Moving Forward With Fear

Business owner, entrepreneur, self-employed, trying something new– procrastinator? Sound familiar? The idea of starting your own business or taking on a new challenge fills you with gusto and pride.  Yet lately you’ve been wondering if you’re cut out for this.  Perhaps you’ve been feeling ‘stuck’ or helpless.  You’re an expert ‘to-do’ list maker, you’re just waiting for that action-taker trait to kick in any day now.  

Action-taker paralysis is often connected to an underlying experience of fear.  For some of us, this is readily apparent, we feel scared, even terrified to take the next step.  Our inner monologue sounds something like “What if it doesn’t work out, what if I fail, what will people think of me?”.  On the other hand, there may be some of you who don’t connect to the concept of feeling afraid.  You’re not sure why you’re stuck and you feel stressed. You might be acting reclusive, self-sabotaging (avoiding work you know how to do), your brain feels cloudy and you can’t concentrate.  Even when we don’t sense fear on the surface, our behaviours and barriers can suggest there is more to the story.

So… What is Fear?

Fear is a strong and reactive emotion that is hard-wired to protect us from imminent danger.  We might understand fears place for safety, but it becomes harder to connect to its purpose when trying to make decisions.  To your brain- context is irrelevant and rationality is not a prerequisite for fear. What this means is, even if you aren’t actually in danger your brain might feel fear and believe danger is imminent. Some text-book symptoms associated with experiencing fear:  increased heart beat, rapid breathing, muscles feeling weak, sweating, dizziness, dry mouth, unable to move and/or feeling frozen, stomach churns, and difficulty with thinking clearly and concentration.

How Fear Takes Over…

There’s no question we need fear to survive, so getting rid of it is out of the question.  So, if we can’t live without it, then we need to learn how to live alongside it.  Consider this:  what if for the sake of our conversation, we imagine that fear is not an emotion but rather a person we carpool with.  Let’s say that Fear (the person) is a friend who has taken on the role of being hypervigilant and ridiculously overprotective and as such, always wants to drive. This friend doesn’t like being a passenger.  They argue profusely about how they know the best routes and tout that they are the safest driver they know.  Basically, they’re a know-it-all.  Fear, your friendly carpool driver, truly believes they’re acting in your best interest, they feel it’s their job to warn and protect you - because in their eyes you’re always just one wrong move away from devastation.  The problem is, when fear is in the driver’s seat (making decisions) we tend to get small and start to believe we’re not capable of driving. When we return to our discussion of fear as an emotional barrier to action-taking- when fear is ‘driving’ we tend to think of only ‘safe’ and risk averse ideas and hide our great big wonderful ones.  Operating in the ‘safe zone’ ultimately leads us back to this feeling of being stuck and immobilized.

 Getting Back in the Driver’s Seat

In order to convince Fear, the hypervigilant-know-it-all carpool driver, that you are perfectly qualified driver- we need to give them the chance to share their concerns, to feel heard and to know that there is space for their perspective.  When someone takes the time to listen to our concerns or hear our thoughts and ideas it brings a sense of calm and connectedness, a sense of security which is vital to our ability to take risks and do hard things.  What if our emotions really were like people?  If we could have a conversation with them, listen to what they had to say, made space for their troubles, their concerns, the what-ifs?  In fact, this is an activity I regularly employ with my clients to work through emotional barriers.  Grab a blank piece of paper and pen, find a comfortable place to sit down, acknowledge the presence of your own internal ‘fearful carpool driver’ and ask: ‘what are you most afraid will happen?’ Then, withholding any judgment or assessment of what the fearful friend might say, write down any and all thoughts that come to mind.  Try to acknowledge what it has revealed to you by ‘saying’ something along the lines of, “Thank you for letting me know what you are most afraid of. I hear your concerns and appreciate your desire to keep me safe. I want to remind you that moving forward I will be making the decisions from here on out, and I will keep your fears in mind.” Doing this allows the fearful friend to be heard from, seen, and acknowledged, but also sets the boundary that it does not get to make the decisions around here.

Creating space to hear our fear is an essential part of moving with the current of fear, rather than against it. When it rises up simply acknowledge the possibility that you feel afraid and then explore what fear has to say.

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This guest blog was contributed by Lindsay Drewlo of Autumn Collective. You can reach her at lindsay@autumncollective.com.

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