Last week, I wrote about how we use buffers to avoid negative emotions. I also spoke to you about how facing those negative emotions head on, embracing and dealing with them will allow us to have more control and power over our emotions. Today I want to dig a little deeper and shine the spotlight on an emotion that I believe holds us back from achieving our true potential – Fear.
At some point or the other we all feel fear and that does not mean something has gone wrong. We as human beings have fear programmed and wired in us. In earlier times fear was extremely crucial for survival – it kept us safe from predators and from actually being eaten alive! Even today fear serves us in so many ways – it keeps us from running into traffic, being alert in a dark alley, jumping off dangerous cliffs and in real fight or flight situations. But my friends, when we really think about the things we are afraid of they are mostly irrational fears. In one of my earlier blogs I wrote about how thoughts create our feelings and our feelings create our actions and results. So it’s really important here to take a pause and understand that the irrational fears that we feel come from the unhealthy thoughts we have created in our minds. Remember cognitive distortions? This is when the fear that we’ve created does not serve us and it prevents us from taking massive, purposeful action.
I’m going to talk to you about one of my mentees I worked with at the Cherie Blair Foundation. My role as a mentor with the Foundation is to train women entrepreneurs and work with them to build successful businesses. Sabina (I’ve changed her name and business to protect her identity) was assigned to me so we could work together to scale up her retail business. I was so impressed with Sabina right from the time I met her. She was a proud mother of four, creative, full of ideas and extremely intelligent. She was always bubbling with enthusiasm and just wanting to do more. But what shocked me was how her fears were sabotaging her personally and professionally. As a coach and her mentor we worked through many of her fears and very soon, it became evident that the fears she felt were actually the fears of feeling and facing emotions. An example - Sabina often postponed her meetings with potential investors as she had the fear of feeling rejected, a fear of humiliation and a then feeling of failing.
This is true for most of us dealing with emotions. The fear of feeling the emotion is sometimes so much worse that the emotion itself – the result, we avoid it, buffer and prefer to hold ourselves back and sabotage our potential. In such cases it actually helps to embrace and go toward that fear and see what really happens. In Sabina’s case eventually she understood her fear of her emotions and decided to go for the meetings - the end result was great – she got the funding she deserved.
During our time together, one of the exercises I did with Sabina was very powerful. I encourage you to try it too and see where it takes you.
Fill the paper up with all your fears – Am I afraid of becoming overweight, Am I afraid of failing, Am I afraid of losing money, Am I afraid that I will be ignored, Am I afraid of being hurt, Am I afraid of being let down…and so on.
Once you have finished, really have a look at all your fears. Ask yourself if the fears are logical. Really think and check with yourself what you are afraid of, why it’s scary and notice if that fear is holding you back.
One of the great things of writing down all the things you are afraid of is that it reveals your mind and unravels your thoughts to you. You can then see what’s going on in your mind that you were not even aware of and take steps to change it. See if you can then face the fear, have power over it rather than the other way round.
I even used this exercise with my teenager and it worked brilliantly. My daughter was petrified of injections and last year she had to get two shots of her HPV vaccinations. She was so afraid that she refused to take it at school and wanted me to be with her. So I tried this exercise with her – just writing down what she was afraid of gave clarity on her thoughts and fears. Long story short she felt more confident, embraced her irrational fear and was so much braver to go get the shots.
My friends, how many times have we used fear to hold ourselves back from doing the things we want to do – start that business, expand our family, sign up to the fitness bootcamp, talk to that person across the room or even go for a health check up?
In some people, fear can create strong negative patterns or spirals. In such cases, its tough to break that pattern and get your self out of it. If you find that you fear is causing too much catastrophe and pain in your life I highly encourage you to work with a change work professional. I’m an NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) practitioner and I work with a number of people and help them overcome fears and phobias. NLP can reveal the thought process behind the often irrational fear and can help change how a person thinks and feels about what is causing them fear, so they are no longer afraid. If you want to know more, please reach out to me.
Fear is not a good enough reason to hold you back from your dreams. I’ll leave you with this quote – “If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been.” - Robert H. Schuller