Fear! We’ve all felt it at some point in our lives…whether you’re afraid of spiders, snakes or heights, we can probably all identify with the feeling of our heart pumping faster, our palms getting sweaty, and maybe even physically shaking a little and just how uncomfortable this can be.
For the most part, fear has a purpose, to keep us safe…but the problem comes when fear steps in where it’s not really wanted, and starts to stop us from doing things that will stretch us and be good for our growth and development.
When you avoid doing things you might secretly wish you could do like public speaking, doing a presentation, or speaking up confidently in a meeting.
When you don’t take that next step like going for a brand new job, or promotion, or speaking to your boss about a raise.
Or when you actively resist things like learning something new, or going to networking events and meeting new people.
In fact there are loads of things that fear can stop us from us from growing…but what can we do about it?
- Know why it’s happening
It really helps to know that your brain’s primary role is to keep you safe…makes sense when you think of it, doesn’t?! When you’re firmly in your comfort zone it knows that you’re safe and OK – so it likes to keep you there. Now, although this seems lovely, the problem comes when you start to stretch and bump up to the sides of your comfort zone as your brain now doesn’t know that it can keep you safe. So what does it do? It sends you all kinds of messages to convince you to go back into your comfort zone and stay there.
Now, these messages are different for different people…as your brain knows exactly what will trigger you…but here are some examples to look out for:
- Feeling afraid
- Negative self talk – ‘I’m not good enough’ ‘I’m too old, young, inexperienced, etc’
- Comparing yourself to others
- Self sabotage – Being too busy, not feeling well etc
- An old memory of when you tried and failed
So when these come along, know that it’s just a natural reaction to stretching and see it as a sign that you’re heading in the right direction.
Which brings me onto #2
- It’s a sign that you’re growing
Our natural reaction to feeling afraid is to stop it from happening as it doesn’t feel nice. But instead, use it as a positive marker that you’re actually growing and expanding your comfort zone.
Take some good deep breaths and just observe how you feel rather than resisting it and you’ll probably find that it’s not as unpleasant as you thought.
- It’s just ‘fight or flight’ kicking in
Fight or flight is our natural response to danger…the best way to describe this is to imagine being a caveman…and you’re walking along and you come across a big dangerous animal…you then have to decide whether you’re going to fight it, or run away. Your body would then be flooded with hormones to enable us to do just that.
Now, even though we’re in the 21stcentury we still get these fight or flight reponses and most of the time it’s as a result of something that’s not dangerous at all.
A great way to get around this is to acknowledge what’s happening and breathe deeply and tell yourself that you’re perfectly safe.
- Treat your development as an experiment
Whatever you’re about to do that’s stretching you doesn’t have to seem like a succeed or fail situation. Instead it can just be an experiment. In fact, treating it like an experiment is a great way of taking the pressure off yourself and just seeing how it goes. You can also keep a journal of your development experiment and test and measure as you go on.
- Create a positive mantra for yourself
Positive mantra’s or affirmations are a great way of recording over the old negative self talk that you might have cropping up. For example, when you find yourself thinking…’I’m not good enough’ or ‘I wish I could do that, but I’ll never be able to’ time to press play on your positive mantra like ‘This could be fun’ or ‘I’m excited to give this a go and see what happens.’
- Celebrate your success
It’s easy to fall into the trap of only noticing the negatives, and being really critical of yourself – so intead have a go at making a point of celebrating all of your successes no matter how small, and make a note of them. It’ll make you feel great and give you something you can look back on later.
- Re-frame the emotion
The feeling of fear is exactly the same as feeling excited…so have a go at telling yourself that you’re excited and see how that works for you.
I’d love to learn your thoughts about how you handle fear so please feel free to leave a comment.
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