An opportunity comes along. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – that job you have always wanted, the love you have always sought, a move that could change your life. You should be excited, right? No! Instead, you find yourself scared out of your wits.
Why? Wonderful opportunities often come with that dreaded thing…change. And change is scary. Paralyzingly so, at times.
But don’t run. There are ways to face fear head-on so that you don’t miss an opportunity that could change your life.
Here is my latest… 5 Things To Do in The Face of Fear – Even If You Just Want to Run Screaming.
#1 – Take a deep breath.
Yes, I know I always say this, but deep breaths are essential for keeping yourself from running from fear.
When presented with something that scares us the hormones in our body produce the fight or flight response: we can either stay (fight) or run (flight). More often than not, flight seems the easiest option, so that’s what we do – we run. But if, when faced with something that scares us, we take a deep breath we immediately calm that instinct. Without our heart racing and our hormones pumping it’s much easier to face down that scary thing in front of you.
So next time you feel yourself starting to run from something that scares you stop and take a few deep breaths. Breathe in 3 seconds and out 5 seconds. Before you know it you will be thinking clearer and can move on to face what you need to face.
#2 – Ask yourself what it is that you are afraid of.
Many of us feel fear as a general feeling. We don’t take the time to identify exactly what we are afraid of. And not knowing what we are afraid of makes it very difficult to deal with those fears.
So make a list. One that details what exactly it is that scares you most about the situation. And then take those fears one at a time and address them.
I have a client who was so unhappy with her marriage that she decided if they just moved anywhere, all would be good. The prospect of picking up and moving to another country was more appealing to her than the prospect of sitting down with her husband to work on their marriage.
She was making plans for this move when I met her. I challenged her on her plans and asked her why she couldn’t face her husband. What was she afraid of?
It took her a while to answer, but her list looked like this:
- I am scared that we will have to talk about how we feel.
- I am afraid that I will get hurt.
- I am afraid that our marriage won’t work even if we try to work on it.
Once she had her list, she knew exactly what she was afraid of. We talked about each specific thing and were able to address each one more because she had identified them so clearly. Addressing fear as a general concept is almost impossible.
She still lives in her family home, and she shares it with the man she married, and they are working things out. It’s not easy, but she is happy.
#3 – Push back against those negative thoughts
Yes, back to those lovely thoughts in your head. The ones that tell you that you just can’t do anything. Especially anything new and risky. The brain likes things to stay the same. The same is easiest.
But staying the same is not how we find happiness. Happiness comes from taking risks and facing fears. So when those self-defeating thoughts enter your head, shut them down, one at a time.
I have a question I always ask when making a decision about something scary. “What’s the worst that can happen?” It works every time.
I have a client who is being given a job opportunity that could change her life. She is scared to make a move because she isn’t sure if she can make enough money to maintain her life. We talked about how much she would need and I asked her if she would be comfortable asking for that salary when offered the job. She hesitated.
I asked her what the worst that could happen was. For her, the worst would be that the amount would not be doable. But I pointed out that armed with that info she could make an informed decision about whether to take the job or not. And if the amount was doable then YAY, good for her for speaking up for herself!
So use those thoughts of yours to fight your fears and not succumb to them.
#4 – Recognize that history is just that. History.
Many of our fears are grounded in our history. I read a quote recently that said “it is not the moment that is tragic but the memory.” Think about it. It’s true, isn’t it?
We carry the memories of a lifetime of moments that have caused us pain, and we use these memories as fuel for our fears.
But we need to remember that those memories are in the past and we are now looking at our present and future.
I have a client who is madly in love with a man who loves her madly back, but his life is complicated, and he isn’t always emotionally available to her. Both her father nor her ex-husband weren’t emotionally unavailable, and both ultimately left her. This caused her immeasurable pain, pain that she has carried forward in her life.
So now she is scared about committing to this man because she doesn’t want to get hurt again.
She and I are working together to look at the differences and similarities between these three men and identify what in particular scares her. She is then having open discussions with her man about her fears.
She isn’t letting her past pull her away from this man but she is proactively addressing her fears and making decisions based on present circumstances instead of ancient history.
And she is feeling hopeful. Very hopeful.
#5 – Embrace it. It’s Exciting!
Imagine if every day for the rest of your life was going to be the same. The same routine with no challenges or excitement. Just sameness.
Things that are scary are harbingers of change, and change is one of those things that makes life a better place.
Yes, confronting your fears could allow you to save your marriage, get that job of your dreams or the love of your life and that would be wonderful. But the biggest outcome of facing your fears is the strength you gain as a person.
When you have faced your fears and overcome them, you gain a huge sense of accomplishment, one that will always stay with you and only serve you well in the future.
Imagine that next fear coming along and you thinking “I’ve got this.” And you would know that you did because you have faced fear before and prevailed.
It would be pretty awesome, no?
So there you go. My 5 Things To Do in The Face of Fear.
Life is a scary place, full of all sorts of twists and turns, things that happen that change the way we thought things were going to be. It’s exciting but very scary. And it’s okay to be scared.
But know that you have the power to push past that fear, to reach for everything that you have ever wanted. And once you learn you have that power your life will never again be the same.
So go for it. Whatever you have ever wanted. Go for it. You can do it!
Looking for more ways to face fear? Contact me here and I can help!
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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.