How to Conquer Fear When You’re Feeling Stuck
Everyone feels fear. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it helps you to detect real danger and take action when you’re not safe. Internal fears, on the other hand, come from your own thoughts.
When you get afraid, it’s usually about your mind worrying 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 makes a difference.
This blog will focus on internal fears. For instance, when you’re feeling scared but nothing has actually happened yet. The struggle isn’t in what’s happening outside of you but what’s going on inside your own mind.
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. As it increases, you may want to isolate. Without healthy alternatives, you seek comfort by binging on sweets or having one too many glasses of wine. Being unable to cope with emotions is a major factor in developing addictive or self-destructive behaviors.
The purpose of this article is to show you how to cope with fear gently. Beating yourself up for not doing what you think you should be doing doesn’t help. No one decides to take action simply because “they know they should” they take action when they’re good and ready.
Fearing the Unknown
Often people fear the unknown which means that your mind creates 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 fear starts.
You can learn to move past your fear and come out the other side to finally take action. Being afraid isn’t a judgment against you. It’s an emotional sinkhole that most of us at one time of another fall into.
I was super scared to do Facebook Live (live video on Facebook). It seemed like everyone around me was doing it. I made several commitments to myself (and even one to someone else) hoping that would get me going but it didn’t.
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 complete my goal and realized,
“I’m obviously not following through so let’s stop feeling bad about it.”
By letting go of my commitment to do Facebook live I got some much needed relief. I stopped pushing myself and instead I honored my resistance. Honoring your experiences - no matter what the experience is - helps us to 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 committing myself to something 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. Negative thoughts start pouring in and then I know I’m in trouble.
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 basically what you tell yourself about everything in your life - people, jobs, institutions, politics - you have thoughts about it all. For more about info read 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.
You don’t have to get it right the first time. Expecting yourself to be perfect invites procrastination and shame. If you can’t do it right, why bother, right? But that’s being pretty hard on yourself, isn’t it?
Right action encourages right thinking. 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 gentle shift to being 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 compassion that works. When you practice kindness to others you feel better, but when you practice kindness towards yourself you heal.
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