When I say feel the fear yet do it anyway, I do not mean ignore, repress, or minimize the feeling of fear about doing something that is uncomfortable. I mean, feel the fear, validate it, yet do not allow it to stand in the way from doing, or saying, something important. Have you ever allowed your fear of doing something stand in the way and later had regrets about it? One way of minimizing regrets is to face the fear and work it through.
When we’re talking about fear, I’m not talking about the kind of fear that is experienced in response to a real danger. I’m talking about the fear that if not worked through may stand in the way of life enhancing experiences, more effective communication with others, and perhaps even increased self-esteem. If we don’t work through the fear we are limiting ourselves from having a more fulfilling and enriched life.
What Are We Afraid Of?
There will always be things that we fear doing. If we really are in touch with our feelings, we know this. With different situations, we may experience just a little fear, or a great deal of fear, or something in between. It’s unavoidable. Just by living life it is inevitable that we are going to feel fear at one time or another.
Some of the things we may feel afraid of are things we may actually want to do. Yet, it still feels scary and hard.
- We may feel afraid to share a need, want, or concern with our partner.
- We may feel afraid to lead a meeting in our community.
- We may feel afraid to approach someone we are attracted to.
- We may feel afraid to go to a social event or join a new organization.
- We may feel afraid to ask for a raise.
- We may feel afraid of traveling.
Other things we may feel afraid of are those that we may not want to do, yet it is in our highest good to do them. Such as how fear may lead us to avoid addressing someone that we feel angry at so we can resolve an issue, or we may evade seeking out a better job because we fear the job interview.
Feel the Fear
Often, we are not open or willing to share that we are afraid about something because we may appear vulnerable or weak to someone else. We may feel that we may be taken advantage of. We may be afraid to ask for what we want or need from our partner, family member, friend, or boss because they might get angry. They might say no and then we feel rejected.
Sometimes we may just avoid doing something without checking in to see what is at the bottom of our avoidance. Sometimes we may rationalize that we really don’t want to do something and not look deeper into what may be really going on inside of us. We may not even know we are afraid. During psychotherapy, I’ve stressed that one of the first steps to being able to do, or say, something that we are afraid of is to first notice that we are afraid.
What’s Truly Happening Inside Us?
Being mindful of the thought, “I’m afraid to…” really may help us in recognizing the fear and what’s truly happening so we can then validate it.
- Notice our fear
- Validate our fear
- Allow ourselves to feel it
- Acknowledge what’s really going on “I’m afraid to…”
- Work towards emotionally healthy ways of releasing our fear from our bodies
To validate our fear, we are telling ourselves that it’s okay to be afraid. This is as opposed to judging or criticizing ourselves for feeling afraid. It’s human to feel fear. It’s natural to feel scared of things that are unfamiliar, or things that we don’t have a lot of experience doing. During therapy, I often suggest that it’s not helpful to ask why we are afraid because it keeps us stuck in our head and often in an analytical loop that seldom gives us real insight.
Fear, like all other emotions, is basically information. It offers us knowledge and understanding—if we choose to accept it—of our psychobiological status.Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., Author
Don’t Feed the Fear
As we acknowledge our fear, the next step may be asking ourselves, “What’s going on for me in this moment that I am feeling afraid about this?” Is it something that we may tell ourselves that may be inducing or contributing to the fear? Are we telling ourselves, “I can’t do this.” Or “It’s too selfish to want this for myself, so I can’t ask about it.”
These statements to ourselves may be fear producing and demotivating. If we tune in, we may see what’s going on for us in the moment that makes this situation feel so scary. If it’s based on something we’re telling ourselves that will trigger fear, or that is going to contribute to it, then this thought process itself is what induces the fear. Using cognitive behavioral therapy to help restructure thoughts that trigger fear is one method to address fear producing thoughts.
Did We Swallow the Fear When We Were Young?
It’s also important that we notice if something we were told as a child has influenced our perception today. We may have internalized fear producing messages we received as a child, or an adolescent, and then we integrate these messages into our adult selves.
If we reflect upon our past experiences with doing something that involves going outside our comfort zone, we can examine if messages from our history might be contributing to the fear about doing something we might consider risk taking.
Cautionary messages we received in our youth such as…
- Be careful
- You might get hurt
- You’re too little
- Girls don’t do that
…might make us fear, or avoid, certain experiences and situations today.
It’s Only My Fear Talking
Saying, “It’s only my fear”, to ourselves may help us to put in perspective that what we are experiencing is about our perception. Saying, “It’s only my fear”, is not a way of minimizing what we are feeling, or trivializing it in any way, it is an attempt to put our fear into perspective.
If we think that we can’t go for that interview, that we’re too scared, or it’s just not possible, this is our perspective. Feelings aren’t facts. It’s the fear talking and we can work with that. Just because we are afraid to do something doesn’t mean we can’t do it.
Don’t Let Fear Stop You
If fear has limited you from having a more enhanced and fulfilling life, talking with a trusted psychotherapist at Nassau Guidance and Counseling located on Long Island can help you recognize when it’s only your fear talking. Our licensed therapists have helped many people work through their fear and live the satisfying life they desire.