Yesterday I had the opportunity to face my fears. And I didn’t. I looked at it. Weighed it up. Said “no thank you, not today”, and walked away. Waking up this morning I began to feel those disappointing pangs of regret, and dare I say it? Shame? Yep. A nice hefty dose of it too.
So when life offers us an opportunity for development and we take the easier, stress-free path, how do we redeem ourselves from that mindset trap and downward spiral of “hey lady, you kinda blew it”? I spent some time this morning doing some research and looking at different views and findings on three key topics:
1. Identifying fear
2. Overcoming fear
3. Dealing with regret
So fear? What’s with that? Why is it that when I step onto a ledge and look down into water my body freezes and my usually fairly robust courage does the Harry Holt? It turns out most healthcare professionals reassure us that this reaction to fear is 100% biologically acceptable! Having that unpleasant emotion associated with potential danger, harm or threat is our body’s way of saying “hey you.. uh wtf? Get down off there, you could HURT yo’self!” Fear generally leads us to hide, run away or freeze.
I found it interesting that as I browsed through forums discussing the topic of fear there was a plethora of people in conflict about this topic. Many asked why should we go to war on our fears? “It’s natural. I want a comfortable and happy life and if that means I don’t jump out of a plane then so be it!” But the question I propose is that if we don’t embrace these opportunities to stretch ourselves then how will we ever know or unlock our true potential? It’s easy to ignore our fears, but to face them head on takes something extraordinary. So I asked myself, will you settle for a comfortable life? Or will you take this opportunity to break down some fear-built walls? Today I commit to option B. I will take a sledge hammer and start pounding away on those walls of my own insecurities.
Topic 1: Identifying fear
This may seem like a trivial topic as most of us can probably list quickly what we’re afraid of. Be it arachnids, heights, confined spaces, clowns, failure, falling, etc. (have a brief shiver reading those?). However, a lot of the sources I read this morning said, “great, you know what you’re afraid of, but WHY are you afraid of it?” Taking off the superficial layer of “this is what makes me want to lose all control of my bladder”, what elements and facets of that particular object or experience really kicks your sympathetic nervous system into overdrive? You need to be aware of these before you can begin to overcome. Let me share mine with you.
I have a fear of jumping into water. Sounds a little senseless, right? I mean, people jump into water every day and actually enjoy it. Kids love it! Take them to a rock pool with a waterfall and they’re in and out of the water all day. Smiling. Laughing. Having a real hoot with the experience of attempting flips and consequently belly flopping. Again and again and again. But me? I’d rather relish sunbaking on the rocks nearby or alternatively floating around in the shallow end. But Jodie, you chose option B. You committed to breaking down some barriers. So, what do you do next? Following the advice of these professionals I had to delve a little deeper into this personal horror of mine. Interestingly, I discovered 3 things I had never openly acknowledged about myself before now;
1. I hate jumping into water as falling is out of my control (I place being in control of my body at all times as an absolute requirement).
2. When I hit the water all too often it will blast into my respiratory tract (a.k.a. I get a nose full of water) and then I go into a mild panic as I can’t breathe.
3. I fear not being able to breathe as I’ve grown up with below average functioning lungs from bronchitis as an infant. Intense exercise has all too often resulted in me wheezing like a person mid-anaphylactic crisis.
I’m sorry, what? How did jumping into water evolve into that? Whatever it took for my brain to connect those dots is a thought-provoking question and one I will continue to explore more on my own as I reflect on separate and distinct experiences I’ve had. However that is a personal journey for me, as exploring your fears is for you, so, let’s move on!
Topic 2: Overcoming fear
Now that I’ve identified the reasons why I fear what I do, how do I overcome this? What are the keys to me being triumphant in this ongoing skirmish between steely will vs dread? I found 3 pieces of advice that really struck a chord with me.
1. Control what you can:
When you face a fear, although you cannot control that your nervous system secretes more adrenaline than as if you were being chased by a bear, there are small factors which you have control over. Whether it be your thoughts, your breathing, the tension of your muscles, what you say to yourself, where you look and eventually what your body does (whether it is in a coordinated and graceful action or not is a different matter altogether!). So, I reflected and applied this to my future self. I have the choice to:
1. Control my thoughts: I CAN do this. I will be more than okay – I will be ecstatic when I do it! I know for a FACT that this is not beyond the physical capability of my body.
2. What I say to myself: I will tell myself that I am brave. I am capable. I am courageous and regardless of how trivial this may seem I am my own hero for dealing it a whopping sucker punch straight to the kisser.
3. I will pinch my nose or learn to breathe out like everyone else when I hit the water 😛 (okay, so one needs to be practical at some point).
2. Set small, achievable goals:
Some people work best and overcome their fears by getting thrown into the deep end (there’s a happy little pun just for me). Others however, like myself, need to tick off several smaller boxes as they construct a stouter mindset. You may need to start by thinking about the fear, slowly exposing yourself to it, trying similar experiences and eventually, when you have achieved these lesser (but none the less significant) goals, take the leap of faith and do it, see it, touch it or experience it. This is known as acclimatising. There are innumerable methods to this, however you will need to find what works for you. Journaling, professional therapy, life coaching or Neuro-Linguistic Programming are just a few ideas. Try Googling concepts like “The Sedona Method” or “The Work” and see what gels with your inner warrior as you take these steps.
3. Practice a positive mindset about you overcoming the fear:
I know. I know. We’ve all heard this before, right? The power of picturing the picture-perfect ending: imagine yourself standing on the victor’s podium holding the golden cup with thousands of spectators chanting your name all in unison.. Well.. for me, that doesn’t work. I need something else.
I began to look into ways this could be achieved. Ideas suggested included being curious about and challenging your thoughts about the fear. It was suggested that we should unpack these (like looking at WHY we are afraid). So tell me, what exactly do you picture when you think about it? Do you automatically imagine the worst possible outcome? Why do you do that? Why do you assume that this is the only possible path? One writer suggested writing down at least 10 potential positive outcomes to your facing of this fear and reading them out loud to yourself on a daily basis. Another suggested writing a story where you are the star (let’s not pretend we aren’t all tempted by this one: Jodie the CONQUERER) and describe in clear detail how not only have you faced your fear, but how you overcame it with poise and pride!
Regardless of whatever option you choose it the key message is to be consistent. Write it on your daily planner, in your diary, set an alarm in your phone, ask a loved one to remind you – whatever it takes! Make sure you put it into action every.single.day.
Topic 3: Dealing with the regret of not overcoming fears.
This is something I know that I can all too easily neglect. Why dwell on the fact that I stuffed up? Why not just get on with fixing the problem? To me there are 2 key reasons why:
1. I need to take the time to be grateful for the opportunity to improve myself and mature as an adult. This is a privilege denied to many.
2. To look for the lessons of my experience and ensure that I take action to avoid repetition of these same non-productive actions.
I understand that I need to not only forgive myself, but learn to nurture myself in order that the next time I am presented with the same opportunity I will have a considerably different outcome. In conclusion, we need to be productive and have positivity towards this feeling.
I hope this has been thought provoking for you readers. If you take nothing else from this entry I encourage you to muse upon this quote by Brian Tracy:
“The key to success is to focus our conscious mind on the things that we desire, not the things that we fear”.
Keep moving forward Possibler’s! J