One of my strongest tools for dealing with fear and nipping it in the bud is compassion. The reason it works so well, is because it takes the focus off of the self, the ego, and places it on sharing love and kindness with others.
I gave it some thought to see if compassion could combat all fears, and found that it is more relevant for some than others. For instance, compassion is probably not going to help you get over a fear of roller coasters or heights, but it can help you get over a fear tarantulas!
Here are the top 4 fears compassion melts best:
1) Public Speaking
I first realized how relevant compassion is for public speaking when I gave my first formal presentation in sixth grade. I had put a lot of effort into my prehistoric living diorama and was proud of all the research I had done, but was still really nervous about speaking in front of the class.
I remember at one point, looking out at my classmates, and feeling a warm wave of love and happiness. It was a small group, and I got along really well with all of them. I felt supported, and like I was sharing useful and interesting information that they really wanted to hear about. My mindset shift went from fear that I would mess up, or they wouldn’t like my presentation to a warm feeling of being of service.
Compassion isn’t necessarily about feeling bad about someone’s situation, although that may be the first thing we think about when we hear the word. In this situation, I felt the feeling of compassion and associated it with an act of service. I was compassionately sharing information with people who wanted to receive knowledge. It wasn’t about ME anymore–it was about the INFORMATION I was sharing, that they wanted. I was simply a medium.
Here’s the trick about this. Getting into a space of compassion is just a way to shift your mindset, so you move away from fear and towards a feeling of love. It doesn’t matter if your audience is bored or not really interested in what you have to say. You shift your mindset towards compassion and service, even if it doesn’t logically make sense that they need compassion, and magic happens. This will keep you from talking *at* your audience, so that you come from a space of simply sharing.
2) Fulfilling Your Purpose
Fulfilling your purpose and stepping into your power is scary stuff whether it’s starting your own business, looking for a more challenging job, or getting up the nerve to ask for a promotion or raise.
Why is it scary? Mostly because we’re afraid of failure or being disappointed. Again, it’s all ego stuff that’s scary. Keeping the focus on yourself and feeling afraid of failure or disappointment is actually SELFISH.
I believe every person has a special gift and calling (some of us even have more than one!). Whatever you love, whatever you are amazing at–that’s what you should be doing at the highest level possible. Because ultimately, your talent/strength is a gift that is a SERVICE to others. If you are spending a large majority of your time not using your strengths for the benefit of others, there are people who are missing out. You can cultivate a feeling of compassion for others, and how they will benefit from your skills, in order to motivate yourself to share your gifts.
3) Resolving an Argument
Conflict and arguments get so nasty because they’re all about ego. I believe carrying on with such an argument is about 2 things: wanting to be right and fear of being hurt.
A conflict is best resolved when it is a win/win situation for each person involved. That means that each person feels heard and understood, and a common ground is reachedâ€”even if it’s just agreeing to disagree.
Wanting to be right and win the argument is about ego, and it may make you feel better in the short-term, but it kills relationship. Think about it–if you win the argument, what happens to the other person? They will feel like they lost, or at least didn’t get their point across or feel heard. If you make someone important to you feel this way, you’re not really winning anything!
Here’s where compassion comes in. The key is to detach from ego and trying to win and be right, and seek to understand where the other person is coming from. The focus goes completely off the self and onto having compassion for the other person, and what they are trying to communicate.
I’ll admit that this can be hard, and it’s scary. I think the main reason, is because the ego is just trying to protect itself by wanting to win. There’s a fear that if the ego loses, a part of the self will be lost too.
And when we get nasty and start attacking in an argument, we are really feeling vulnerable and scared and not liking that feeling. We lash out and act tough to protect ourselves out of fear of being hurt. But imagine if we could switch to compassion for the other person, and maybe even recognize the fear and feel compassion for ourselves. All the fear would melt away and we would come to a win/win situation of greater understanding rather than a win/lose disconnect.
4) Fear of Scary Bugs–Seriously!
I was really touched when I read about the reverence that Buddhists have for all living creatures–even bugs. Their respect for all life forms is so great that they are extremely careful not to kill even the smallest ants. I even read about a Buddhist monk living up in the mountains who had all sorts of scary animals and bugs coming up into her tent, but she never killed any of them, and they never harmed her.
In fact, she said she was more worried about getting up in the middle of the night and stepping on one of them, than she was about one of them hurting her!
I really love this way of being, and think it makes so much more sense than impulsively and angrily killing other creatures–okay unless they’re really, really scary. I’m sure there are still some instances where I might freak out to that degree!
But when I find creatures like centipedes, furry spiders, or cockroaches where they shouldn’t be, I have a special little Tupperware box that I scoop them up in put them outside. I am revolted and frightened when I do this, but I am able to do it, when I cultivate compassion for them. I remind myself that they are vulnerable, and I have the power to kill them, while the worst they could do to me is give me a little bite, if even that. And the beauty of it is, the more often I scoop up scary creatures, the more I habituate to the fear and disgust. Because that’s the way fear and anxiety works. The more you expose yourself to your fear, the less afraid of it you become.
Cultivating compassion works so well to combat some fears, because all it requires is a simple mindset shift. There are no steps to follow, and it doesn’t necessarily even involve the need to practice. It is a right-brain, holistic experience that filters your viewpoint, if you choose it. Quick, easy, and effective!
Leave a comment and share an experience where you used compassion to combat fear or another example of how it can be used (I’m sure there are more that I didn’t think of!)
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