Fear has had too strong a role in my life for far too long. The fears change as life changes, but it seems there’s always something out there causing me to be feel some degree of fear. I’m working on it, day by day, and in the past couple of years, I’ve made pretty good progress.
One thing I’m not afraid of is…being afraid. Fear isn’t always a bad thing. It can keep us out of trouble and maybe even save our lives. The trick is to distinguish those fears that are reality-based from those that exist mostly in our imaginations. For example, my fear of jumping out of an airplane with (or without) a parachute is probably a good kind of fear to have. This kind of fear would dictate that I spend a bit of time learning how to safely jump out of a plane, and then even more time carefully inspecting the parachute.
Being afraid to join a gym for fear that I might look silly is not particularly useful or reality-based. It exists in my imagination only. In a risk-benefit equation, the benefit is clear, and the risks can be overcome. Here are a few pieces of ammunition:
Fear-fightin’ Tool Kit
1) Acknowledge your fear. Admitting you’re afraid is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, the opposite is true. Examining your thoughts and actions (or lack thereof) and identifying those that are fear-driven is a very brave thing to do. You should feel proud!
2) Talk about it. Giving voice to your fear is a great first step to exerting control over it. Talk it out with a friend or family member, or seek out the assistance of someone you know has overcome your particular fear.
3) Write it down. Whether it’s on paper or in a blog post, sometimes it helps to see something in print. We notice patterns in thought that we hadn’t seen before. Or even better, the act of writing unleashes some lurking thought we didn’t know was there.
4) Take small steps. Y’all know I’m all about the small steps! They ease us through difficult transitions and help us build a platform of successes.
5) Get creative. There’s no textbook plan for overcoming fear. That’s good news, because it leaves the solutions entirely up to us. We can set our own schedules and determine our own timetables. And we can adjust as necessary. We can build our own plans, or adopt someone else’s. One of the fear-fighting tips I’ve found most useful is one recommended by the illustrious Martha Beck, who asks clients to name their fears (their “inner lizards”, she calls them, referring to the reptilian basis of our fears) and to even go so far as to get a physical object representing the lizard. (I think the theory is that it always helps to put a face with a name.) Anyway, I loved the idea, and it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Lulu, my lizard, from her perch on my computer monitor:
Whatever you do, do NOT tell her she’s not really a lizard or that’s she’s not particularly frightening. The fact is that she was in a dollar bin at Target, and she looked kind of cute. I also liked the fact that she’s a dinosaur, because I want to send some of the fears that hold me back into extinction. (But not Lulu. She’s with me for the long haul.)
6) Accept imperfection. We don’t have to get it 100% right 100% of the time. Good thing, too, because that’s impossible. We are not perfect beings. In fact, the beauty of any transformation is in the process–learning from mistakes, building on successes, experiencing the joy of self-discovery. One of my favorite quotes (source unknown) advises,
“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember: amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.”
Whatever you do, don’t let a fear of failure stop you from following your dreams. These people didn’t:
Using one or more of these tools to fight your fears may be just the boost you need to move forward. It’s my greatest wish for you…and for me!
Happy Monday to all!