Buddha

“Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me.” – Isabel Allende

I was lying on the sofa in my tiny flat in Vienna.

My feet were elevated on a cushion and the room was spinning in a brisk waltz around me. My stomach was cramping and cold sweat was trickling down my spine. I gasped for air whenever choking fear forced my racing heart to skip a couple of beats.

The situation was all too familiar.

Back then I suffered from generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety. I was also plagued by severe toilet anxiety, which is a fear of needing the toilet when none is available. As a consequence, I had panic attacks several times a week.

So, I knew exactly how to stop the agony. I fumbled for the phone and dialled my friend Eva’s number.

“I am sorry,” I said. “I must have caught some kind of bug; I’m quite unwell. I will have to cancel for this evening…I know! It is a shame. I was so looking forward to seeing you again and meeting your friends…Yes, next week would be lovely! I’ll be in touch!”


As I hung up, a welcome wave of relief washed through my body as the panic slowly subsided.

I would have loved to see the conclusion of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen.

But what if no aisle seat would have been available? What if I would have had to sit in the middle of a row and needed the bathroom? What would the other people have thought if I squeezed past them, profoundly apologizing, while ruining their movie experience?

Furthermore, I had never visited that particular cinema before. I would have to take the underground at night. What if I was mugged? And I had never met the two friends Eva planned to bring along. What if they thought I was a bore or a jerk for needing the loo every ten minutes?

I was convinced I had made the right decision. I would just stay on my sofa, watch comforting repeats of Friends and be safe.

No fear, no anxiety, no panic. All was well again.

Until it hit me.

I was a hostage of my fear! It dictated what I could and couldn’t do. It confined me to my comfort zone and denied me dreams and aspirations.

I was never free to pursue fun adventures or meet new people. I was handcuffed to my sofa, my familiar daily routine and the nearest toilet facility.

And when I attempted to escape, I was hit with a merciless panic attack that left me stunned and shivering back where I was safe. On my sofa, in my little flat. Right where I sat in the dark on a December evening in 2003 and wept.

For being a victim, for being a prisoner, for being weak and scared. For not having a life.

And it was right there on that little sofa that I decided I had enough. I would take control over my life, I would claim the right to choose. I would finally live.

It was a long journey. A lot has changed since then.

And I want to share what I have learned in the past thirteen years.

Because for me, overcoming or defeating my fear was impossible. It always fought back with a vengeance. I had to find a different solution.

Realization #1: Fear is not the enemy.

After that life-changing December evening, I started to research. I read countless books, took courses, and attended seminars. I needed to know what caused the constant fear and how to stop it.

I had always perceived fear as a menacing, painful, and crippling hostile force. A life-sucking alien parasite. An uncontrollable beast.

But I soon discovered that fear can be both healthy and pathological.

Healthy fear is a vital physiological reaction that has guaranteed survival of animal species for aeons.

When confronted with a dangerous situation, adrenaline and other hormones accelerate breathing and heart rates. Blood pressure increases, muscles tense up, and blood is redirected to the arms, legs, and brain. The body prepares for fight or flight, to either combat the threat or flee from it.

A healthy fear response lasts as long as the dangerous situation that provoked it persists. It then subsides until the next trigger restarts it.

However, when fear is triggered by generally harmless events like a trip to the theater, meeting new people, or a car journey, it becomes pathological. The fear designed to save your life is now destroying it.

But why was I terrified of so many innocent situations that other people wouldn’t waste a thought on? What had gone wrong?

Realization #2: My pathological fear was linked to low self-worth.

I soon realized that my anxiety and panic attacks were a direct result of my lack of self-worth.

You see, when you suffer from low self-worth, the world becomes a menacing place.

Subconsciously, you believe that you don’t deserve happiness, so you constantly expect a catastrophe. You are terrified of the future because devastating tragedies happened to you in the past and you were too powerless to prevent them.

You feel under constant pressure to outperform, impress, and achieve perfection because you don’t feel worthy of other people’s love and respect. Yet, you mistrust your abilities and always feel that you are lagging behind or winging it. And you are horrified people might uncover your darkest secret, that you are a fraud.

Hence, you incessantly agonize about making mistakes and worry that other people might disapprove of you and your actions. You don’t believe in yourself and your ability to cope with life. So, you doubt your decisions and fear the potential consequences. And you are paralyzed by the thought of any change.

You feel overwhelmed, stressed, cornered. You perceive your whole life as a threat. Fear and anxiety have become permanent features.

Because you believe that you aren’t good enough in other people’s eyes. Because you don’t know that you actually are worth personified. Inherently, infinitely, and unconditionally so.

You are worth, even if you aren’t a fun socialite who makes friends easily. You are worth, even if life overwhelms you sometimes. And you are still worth even if you pee yourself in public, because as embarrassing as it may seem, it doesn’t change anything about your true worth!

I must have repeated the affirmation “I am worth” several hundred times a day for months. I now knew that, if I wanted to beat my fear of life, I first had to believe in myself. Only then would I feel confident enough to deal with everything that came my way.

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