On Feeling Unsafe

(Estimated reading time 3.5 minutes)

Right now, the world is full of fear and uncertainty. It reminded me of another time in my life when I was afraid. Here’s what I wish I had known then and I’m glad I know now.

I was twenty four when I immigrated to Canada. I remember moving, in part, because I wanted to feel safe. South Africa was in turmoil. We had just experienced a spate of violence very close to home. One incident stands out in my memory. We were at church – it was a Sunday night. We were partway through the service when we heard a lot of noise. There was gunfire very close by, followed by sirens. A few minutes later, a man ran into our service right up to the front (while the pastor was speaking). Breathless, he managed to tell us that several masked shooters had burst into the large church down the road and gunned down a lot of the congregation. It was shocking to imagine that it could easily have been us, horrifying to know that many people had just been killed. The space that was supposed to be safe had been violated. The violence that had devastated the country for so long was now very close to home.

My sense of personal safety felt like it had been ripped away. I was afraid and uncertain. Although I didn’t know it at the time, this moment would impact me for years to come. I was relieved at the chance to move to Canada not long after. What I didn’t realize is that my sense of fear and feelings of being unsafe were not something I could run away from. They followed me. It was some years before I realized that fear had unknowingly become an invasive and foundational part of my existence. At the time, I didn’t know where that fear had come from, only that it impacted everything. The more I tried to feel safe, the more fearful I became.

If I could go back 25 years and give some advice to my younger, fearful self. I might say something like this:

Don’t try to ignore your fear. Pretending it is not there will not make it go away. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to feel your fear. Acknowledge its presence and even give it a voice. Ask it kindly, “What are you afraid of?” Hear it’s concerns and thank it for trying to protect you. Then realize, you are not your fear, and it is not you. You can feel your fear, but you don’t have to let it define you. Acknowledge your concern, but don’t let it speak for you, choose for you, control you. You are not your fear, and it is not you.

3 Tips on how to Deal with Fear and Uncertainty

  1. Acknowledge your fear and uncertainty. Feel it. Allow it to speak. What would your fear, uncertainty or discomfort say if it had a voice?
  2. Ask yourself what you would be doing differently if you were not afraid and uncertain. What matters about that thing you would be doing differently?
  3. Act. If it matters, consider doing it anyway, even if you feel afraid.

I’ve been asking people what courage looks like for them right now.

Here is some of what they said:

  • Some days courage is just getting out of bed
  • Courage is doing things I never dreamed were possible for me
  • Courage is reaching out to people
  • Courage is setting realistic goals for the day
  • Courage is not shaming myself for my choices
  • Courage is staying strong for my children
  • Courage is not allowing myself to be consumed minute by minute by news about COVID-19
  • Courage is figuring out how to work from home
  • Courage is resisting the urge to stock up on everything
  • Courage is trying not to take out my anxiety about Covid-19 and being stuck at home on the people around me

I’d love to hear what courage looks like for you right now. Add a comment to this post or message me.

5 Tips for Cultivating Courage

If you need help figuring out how to deal with fear and uncertainty you can connect with me here.

Sue Das, Courage Coach, CPCC, ACC, B Soc Sc (SW)

One thought on “On Feeling Unsafe

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