Fear is one emotion that all men have yet many deny having.
Fear is about perceived or possible pain and danger. Some people do face daily survival issues but the fear and pain I’m focusing on for now is all the crap we invent in our heads; the emotional pain and danger that is off in our imagined future: Will I be a good Dad? Will I be able to provide for my family? Am I going to lose my job? Am I going to lose my home? Is my spouse going to leave me? Am I lovable? Am I good enough? Am I “anything” enough?
Traits that most men admire—such as courage, bravery, fearlessness—all require fear, to begin with. All of those traits are about acting in spite of fear; doing things that frighten us. We are not supported by denying fear. I’ve told my coaching clients for years that action cures fear. I’ve stumbled into that rather simple fact based on my own experiences. I can ignore the fears caused by my imagination picturing the worst scenarios for me by choosing a different thought, flipping the fear. Then, I take action directly into the fear. My fear of that worst-case-scenario vanishes.
When any man speaks one of his fears out loud, acknowledges it, lets it creep out of the dark spaces in his mind, other men say, “Yes, I’ve felt that too” or “I am feeling it right now.” For men, I believe the fear of being judged by others about our fears makes any fear seem all the worse. But, when someone else doesn’t run away, or call us names when we admit to being afraid of something, the fear lessens. When one man is brave enough to share a fear, other men are empowered to do so as well.
“The only thing to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
That means don’t keep it a secret. The worries, concerns, and projections that have us judge ourselves, tossing and turning at night, feeling stressed out, and on a hair trigger to snap on friends, family or coworkers–they are all an illusion, imagination run amok. Be willing to feel the fear. Feel what it does in your body. Notice if there is another emotion under the fear. What does it feel like right now in the moment? See and experience that your fear isn’t here. When I get present, I see and feel there is nothing to fear. The thoughts behind the fear are being made up. So I choose to invent something else. I choose to focus on the best possible outcomes. That is one way I’ve found to shift my fears. Does it last forever? No. Does it work every time? Yes, when I’m brave enough to do it.
People, especially men caught up in “being a man,” are concerned that showing or admitting fear means they are weak. I suggest otherwise. Stuffing and denying your fear is the sign of weakness. A truly powerful man takes actions despite his fear, perhaps even inspired by his fear. The bravest men in history were terrified. What made them brave was taking action. Fear can stop us, slow us down, push us into other directions, or it can fire us up. One thing to help turn fear from disempowering to empowering is to share it, acknowledge it. If you refuse to own your fears, they will destroy you.
A Big Fear for Men
The fear of being seen, of being known, of being authentic is a major challenge for many men. I recently spoke with a potential coaching client. He said he had heard an episode of my Real Men Feel podcast where I mentioned that as recently as December 2015 I was dealing with major suicidal thoughts and even did some planning to end this ride called Andy Grant. As he described questioning himself: “Is this the sort of person I want as my coach?” I had to deal with something I had not feared in years. Can I share so much that it drives people away? Is my authenticity costing me business? I quickly came to the conclusion that I didn’t fear that because I wasn’t my fear. This man was sharing his own fear of making a choice and of his own discomfort in working with a man who is open with all of his feelings, even the self-destructive ones. As potential client continued he said a couple of days later he was caught up in some of his own emotions and realized that Andy is the exact type of person I need to be talking to.
When people hear me talk about my work as an energy coach, that I can see the energetic cause, the base emotions, see the real person… they get nervous and say “I don’t want anyone seeing all that.” I point out that you at your core are beautiful. It is all the resistance, blocks, doubt, and judgments that keep us from experiencing our own truth — and that is the crud on display to everyone on a daily basis. When we can embrace all of us there is nothing to fear. When we resist any aspect of us, fear runs the show.
What Do Men Fear Most?
For many men that I come across the answer is feelings. Men fear being hurt, and then being judged (by themselves or others) as being less than they are supposed to be. Men fear being seen as an imperfect man. They fear feeling; feelings of emotional wounding or abandonment. They fear that they aren’t as tough, strong, or independent as they believe they are supposed to be.
Men fear most to feel that they are less than; that they are wounded, that they are ashamed. They are afraid that they are not living up to an idealized version of what a man is supposed to be. Men fear losing relationships, losing a job, losing status, in short losing things that prove they are human. For if a man feels loss they risk feeling grief, shame, and disappointment. They have to face feeling their own emotions and realizing they have a full range of emotions, many of which may have been off limits according to teachings of family and society. When any man shares his fears, discovering he is not alone, and witnessing that others do not flee but instead offer support and compassion, then all men flourish.
I find being willing to do what I fear dissolves that fear, and being willing to feel what we fear brings growth and relief. There is nothing to fear except the feeling of fear.
That potential client I spoke of earlier who shared so many of his fears with me did become a client. Then he quit, because he chose the old comfort of his fears instead of taking action through them. That is okay. At some point, he will feel enough pain and turmoil to gain the courage to take action once again. That is the best we can do. We will not live without fear, we can only learn to fear less and act more.
Fear that is in front of me is survival-based. The fear that does not serve me is the fear in my head, off in the future.
In honor of fear, the May 2 episode of Real Men Feel is an open call to men to join us and share their fears. It is a live opportunity to bring them into the light. To decrease their power and see that maybe fear doesn’t need to separate us, but that fear can actually bring us closer together. That is one thing, I do not fear.
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