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Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

Five Things We Can Learn from Facing our Fears

I love to workout, but sometimes the aches and pains of advancing years make me want to throw in the towel and quit. But rolling over and playing dead is not my style. Recently, I started switching up my routine from P90x to Jillian Michaels. Her workout videos are no joke. I love what she says in one of her tapes: “Most people don’t show up in their own lives.”

If that wasn’t enough of a kick in the pants, I read another article by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt, she quoted her cycling instructor as saying, “Remember, ultimately you are in control of your workout! I can motivate you to push harder. I can try to keep you from giving up, but in the end, it’s all up to you.” Wow.

All this is so true and it speaks to the lack of ownership we take in so many areas of our lives. Sometimes we don’t show up because we’re tired, lack effective leadership skills, or we’re passive.

As a therapist, I see people giving up control over important areas of their lives all the time. Passivity can originate from fears of facing conflict, how we’re genetically wired, fears of less than favorable outcomes when we act assertively, and a whole host of other things.

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For example, I work with a lot of clients who struggle with eating disorders. These folks can loose their identity in the battle with food when it’s not even about the food! It’s about controlling something in their lives when everything else seems unmanageable. They really want to take charge of something, but they aren’t taking the authority where it counts. Often times they are afraid of sitting with difficult feelings or managing difficult situations — so they hide.

Then there are those folks, myself included, who struggle with anxiety issues. We give anxiety the power to control our emotions. Others give husbands, bosses, or friends the power to decide because they feel worn out or defeated by the relationship. We all struggle in different ways, but the lack of owning up to personal responsibility, the fear of showing up in your own life, and the consequences all this brings in each of our lives can be summed up in two words: conflict and frustration.

If you are sick of not being authentic and want to take control of life by facing your fears, the following suggestions can help get you going.

How to Start Showing Up

The first step is to decide how you want your life to look? Then look at what’s holding you back. What are your fears? What obstacles do you believe you’re facing? Showing up in your own life doesn’t mean you have it all together, it just means you’re willing to set goals, plan, face obstacles head on, be assertive, and get honest with yourself and others. Failure is OK. So many notable and famous people have failed. The key is to learn and grow through your mistakes.

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Face your Fears

Being scared doesn’t have to mean you lack courage; it’s going ahead and facing the giants anyway. Courage means you step out and take a risk. Behind all our fears are beliefs, ways we have interpreted and given the events of life meaning. For my ED clients, they don’t starve, over exercise, or binge and purge because they like it, they do it because they hold beliefs that having a thin or in shape body will give them the acceptance, adequacy and value/worth they crave. Dig deep and look at your insecurities. Decide what beliefs are driving your fears.

Small Steps

The old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day” is true. Don’t try to make too many changes at once. You will become overwhelmed. Instead, decide what’s timely, what’s attainable, and what’s realistic. Ask yourself the following questions:

What is the state of my readiness for change in any particular area?

How badly do I want what I say I want?

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How hard am I willing to work?

What incentive do I have for pursuing change?

How do I get what I want or need?

First Steps toward Change

Now that you know what you want, what do you need to do? Explore strategies for getting where you want to go. Ask yourself what actions will get you where you want to go. Where can you start? What do you need to do right away and what can you do later? Then list strategies to action by examining what strategies will actually be most helpful and best for your situation.

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Craft a Plan

A plan gives you a road map. Plans are crafted to drive you to action. They keep us from being overwhelmed and help us find useful ways to get our goals accomplished. Ask yourself what actions will get you to the desired goal? Also consider how you can plan for obstacles and be flexible if plans have to change or be modified.

These strategies will help you change your life if you are intentional about putting them into practice. Don’t wait. Start now and take ownership of your life. You’ll feel empowered by stepping out and risking change. Remember, it’s all up to you!

More by this author

Rita Schulte LPC

Licensed Professional Counselor

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

1. Breathe

The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

2. Loosen up

After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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3. Chew slowly

Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

4. Let go

Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

It’s not. Promise.

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Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

5. Enjoy the journey

Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

6. Look at the big picture

The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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Will this matter to me…

  • Next week?
  • Next month?
  • Next year?
  • In 10 years?

Hint: No, it won’t.

I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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8. Practice patience every day

Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

Final thoughts

Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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