Overcoming Fear: Is it as simple as acknowledge, process and move on?

Fear is felt by everyone, even the bravest of us. It could be the fear of being judged, saying something stupid, not being as good at something as others, being caught out, not living up to others expectations, or even the expectations that we put on ourselves.

I for one am scared of heaps of things, some are more debilitating than others, but many of them I know are irrational and I want to challenge, rather than avoid them completely.

One of the many reasons why people experience fear, is because of the fear of failure. I recently read ‘You are a Badass’ by Len Sincero, which, despite the questionable title, definitely hits the nail on the head in so many areas. When talking about fear, Len rightly points to the fact that so many of can’t get past it, but those that do achieve great things. She refers to some of the many wonderful things we take for granted today that wouldn’t be possible if people had ran away from fear. There are endless examples, but I just wanted to point to one; Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” examples Edison. If this isn’t a good enough reason to not give up when we have fear of failure I don’t know what is!

When you look at how we used to play as children, you will remember we placed less focus on a fixed outcome, but instead were so much better at enjoying the moment, something children and animals seem to have in common, ‘We’d be wise to take more of our cues from the beasts and babies!’ sights Jen.

More wise words were spoken by the Chinese philosopher; Lao Tzui; ‘you are depressed, if you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace you are living in the present’. Which again echoes the feelings of fear when you think about moving forwards in your life.

I do think we live in a fear based society, which is even more of a reason why it’s important to seek out those who are already excelling at giving fear the heave-ho. As well as those that are supportive and provide you with encouragement, rather than fill you with doubt and a lack of confidence. Being around people that don’t drain you, but instead inspire you, can make such a difference.

So how do we change the way we think, after all, our thoughts, feelings and behaviours, known as our ‘ego’ have been building up over many years, in many cases during our pre school years. So it’s no wonder why some of them are so difficult to budge, or work your way through. Changing our thought processes, or re-wiring our thoughts is totally possible, if you use the right tools, but first we must understand them.

Do you really understand why you feel the way you do when it comes to fear? Understanding where the thoughts have come from and what your triggers are, can be the first step in changing how you react to fear.

Firstly, one common theme during coaching is self perception. I’m curious, when was the last time you tried to see yourself through the eyes of someone that admires you – when was the last time (if at all), you asked a friend what they think your positive qualities are? Give it a go, you could be surprised at what they say!

Likewise, when we experience resistance or conflict, often what other people think about you has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. It may be holding up a mirror up on their own flaws, or perhaps what they’d like others to see in them.

How we talk to ourselves is also key to understanding how fear can stop us from reaching our goals, or debilitating ourselves from moving forwards. I for one am 100% guilty of this sometimes. I find myself putting myself down surrounding certain areas of my life. Instead of saying ‘I’m not good enough’, what would be the outcome if I simply said ‘I’ve come along way, and I’m pleased with what I’m achieving/learning’. Or perhaps if I give you a specific example, surrounding my fear of doing a triathlon, even though I know it’s something I want to achieve. I find myself saying to friends/myself, ‘I’m really scared of doing a triathlon as I’m a rubbish swimmer’, but what would happen if I simply said, ‘I’m a stronger runner, but I’m going to get some swimming training, so I can become a better swimmer’. What could I possibly hope to gain with the negative, self sabotaging talk? Well, perhaps, if I don’t ever attempt to do a triathlon and stick to running, which is safer, and gives me instant reward and confidence, perhaps I‘ll have an excuse – if I don’t train for the swim I can say that’s why I’m no good. But what will that achieve, absolutely nothing, no learning, no sense of empowerment, no sense of achievement and most importantly no growth. So, what if you decide to commit, what next?

So, unless you’re super human there are bound to be bumps in the road of challenging your fear. So, whatever the goal, whether that’s getting fit, changing jobs, taking up a new hobby, creating a new habit, getting out of bed, or entering a triathlon, here’s a little insight on how you might considering tackling the obstacle. I was recently listening to an interview with Music Artist Manager Charlie Pierce on High Performance Podcast. Charlie talked about the need for resilience in starting up his company, and the importance of staying the course, in order to see reality shift. ‘It’s fine to find that you’re not always resilient. The important thing to remember when trying to make change and concur fear, is build small, create achievable goals, which enable you to achieve them.’

I know from personal experience and the positive change I’ve seen in clients, that taking small steps helps to build resilience, which in turn builds confidence.

In another inspiring interview with Jo Malone, the Founder & Creative Director of Jo Loves, Jo refers to the importance of facing the fear head on and creating small steps, so they don’t overwhelm – ‘I always do the things I don’t want to do first’. This is so key for me.

Many of us have endless ‘to do’ lists with those jobs that keep on being moved from one page to another! But, it’s proven if you get the jobs out of the way that you are putting off it creates space, not just for more time, but also provides clarity and huge sense of relief.

I couldn’t sign off this post before mentioning, Ant Middleton’s book The Fear Bubble, which a dear friend lent me. Admittedly Ant can come across as a bit ‘Marmite’, but he has a brutal honesty on the three main elements of fear; suffering, failure and conflict, which I find inspiring. He believes that there is one over arching element that drives all three elements of fear, the feeling of ‘I’m not good enough’ and believes if you solve this, you could solve them all.

So to echo the words of Ant Middleton, keep smashing those doors, even when they swing back at you, and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll grow.

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