Fear is a fact of life. In fact, our brains are wired for it. None of us would be here today if it weren't for the well honed fear instinct of our ancestors.
There's a difference between healthy fear and unhealthy fear.
Helpful fear keeps you alive. It tells you to run away from the bear, or to not eat that funny looking thing, or to obey traffic lights.
Unhelpful fear keeps you small. It tells you that you’re not good enough. It tells you not to try that new thing, not to take that risk, not to speak up, not to dream that dream. Unhelpful fear keeps you focused on what you might lose, what you might have less of and what may never happen for you.
When we are focused on unhelpful fears, we contract. We make ourselves safe. We get smaller and smaller.
And this is the trick of the fearful mind. When are you more likely to experience loss, less and never? When you're growing and reaching or when you're shrinking and contracting?
Hmmm. Something to think about.
Here are 5 steps to help you manage your fear.
Step 1: Remember who you are.
Get clear on your values. What are the qualities of life and character that are core to who you are as a person? Being clear on your values provides an inner fortification, so when challenges arise, you’re able to continue to move forward and make decisions effectively.
What are your values? Well, the clues are everywhere. They’re in the things you like to do, the times you find yourself in a state of flow and the things you’re most successful at. Choose five (integrity, creativity, contribution, etc.) that will guide and fortify you.
Step 2: Make friends with fear.
Pushing fear away only makes it more powerful. Rather than directing our energies to positive things that will improve our lives, we waste our energy resisting the truth. We become depleted and less able to tolerate the discomfort of fear, which only makes us more fearful.
Rather than thinking, “I’m afraid”, simply tell yourself, “There is fear”. This creates space between you and your emotions. You are not your fear. There is simply the presence of fear in your emotional experience at this moment. Now you can differentiate. Is there real danger? Or is it just a feeling?
Over time, we begin to see fear for what it is – a tool. It’s merely a warning sign that can be heeded or not.
Step 3: Explore your resistance.
Ask yourself, “What am I predicting?”. This is where you’ll find the underlying fear. And then ask yourself, “Is it true? Or is it a story I’m telling myself?”.
And if you really want to give yourself a shock, ask yourself, “Where will I be in five years if I don’t act now?”
Step 4: Commit to consistent action.
Fear is the single most powerful driver of human behavior. It will not go away without a fight. And that’s why just as we may have a yoga practice or a professional practice or a spiritual practice, the practice of fear management puts us in a constant state of learning and improvement.
I recommend starting with mindfulness meditation. And if that’s too much for you, simply decide to start each day in the cadence of a walk.
Take it slowly. Take one step. And then another. Focus on one thing. And then another.
You’ll be surprised how far you will get.
Step 5: Community.
Talk to people you trust (and only people you trust) about your fear. They might tell you, “You know what, that’s not really such a big deal” or they might say, “Yeah, that’s scary. You’re right to be scared.” Either might not be the answer you’re looking for, but at least you’ll know.
(BTW, stay tuned for some huge news from the Expansive Woman Project regarding community in the next week or two.)
Will you still feel fear, even if you do all five steps? Absolutely. The difference will the that your fear won’t define you.
There will always be setbacks, failures, and outright disasters. And when those things happen, your job will be to get back up, dust yourself off, and just keep going. Because the world needs you and all the things you’re going to achieve.