Eight Ways to Live beyond Your Fears
February 23, 2018
Women's Wisdom: Pass It On!
A Column by Kathleen Vestal Logan, M.S., M.A.
“A little insanity never hurts!” Samantha laughed. Dr. Sam, as she’s known locally, left a successful chiropractic practice to open her own wellness business.
“Weren’t you afraid?” I asked, wondering why she’d leave a good, stable position. “Yes,” she admitted.
Everyone experiences fear; it’s a universal emotion, flashing a “danger ahead” signal whether the threat is physical or emotional. More often than not, it’s mental. Our response to fear ranges from feeling uncomfortable to being immobilized. No one is immune. Actress Reese Witherspoon in the March 2018 issue of Marie Claire explains, “I see [fear] as this little creature that lives in my life all the time, and I can either pay it attention and not get anything done or I can march ahead and ignore it.”
For Meagan, who’s in a class I’m leading for women in recovery from addiction and their mentors, “Fear is trouble, it’s pain. It can take you to a place you don’t want to go.” In a session on “Courage,” one discussion question I gave the group was What holds us back or keeps us from being courageous? Everything they listed was a fear! Fear of: public opinion, failure, outcome, change, physical limitations, getting hurt, not fitting in, rejection. Like Meagan, Leigh is at the beginning of her recovery and her fear is very specific: “What if I crash in my recovery and don’t get my son back?”
The second discussion question was, What’s the cost of not being courageous in life? Some of the consequences they identified included: getting stuck, not really living, holds you back from your full potential, interpersonal relationships suffer, and not being true to your real self. The price we pay for not being courageous is high.
You can either succumb to the fear and the consequences, or deal with it. But how? Here are eight ways you can corral your fears:
1. Put your fear in perspective.
Ask yourself, “On a scale of one to ten, how intense is it? As Dr. Sam said, “I’ve failed at some pretty big things in the past, but did I die? No!” You can also ask, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” followed by, “What’s the best?”
2. Tolerate being uncomfortable.
Let’s admit that many of us would rather stay with the status quo than take a chance. However, doing nothing usually breeds regret or guilt, anyway, so why not decide to endure the discomfort? When asked what fears she has about writing, Suzy admitted, “I fear that I’ll pour myself into writing, buck naked on the page, and no one will read it, or it will have no meaning for them if they do. I fear I’m wasting my time posting to Facebook, writing blogs, losing hair over essays, losing money on websites and book covers, and embarrassing myself without knowing it.”
3. Separate what you do from who you are.
As Dr. Sam said, “My sense of being me was okay, even if I had qualms about the business itself.” Put another way, if you take a risk and it doesn’t work out, you are not a failure. Try something else.
4. Do a risk-benefit analysis.
Figure out, “What’s the cost to me if I do nothing?” Then, “If I do take action, what benefits might I gain?” Decide which is bigger – the cost or the benefits. Suzy took the risk and now has a published book, as well as a growing numbers of readers for her blog. For Dr. Sam, “It took me an hour to drive to work. I was missing out on time with my girls, like taking them to volleyball practice and games.” She wanted more control over her life. Starting her own business has allowed that.
5. Suppress your negative self-talk.
Most of us are terrific at thinking of all the reasons something will fail. That little critic in our head yaps at us constantly. Reese Witherspoon uses self-talk as a way of not letting her fears take over. In that March 2018 issue of Marie Claire, she tells herself, “OK, I believe in myself enough, I know I work hard. I know I can bet on myself.” Practice nurturing your positive self-talk.
6. Take small steps.
You don’t have to do everything at once. June in the Pathways class tells herself, “I’ll try one more thing today.” Barbara, also in the class, shared a story. When she was younger, she wanted to dive off the top of a boat. “I didn’t go to the high dive first. I started low,” and kept moving higher. Eventually, “I did it!”
7. Know when to “let go.”
As Barbara grew older, she began to lose her vision and is now nearly blind. Her guide dog, Rusty, lies quietly under the table during our class. At home one day, she took Rusty for a walk. Knowing her neighborhood well, she kept giving Rusty commands – left, right, straight ahead - even when he sometimes tugged her to turn a corner. Eventually, she was lost and felt fear creeping up. She took a deep breath and said, “Home, Rusty,” and he led her safely there. Like Barbara, there may be times when you’re feeling “lost.” Perhaps you need to let go and trust that it will work out.
8. Do something!
Fear can easily turn into generalized anxiety and worry if it’s not dealt with. Action reduces fear, while inaction and feeling hopeless increase anxiety and worry. Once I started writing this article instead of just thinking about it, for example, my fear that “I don’t know enough!” dissipated.
Fear is powerful and normal. Our survival depends on it to warn us of threats, whether physical or mental. We do have ways to manage our fears, though, and can minimize their ability to constrict our lives. Despite their fears, Suzy writes and publishes, Dr. Sam’s business is thriving, Leigh and Meagan are working hard to stay clean, Barbara successfully lives with her blindness, and June continues to take small steps every day toward wholeness. Fear can immobilize or motivate you. Be courageous: choose action and live beyond your fears!
Kathleen Vestal Logan is an inspirational speaker and writer on women's lives. She is co-author of the 2010 award-winning book Second Blooming for Women: Growing a Life that Matters after Fifty(www.secondbloomingforwomen.com.) Her most recent book is Women's Wisdom: Pass It on! She conducts classes, seminars, and holds guided discussions on the content of both books. She is a contributing author for numerous publications. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.womenswisdompassiton.com. To purchase her latest book, Click Here.