On Overcoming Fear + Embracing Change
In life, there are small things we’re afraid of (spiders, anyone?) bigger things we’re afraid of (that’d be thalassophobia for me, thanks), and those really, really big things we’re afraid of- like making a significant lifestyle change or staring failure right in its face.
Of course, there’s the actual fear- a natural instinct that’s part of our survival mechanism which protects us from danger- we kinda need that one to stick around. There’s also a “false” fear. The worry, doubt, and uncertainty- a fear created by our minds. And that, my friends, is the fear which we often use an excuse for not going after what we really want out of life.
This false fear can very easily overwhelm us. Our mind will always want to avoid pain and suffering- it’s just the way we’re designed. Each one of us knows exactly what changes we can make to improve our lives, but somehow going after those things, making those changes, it all can seem like the most difficult thing in the world. I mean, just look at the weight loss industry- we ALL know that in most cases, all it takes is a lifestyle change such as healthier diet and exercise, yet this multi-billion dollar industry still exists and it keeps getting stronger.
ON OVERCOMING FEAR + EMBRACING CHANGE
CHANGE + LOSS
Making a change brings a lot of unknown to your life and it evokes fear of loss.
What if I lose my sense of security once I change my career path?
Will I lose friends when making a lifestyle change?
Maybe I’m just losing my time working on this?
Sometimes things just feel “good enough” and you don’t want to put that at risk, either. Sure, you can try to make things even better for yourself, but is it worth the risk of losing something that just feels so comfortable and familiar?
If making a change brings out that fear of loss in you, you need to change the way you think about… change. Instead of seeing it as something intimidating and terrifying, think of that challenge as something that can be fun, something that can make your life more exciting and fulfilling. It’s giving your attention and focus to the positive side of change- the good, the exciting, the inspiring side of things.
Think about it. When you spend most of your time obsessing about those difficult aspects of change (like facing the unknown, making sacrifices) you can end up thinking “well… is any of this even worth the effort?” Your brain will immediately tell you “umm… no, I don’t want to do that, thank you very much.” All you see is risk, uncertainty and all the hard work you will have to put in to get results. On the other side of that fear, however, lives joy, sense of accomplishment, a realization that you are, in fact, in control. Once you realize that it’s that instinct to avoid pain or disappointment and that anticipation of the loss of something familiar that create that false fear, you can see that it’s not really “you”, that it’s just a thought living somewhere in your mind, you can bring yourself closer to reaching your goals (small and big ones). You can bring yourself closer to embracing change.
One of the biggest fears of all, isn’t it? Our mind interprets failure as a very negative thing– a thing we should try to stay away from at all costs. We fear to fail at something so much, that we often end up not even trying.
What’s so scary about failure, anyway?
Well, there’s the disappointment, embarrassment, and loss of control, just to name a few things. Truth is though, we will all fail at one point or another. Some of the best lessons you’ll ever learn will come from your failures. Some failures come with no lessons at all. You can’t be afraid to fail- this is the part that’s tough to accept. Once you accept the fact that failure is just a part of the whole package, you take away its power.
You can face failure with confidence. Step one: don’t take it personally. Don’t blame yourself, don’t waste time overanalyzing. Remember that you have to separate yourself, as a person, from those small failures or mistakes. Just because you make a mistake, just because you mess up (and yes, all of us mess up once in a while) it doesn’t define you as a person. Step two: reframe the way you think about “failure.” Your mind might try to convince you that failing is the worst that can happen, but is it really? Those feelings of fear often just run on autopilot, and it’s up to you to control them.
Don’t focus on the worst that could happen but ask “what’s the best thing that can happen? How will I feel once I do reach my goals?” I’ve failed many times at many things and while it often involved some pain and personal struggles, one of the best things to come out of each failure was realizing “I did that. I did it, it happened and, surprisingly, I somehow survived. I got through it and lived to tell the tale.” Then, once the dust settles, you stop and think to yourself “maybe I’m not as weak as I see myself?” I promise you, that you’re much stronger than you give yourself credit for- so please, don’t let the fear of failure, or failure itself, stop you.
THE BIG “WHAT IF?”
Ahh.. yes. This is a big one, indeed. A fearful mind’s favorite and a huge obstacle in overcoming fear.
Most of our worries and fears begin with this very question: what if?
What if things won’t work out as planned?
What if I fail?
What if it just doesn’t happen for me?
What if I let someone down?
What if I don’t meet someone else’s expectations?
What if it’s too late for me?
Whenever I talk to people much older and wiser than me, people from different walks of life, I very often hear them say the same thing: don’t be afraid to live your life. People always seem to regret things they didn’t go for.
“I wish I had taken more risks.”
“I wish I had the courage to go after my dreams.”
“I wish there had been fewer “what ifs” in my life.”
One thing that often sticks out to me though, is hearing just how much regret these people have for following a certain path in life, just because it was “the right thing to do” or doing things and making decisions based upon what was expected of them, instead of following their dreams- however big or small. We waste way too much time worrying about things that will never happen, focusing on things that are beyond our control. Regret is just a part of life- but there are small regrets, and there are also some big ones.
This is something that I have to constantly remind myself: there isn’t a “right” way to live, or do things. There’s only a way in which you want to live your life. Yes, going against what’s expected from you (from people in your life like your parents, family, friends) is scary. Facing those big and small fears is challenging. Listening to your heart and going after what you want in life can sometimes even seem terrifying. What is life without a little risk though- especially when the payoff can be potentially life-changing?
We allow fear to stop us, to control us, all the time. We see challenges as obstacles and we run away from them.
Seems like a logical thing to do, doesn’t it?
You can, however, see it all as an opportunity. You can’t give up on something just because it’s scary, challenging or difficult. If you ask me, waking up one day to a heart full of nothing but regret and a mind full of “what ifs” is even more frightening.