La DoubleJ’s JJ Martin on making friends with fear
To mark mental health week, the Milan-based member and lifestyle brand founder explains why feeling scared is nothing to be afraid of
By JJ Martin Above image: JJ Martin (Alberto Zanetti) Thursday 21 May, 2020 Short read
Here’s a blunt question (forgive me, I’m American): how’s your fear game going right now? I’m guessing it might have picked up in the last few months as COVID-19 swept the earth and sent us home to feel all by ourselves. As a result, you may have noticed that your darker emotions have had something to say to you. They might even have been screaming. Loudly. And often. Let me assure you, the racket is completely normal. As we learn from meditation, when we finally slow down and allow ourselves to come to a quiet place, we begin to experience ourselves on a deeper level.
I would argue that if you are either flirting with or fully consumed by fear, this is a good thing. And here’s why. Fear is a slippery little sucker. On the surface, it’s one of those things we want to avoid at all costs, like getting stuck on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles at 5pm on a Friday. It feels terrible in the body. For me, it’s like a giant steel ball rumbling through my delicate glass insides, smashing everything to bits. It’s a destroyer of my peace and happiness.
Fear makes us act like people we would never want to hang out with. It puts us at our most vulnerable and weak. It’s why we want zero fat and wrinkle-free bodies (fear of getting older), or obsess over getting fancy careers (fear of not being worthy), or create extravagant Instagram pages (fear of not being liked). Dig deep and you will notice that most of what you do in your life is intricately plotted to avoid your own fear of not measuring up, not performing according to expectations, not mattering.
Now, let’s consider something radical: that your fear is actually good. It is a huge flashlight shining on the things you need to learn about yourself, where you need to grow, and is the key for connecting to your highest, wisest self. I would like to propose that you do something even more radical: when you feel the fear, rather than run the other way, turn towards it. Look it right in the eye without yelling at it, stomping it out, or flinging it out the window.
Hear me out. What if you got friendly with your fear?
Why would you do something so idiotic, I can hear you say. Because once you learn to pet your fear and befriend it, you are creating an inner muscle that will protect you from everything that the world has to sling your way.
It’s not easy. When I first acknowledged all of my fears, I had a hard time being nice to them. This scoundrel did not deserve my kindness. It merited a smack or a whip into shape, or a glass of wine, or a large cookie to dispense with its noise. But fear plows through cookies and wine. Its roots grow deeper under the skyscrapers of success that you blindly erect around your ego. It reacts very badly to judgment, criticism, anger and vengeance. When you want to punish your fear for showing up, it throws a tantrum and retaliates by clinging to your cells, in your blood and on the walls of your psyche. It claws on and won’t let go.
We are always trying to police fear by controlling our outside environment – building a bigger fence, regulating the actions and behaviours of everyone else, shoving down our anger and stunting our own instincts. But the truth is that fear can only be tamed inside you. You temper yours through kind examination and keeping an open-hearted softness to your own miserable condition. Once you do, fear’s iron clothes fall off, its myth-sized muscles disappear and you’re left with a purring kitten.
Congratulations, you’re one step closer to the truly free person you were born to be.