How to Conquer Fear When You’re Feeling Stuck
Fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it helps to detect danger and take action when you’re not safe. Internal fears, on the other hand, come from your own thoughts and can create havoc if you’re not able to handle them.
When you’re in fear, it’s easy to worry about what’s going to happen in the future. You stress about what could happen versus what actually does happen. Getting rid of fear isn’t realistic, but knowing how to take care of yourself when it happens can help a lot.
This blog will show how to handle fears that are internal. For instance, when you’re feeling scared but nothing has actually happened yet.
Fear often starts with a random thought. In 12 step programs, there is a powerful acronym for FEAR that stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. This means that most of what we fear never actually happens. But once the fear takes over, we scare ourselves into not taking action.
Fear isn’t Going Away
Although fear is a natural part of life, it creates problems.
When it isn’t managed you start feeling anxious. Eventually, you may want to isolate. Without healthy alternatives, you could seek comfort in food or having one too many glasses of wine. Being unable to cope is a major factor in developing addictive or self-destructive behaviors.
No one decides to take action simply because “they know they should” they take action when they’re good and ready. You will too.
Fearing the Unknown
Often people fear the unknown and create negative scenarios of what could happen in the future. This is called catastrophizing. It’s very important to identify these thoughts as being false. Otherwise, your mind will believe the worst to be true. That’s how the fear starts.
You can learn to move past your fear and come out the other side. Being afraid isn’t a judgment against you. It’s an emotional sinkhole that most of us have fallen into on occasion.
I was super scared to do Facebook Live (live video on Facebook). It seemed like everyone around me was doing it. Although I had made several commitments to do one, it didn’t work.
I was definitely stuck. Another opportunity to grow! So here’s what I did...
1. Honor the Resistance
The very first thing I did seems counterintuitive but I did it anyway. I let myself off the hook! I admitted my powerlessness over not wanting to do the task and realized,
“I’m obviously not following through so let’s stop feeling bad about it.”
By letting go of my commitment I got some much needed relief. I stopped pushing myself and instead honored the resistance. Honoring your experience - no matter what it is - helps us to relax, reassess the situation and heal.
When I don’t want to do something (usually out of fear), I can’t make myself do it by criticizing myself. It just makes me feel worse.
Can you relate?
When making a commitment, I can usually take a step towards my goal - except when my fear is this big. Then I find myself getting stuck in my head. When negative thoughts start pouring in I know I’m in trouble. It’s time to do something different.
2. Identify Negative Self-talk
What I was telling myself wasn’t helping. I was saying things like;
“I can’t do this. People will think I’m being silly, or self-centered. I might mess up, then I’ll look like an idiot!”
When we get into fear what we tell ourselves has incredible power. Those negative messages are called “self-talk” and it’s what you tell yourself about everything in your life - people, jobs, institutions, politics - you have thoughts about it all. For more read my blog Why Self-talk Matters.
Self-talk is made up of your innermost thoughts and feelings that are never shared. Sometimes, people judge themselves too harshly for their thoughts. You can’t control your first thought (thoughts can be random), but you have the power to change the next one. That’s where positive change happens.
For me, the turning point came when I realized I wasn’t ready to do Facebook Lives but I could do something less scary...
3. Take Baby Steps Towards the Goal
I thought about what baby steps I could take towards my goal. I remembered that making videos on my iPhone wasn’t scary because I could practice and delete the ones I didn’t like.
So that became my baby step. I started recording videos and one day I recorded seven in a row! My baby steps worked because my fear was decreasing! I could commit to doing part of the task instead of forcing myself to do the entire thing.
I started to think,
“I can do this. I don’t have to do it perfectly. I can just be myself and that might help others to let go of their perfectionism too.”
All it took was a willingness to try something less scary to get me started.
When trying something for the first time, you don’t have to do it perfectly. Expecting yourself to do it right the first time invites procrastination and shame. Thinking that “if you can’t do it right, why bother” is being pretty hard on yourself, isn’t it?
Worrying about how things can go wrong keeps you stuck. Use the acronym false evidence appearing real as a reality check in moments of fear.
It only takes is a small shift to be kinder to yourself. That’s the start of any positive change. No one “shoulds” themselves into right action. Practicing acceptance of where you’re at right now without judgment is a form of self-compassion that works. Being kind towards others makes you feel happy, but being kind to yourself truly heals.
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