When I was a teenager I thought facing my fears was something like jumping out of an airplane. But that’s too easy. It’s easy because most people would feel a surge of fear jumping out of an airplane. Not everyone would climb under the covers in fear after sharing a story about how their family downsized houses. Yeah, that happened to me. After I shared our story I was so afraid that I literally hide under my covers for hours. From who? No clue. But the fear was very real. So what kind of fears are you being held back by and what could you accomplish if you were no longer held back? Here’s some inspiration from my Year of Fear.
There are 2 potential books that I could credit for my Year of Fear.
The Longevity Book – This book is written partially by actress Cameron Diaz. Her first book, The Body Book dived deep into how to care for and love your unique body. The Longevity Book was more about lasting life and embracing age. Somewhere along the line, she dives into our caveman brains and how we still live in fear as if we are being threatened by a predator. She shared how our brains are hardwired to keep us safe yet more often than not the fears they are protecting us from aren’t real.
Rising Strong – What can’t Brene Brown inspire, really? The FDR quote she continually shares about being the “arena” is enough to motivate me to get out of bed for a 5am workout. Her books, however, dive deep into vulnerability and shame. AKA fear and it’s BFF.
I can’t say for certain if it was a particular book, a certain sentence or a string of thoughts that eventually got me thinking, that I should just start doing scary things, and fast. I’ve been reading a lot. What I do know is, the faster I did them, the sooner I would be aligned with my purpose. I could just adapt to doing scary things and then I would be unstopable.
Some people say this stubbornness is in my star sign (Taurus), but I personally believe it’s from a life of feeling greatly out of control that drives me toward controlling as much as possible. Even my own fear.
Before you start thinking I was ready to audition on Broadway, have a string of affairs or try some hard-core drugs for the first time, let me just step in and clarify the type of fear I’m talking about.
The rule with facing your fears is about first being consciously aware of what your deep-rooted fears are.
Here is a quick glimpse into what some of my big ones were/are and then later, I’ll give you some ideas on how you can uncover yours.
At the end of the day, facing these types of fears has the potential to help you grow and thrive as a person. (I’m a life coach, what did you expect?) Remember, the fears our brains holds onto are only perceived fears. They are there to keep us safe from a threat that isn’t real. Which means they can hold us back from bigger and better things. Like the caveman who never sees a sunset because he’s afraid of being eaten even though all the predators are gone.
So how can you start to be aware of your fears?
It’s pretty simple. Just start paying attention. Pay attention to when fear presents itself and then begin to ask yourself, or journal about, why this fear is present. What bad thing is it telling you is going to happen?
When you’re in a group of people and you keep your opinion to yourself. Why? What is it you’re afraid of? Being judged? Sounding stupid? Is it a certain person in the group? What is it about them that’s bringing up the fear? More on speaking your mind.
When you hear about a great opportunity that you want to do but your brain talks you out of. “I would love to do that but…” “I wish I could but…” That’s your brain justifying and trying to keep you safe. If you are presented with an offer that you know could better your life and your body is giddy at the idea but your brain kicks in to stop you. This is fear.
When you find yourself in the same relationship over and over again (romantic or not). Getting to the root of my people-pleasing fears came after a string of interactions with people in which I was trying to be kind, helpful, or generous and those people wound up yelling at me as if I had done something wrong. It’s not the people, it’s what I was seeking from them. Approval. That was my fear. Not being approved of, not being loved. If I just kept them happy then I would feel accepted and proud.
Chances are, you have a pretty good idea of a fear that has been lingering in your life. Maybe you want to ask that person out. You want to take that class. You want to start that business (PS I have something to help with this fear).
Take the first step.
For me, this was messaging a blog much bigger than mine, Making Sense of Cents. Since starting my blogging journey one thing I knew was beneficial was reaching out to other bloggers but I never did. Not once. I’m gonna go ahead and assume it’s my deep-seated fear of rejection.
So I wrote the email. I panicked over it and then I sent it. I wanted to write a guest post on this blog sharing our family’s story about being house poor in our big house and why we decided to downsize.
This was one of those moments where hitting the “send” button made me scream with my mouth closed. Then as fear would have it, Michelle, the owner of the blog responded within a few hours and said she would be happy to have me write a post.
Then I died.
Ok, so now I actually had to write something coherent. What did other people write? How did they talk? How do I talk?
The initial push of facing the fear is scary, for sure, but if there are more steps to follow it, trust me, it’s going to take consistent pushing. You will feel that fear surging under your skin. You’ll doubt yourself and your brain will try to scare you into giving up. Don’t give up. Keep pushing toward what you want.
After writing, re-writing and agonizing over this single blog post, I finally submitted it and waited for the day it would go live.
The second I saw my post live on her site, I went immediately under my covers. Immediately.
As fear would have it, I had to take my older daughter to Target Optical that day for her yearly exam. I stood in the waiting area looking at frames and wanted to die when I hear someone say my name. “They KNOW!” was my first thought. “Oh my gosh, someone saw the post and now they want to talk to me about how poor I am!”
Yup. She did. Sort of. This woman I knew told me she loved my post. She thought it was so impressive that I was talking about something that most people would shy away from. She herself was doing the same thing at that time. It was really nice to hear some encouraging words. I still wanted to die.
My fear, of course, was a more public affair than yours might be. Mine came with dozens of kind comments. People thanking me for my story. Some messages letting me know that I stopped someone from making the same mistake. They were just about to buy a bigger house and were nervous about it. My message came just in time.
Amidst the words of kindness were people telling me how thoughtless I was. Why didn’t I consider the bigger costs of the house? How could we be so niave.
That’s the thing to remember, my friend. Not everyone will approve of you facing your fear. There will be backlash in some form or another, but there will be supporters too.
Surprise, surprise, the more you start facing your fears the easier and easier it gets to keep facing more fears. After that post went live in February I became fearless. I mean, almost. From there on out I started:
Trust me, the first steps are the hardest, but the more you start to roll with this whole fear thing, the braver you get.
Remember fear, for the most part, these days is a lie. Yes, there are very real fears like if you’re walking down a dark alley way and some creeper is following you. Real fear.
Talking to a woman from high school when you don’t have makeup on…it’s not ideal, but that fear isn’t real. It also may not necessarily better your life. So if you want to, you have my permission to duck into the cereal aisle and face your fears in places that are better suited to serve you.
When that little voice of self doubt starts to pop up and tell you you can’t do something, learn to challenge it. Take the time to recognize it. Notice when it pops up. Don’t ignore it and definitely don’t listen. Just observe when it’s there so you can get better at managing it.
In fact, fear is one of those emotions, like anger, that can actually benefit us if we use it wisely.
Here are 10 Reasons Why Fear is Good for You (although I disagree with the horror flick viewing statement, the rest are quite positive and true.)
So, if you’re feeling fearful. If you know there is something kind of scary you are really wanting to face, this is me encouraging you to take the leap. If it stands to better your life or the lives of others, then a dose of fear is a healthy thing. So go on, start your year of fear.