You can’t overcome anything until you actually look at what it is. You can’t overcome your fear until you know what it is you’re afraid of, or why you’re afraid. What most of us are scared of, at the deepest level, is death, extinction. This is pure Darwinism. Our core instinct is to survive. This is true for a mosquito, an earthworm, a human being. With most things we are afraid of, let us picture them taking place and ask ourselves, ‘Then what?’ Invariably, our answer is, ‘I will die.’ It may not always be about death of the physical body. We’re also afraid of things such as humiliation. If we introspect about why we are so afraid of being embarrassed, we learn that being deeply humiliated actually feels like we have ceased to exist. Not on a physical level, of course, but on a deep, emotional level.
On a psychological, spiritual level, we are constantly judging ourselves based on how people respond. We are constantly readjusting our sense of self, based on how people look at us. Slowly, you realise that the ultimate eventuality we are afraid of, through fear of failure or humiliation, is: ‘I will dissolve.
‘ On a very deep level we believe that if people don’t love us and acknowledge us, we don’t exist. Think about the new-age ‘selfie’ obsession. Psychologically, it is fascinating. We don’t just take pictures and keep them. No. We go ahead and post them on social media. If nobody likes or comments on the picture, in our heart of hearts, we feel we don’t exist. We keep posting to remind people, ‘Hey, i exist.’ The more responses i get, the more i exist; the fewer i get, the less i exist.
This is the root of a lot that ails us. When we talk about overcoming fear, we have to first break this myth. Making a fool of ourselves does not obliterate our existence. We have to develop courage to take risks, because our awareness of our existence is no longer dependent on how people look at us or respond to us. I have to ground my awareness in my Self. I have to know who i am, so that regardless of whether you think i’m the biggest fool who has ever walked the face of the earth or whether you think i’m the greatest person you have ever met, it doesn’t change how i feel about myself. That’s the only way to overcome the fear.
The other side to it is to recognise that the greatest tragedy is not failing, but never stepping up to grab the opportunities in your life. The greatest tragedy is looking back on your life and knowing you were afraid you were going to fail and people would laugh at you. That’s the tragedy, that’s something to be afraid of. We have this incredible gift, this incredible life, all these moments brimming with potential, and it is tragic if we don’t use them.
A beautiful line in the prayers that we chant here every morning at Parmarth Niketan says, ‘Tu akele nahin pyare, Ram tere sath mein’ — ‘You’re not alone, dear one, God is with you’. If we can live knowing that we’re really in the Mother’s arms, that we’re being carried by God, if we can allow that faith to take over, it will replace the fear in our life.
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