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How Listening to Your Fears Can Guide You to Greatness

Learn how to harness your fears to crush your goals in My Friend Fear, the May selection for Tonal’s official book club, Read Between the Reps.

My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel, this month's pick for Read Between the Reps, Tonal's official book club.

Fear may have a negative connotation, but it actually keeps us safe. It’s good to be afraid of dangerous scenarios like entering a lion’s cage or walking a tightrope between two skyscrapers. Unless you’re an expert lion tamer or tightrope walker, you’d be in a lot of trouble if you had no fear in those situations. 

Fear backfires, though, when something not-so-threatening—like giving a presentation at work—elicits the same feeling of terror. During those times, our fears might actually be pointing us toward what we need to lean into most.  

Maybe you’re thinking about starting your own business, but you’re afraid to leave the security of your day job. Or perhaps you want to begin a workout routine, but you fear you won’t be strong enough to take on the challenge. In these instances, your fear of failing is telling you how important that goal really is to you. 

In My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown, our May pick for Tonal’s book club, Read Between the Reps, writer and illustrator Meera Lee Patel takes the subject of fear head-on. She reveals how she learned to embrace her own anxieties and let them guide her confidently into the unknown.

An open page in My Friend Fear displays author Meera Lee Patel's watercolor painting and inspirational words.

“It took me until I was 30 to acknowledge all the various ways my fear paralyzed me,” Patel says in an interview with Tonal. As a creative, leveraging her fear has helped her craft more honest and compelling work. “I have learned that letting people see the most intimate and emotional parts of me never becomes less scary, but by continuing to do it, it becomes a little easier to push away the fear that used to stop me from opening myself up.” 

Patel acknowledges that getting vulnerable with your fears isn’t easy, but it’s important work that’ll help you become the person you want to be.

4 Essential Lessons You’ll Learn From My Friend Fear

  1. You’re not alone: Patel says that fear can be very isolating, and one of her goals in writing the book was to help readers understand they aren’t the only ones experiencing these feelings. “I want them to know that they are not weak because they feel fear,” she says. “They are normal, healthy people—and they have the ability to see fear differently, if they choose to.”
  1. Fear is a motivator: The fear of getting stuck in an unfulfilling job motivated Patel to take on the challenge of experimenting with writing and painting. “It pushed me to work two jobs through my 20s in order to create and fuel a freelance career that enabled me, only six months ago, to finally quit my day job,” she says. You don’t have to be an artist, like Patel, to enjoy the benefits of these lessons. No matter what aspect of your life you feel fearful in—career, relationships, or personal growth—her book teaches skills that you can put into practice.
  1. Get comfortable with uncertainty: The unknown can be scary, but it can also bring unexpected benefits. For Patel, watercolor painting, where colors can randomly bleed across the page, is a reminder that it’s okay to let go of control and embrace the unknown. “Many times, I’m forced to let go of the vision I had for the painting and let it become something else entirely,” she says. “This can be frustrating and scary, especially when I’ve worked so long on a piece, but it is also exciting and often the painting shapes itself into something beautifully unexpected.” 
  1. It’s not too late to change: “You can always change your own story,” says Patel. “You don’t have to live in fear for the rest of your life just because you have been until now. Like everything else, how we approach fear is a habit.” The techniques in the book, including questioning your fear, listening to it, and learning to sit with it, can help you break out of a self-destructive pattern. 

About the Book

The meditations and reflections in My Friend Fear reveal how you can transform this unpleasant emotion into a force for positive change. Patel shares examples from her own life and offers insightful advice on how to embrace your fear of the unknown. With inspirational quotes, thought-provoking questions, and beautiful watercolor illustrations, it’s the type of book you can turn to again and again for guidance. 

About the Author

Meera Lee Patel is an artist and writer. She is the author of three guided journals Start Where You Are, Create Your Own Calm, and Made Out of Stars. Her books have sold over 700,000 copies and have been translated into 12 languages. Patel is currently a contributor to Uppercase magazine where she writes and illustrates a column on the intersection of creativity and mental health. 

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