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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 January 3, 2020

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

The 10 Essential Habits of Positive People

Are you waiting for life events to turn out the way you want so that you can feel more positive about your life? Do you find yourself having pre-conditions to your sense of well-being, thinking that certain things must happen for you to be happier? Do you think there is no way that your life stresses can make you anything other than “stressed out” and that other people just don’t understand?  If your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, you might find yourself lingering in the land of negativity for too long!

The following are some tips to keep positive no matter what comes your way. This post will help you stop looking for what psychologists call “positivity” in all the wrong places!  Here are the ten essential habits of positive people.

1. Positive people don’t confuse quitting with letting go.

Instead of hanging on to ideas, beliefs, and even people that are no longer healthy for them, they trust their judgement to let go of negative forces in their lives.  Especially in terms of relationships, they subscribe to The Relationship Prayer which goes:

 I will grant myself the ability to trust the healthy people in my life … 

To set limits with, or let go of, the negative ones … 

And to have the wisdom to know the DIFFERENCE!

 2.  Positive people don’t just have a good day – they make a good day.

Waiting, hoping and wishing seldom have a place in the vocabulary of positive individuals. Rather, they use strong words that are pro-active and not reactive. Passivity leads to a lack of involvement, while positive people get very involved in constructing their lives. They work to make changes to feel better in tough times rather than wish their feelings away.

3. For the positive person, the past stays in the past.

Good and bad memories alike stay where they belong – in the past where they happened. They don’t spend much time pining for the good ol’ days because they are too busy making new memories now. The negative pulls from the past are used not for self-flagellation or unproductive regret, but rather productive regret where they use lessons learned as stepping stones towards a better future.

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4. Show me a positive person and I can show you a grateful person.

The most positive people are the most grateful people.  They do not focus on the potholes of their lives.  They focus on the pot of gold that awaits them every day, with new smells, sights, feelings and experiences.  They see life as a treasure chest full of wonder.

5. Rather than being stuck in their limitations, positive people are energized by their possibilities.

Optimistic people focus on what they can do, not what they can’t do.  They are not fooled to think that there is a perfect solution to every problem, and are confident that there are many solutions and possibilities.  They are not afraid to attempt new solutions to old problems, rather than spin their wheels expecting things to be different this time.  They refuse to be like Charlie Brown expecting that this time Lucy will not pull the football from him!

6. Positive people do not let their fears interfere with their lives!

Positive people have observed that those who are defined and pulled back by their fears never really truly live a full life. While proceeding with appropriate caution, they do not let fear keep them from trying new things. They realize that even failures are necessary steps for a successful life. They have confidence that they can get back up when they are knocked down by life events or their own mistakes, due to a strong belief in their personal resilience.

7. Positive people smile a lot!

When you feel positive on the inside it is like you are smiling from within, and these smiles are contagious. Furthermore, the more others are with positive people, the more they tend to smile too! They see the lightness in life, and have a sense of humor even when it is about themselves. Positive people have a high degree of self-respect, but refuse to take themselves too seriously!

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8. People who are positive are great communicators.

They realize that assertive, confident communication is the only way to connect with others in everyday life.  They avoid judgmental, angry interchanges, and do not let someone else’s blow up give them a reason to react in kind. Rather, they express themselves with tact and finesse.  They also refuse to be non-assertive and let people push them around. They refuse to own problems that belong to someone else.

9. Positive people realize that if you live long enough, there are times for great pain and sadness.

One of the most common misperceptions about positive people is that to be positive, you must always be happy. This can not be further from the truth. Anyone who has any depth at all is certainly not happy all the time.  Being sad, angry, disappointed are all essential emotions in life. How else would you ever develop empathy for others if you lived a life of denial and shallow emotions? Positive people do not run from the gamut of emotions, and accept that part of the healing process is to allow themselves to experience all types of feelings, not only the happy ones. A positive person always holds the hope that there is light at the end of the darkness.  

10. Positive person are empowered people – they refuse to blame others and are not victims in life.

Positive people seek the help and support of others who are supportive and safe.They limit interactions with those who are toxic in any manner, even if it comes to legal action and physical estrangement such as in the case of abuse. They have identified their own basic human rights, and they respect themselves too much to play the part of a victim. There is no place for holding grudges with a positive mindset. Forgiveness helps positive people become better, not bitter.

How about you?  How many habits of positive people do you personally find in yourself?  If you lack even a few of these 10 essential habits, you might find that the expected treasure at the end of the rainbow was not all that it was cracked up to be. How could it — if you keep on bringing a negative attitude around?

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I wish you well in keeping positive, because as we all know, there is certainly nothing positive about being negative!

Featured photo credit: Janaína Castelo Branco via flickr.com

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