The Fear Inventory, or, How to Invite Your Fears to Tea
“Life is an ongoing process of choosing between safety (out of fear and need for defense) and risk (for the sake or progress and growth). Make the growth choice a dozen times a day.”–Abraham Maslow
People often tell me that I am brave because I have made a lot of big leaps in my life. In my late thirties, I moved to Buenos Aires on my own. I’ve also traveled alone for a year in South America, starting a number of businesses, published books, and told very personal stories in the public eye.
I like the compliment, but I always want those people to know. I don’t necessarily feel brave. I feel a lot of fear. Anyone who really knows me knows that I talk about my fears A LOT.
I struggle with fear, and then find a path forward. There is no magic bravery pill. The fears are always there to be cleared.
In my experience as a life and executive coach for women since 2012, and in my own life, I have seen fear rear its head many times as the invisible force that keeps us stuck. Fear is inevitable for all of us when contemplating making big changes.
We face fears, daily. Fear of rejection when we ask someone for what we really want. Fear of raising a hand in a meeting and saying what we authentically think and feel as opposed to whatever people say to curry favor. Fear of moving to a new country, striking out on our own, or of success.
Fear, by its very nature, comes up when we want to move outside of our comfort zones. Fear can manifest as confusion, spaciness, or getting frozen and stuck in repeated patterns of behavior or thought. Some people speak of “fearlessness.” I don’t believe anyone ever completely rids themselves of fear. We can learn how to have a different relationship with fear.
Learning the tools for how to deal with your fears creates pathways so that you can listen to your fears and work with them without getting stuck.
We can learn tools and strategies for letting those fears in, knowing that they do not necessarily have the final word.
Fears want to be heard. We can hear our fears and then choose how to act.
Here’s the thing about fear and why it’s so important we develop a friendlier relationship with it.
Fear hides our desires.
When we let the fears have their say, we can find out more about what we really want.
Here is an exercise that can help you to welcome in your fears and discover your courage. It’s called a Fear Inventory.
Invite your fears to tea.
The Fear Inventory is a fear tea party.
You will welcome in your fears and ask them to have a cup of tea. You will see your fears a bit more objectively. You witness your fears and see what is below and behind them. You get to see the underlying desires that emerge after the fears have their say. This exercise is not about wallowing, it’s about letting fears be heard.
A fear inventory helps you to witness yourself and lessen the resistance that you feel to yourself. So often we get caught in a spin cycle with repetitive fears in our minds. We feel their power because we don’t just let them speak.
When to use the Fear Inventory
When you are having trouble making a decision, when you know what you want to do but can’t summon the courage to do it, when you are afraid of taking any leap.
Or you can do the Fear Inventory regularly. You can even do it daily and wow, will you feel more courage in your life! There have been weeks in my life when I have done it daily. I felt great.
Here’s how it works.
Each of us carries a heavy load of unconscious fears in our bodies.
These fears prevent us from expanding in to our full potential.
When we take a fear inventory, we’re bringing fears to the surface and seeing them more clearly. When we read them back to ourselves or out loud, we’re shining light and approval on our fearful selves.
At the end of the list, you may find that you have more space and freedom within yourself. You may naturally find yourself listing your desires because once all this space has been cleared, you naturally feel into your next steps.
Fear Inventory instructions
Time: 10-30 minutes. The longer you go, the deeper you go.
What’s needed: pen and paper. You can also list your fears on a phone or computer. Typically, however, there is a power in handwriting.
1. Find a private place to sit.
2. Pull up a blank document or piece of paper.
3. Take a minute to reflect on an issue, person, or experience that has been triggering you recently or keeping you stuck. Writing a headline at the top of the page, “Fears about X.” You do not want to do fears on all parts of your life. You want a focus.
4. Write your inventory according to the format below. The language is important. The sentence stem begins, “I have fear that…” To go deeper, look for the underlying self-judgment. For example, “I have fear my boss will say no to my request and I will judge that to mean I am not good at my job.”
5. Don’t forget to add your prayer at the end for what you want in place of your fears. This part is very important to shift your energy and welcome in what you want. What you want could be “clarity,” “peace,” “lightness,” or whatever comes up for you.
5. Repeat as needed. You can do this as a daily practice or to release fears when you feel them clog you up. It doesn’t matter if your fears repeat. They will come up as long as they need to.
Begin your fear inventory:
“Fears about x”
I have fear that . . .
I have fear that . . .
I have fear that . . .
(This can go on for pages, the longer you go, the deeper it goes.)
At the end, write a prayer.
At the end, be sure to write a line to release the fears: “Spirit (or god, or higher self, whatever works for you), please help me release these fears and give me confidence and peace instead.”
Or, “Spirit, please help me release these fears so that I can live in more harmony and love with John.”
Some people find it helpful to tear up the list. Some people find it very helpful to read the list aloud to someone else or email it to someone else. You can experiment to see what works best for you.
Fears about making a living in the Bay Area
“I have fear I will feel trapped in the Bay Area making money just to survive in a place that is not really the place for me.
I have fear that this book will take so long to write and derail my ability to make money, and I will feel like a loser.
I have fear I will get caught in a race to make money in a life that is not excellent.
I have fear I need my life to be excellent and I will judge myself harshly if it’s not.
and then this continued for a page. Notice that fear that contain self-judgments tend to go deeper.
Spirit, please help me release these fears around work and money and live in a more peaceful place with myself going forward.”
The more we clear our fears, the more courage we discover to act and the more space we have to discover what we want.