You are a visionary and are up to big, bold work in the world. You are ideating and energized to make your dreams come true in a way that honors all the beautiful values you hold dear, giving you space to live into your strengths and create a life by your own design that supports sharing your authentic voice in the world.
Tethered to your creative inspiration and desire to change is Fear, a harassing bully who aims to slow you down, shrink you into inaction, and scare you into silence.
That’s not going to work for you, so let’s address Fear in a few easy steps inspired by the work of Pippa Grange, who is a doctor of sports psychology and a performance psychologist who wrote the book on fear called, Fear Less: Face Not-Good-Enough to Replace Your Doubts, Achieve Your Goals, and Unlock Your Success.
First, we need to understand two things. According to Pippa there are only two core fears. Yep, only two. That means that every fear we feel and face can be traced back to one of these two core fears. When you learn of them it feels like a “Oh yeah, I totally get that” moment.
The first basic fear is the fear of death. My friend and fellow coach Jilly Hyndman, the heartrageous Coach, offers death coaching, a service that supports individuals and families before, during, and after the death of a loved one. She knows so well how it is in our human nature to resist confronting our fear of death that we close ourselves off to living fully as a result.
The second basic fear is the fear of being abandoned. This presents as a fear of rejection and we live it in our bodies as a misbelief that we are not good enough to be fully accepted into the tribe. Without full acceptance, we feel outed and with our othering comes a kind of living death, in which we feel disconnected, unlovable, unworthy, and unvalued as a contributor.
These are the two core fears that all our fears can be reduced to when seeking to essentialize and really name the fear. Test this out for yourself. Think of a fear that is present in your life. Is there a life change you want to make? A risk you want to take? Or a stand you want to make against a perceived injustice? Are there threats to your health and safety?
Now, ask yourself: Which core fear does my fear relate to?
This exercise won’t negate the presence of the fear, but it is a first step of developing awareness of this fear. Afterall, you can’t change what you don’t see.
Let’s look at how to deal with the two types of fear.
This the kind of fear that this triggered and you need to address it immediately, because your body is responding whether you like it or not. Maybe you are walking out onto the stage to give your first big stage talk or, even better, you decided to be brave and left your letter of resignation on your boss’s desk for her to find after lunch. What do you do?
There are a few steps you can take to deal with the fear in the moment.
1. RATIONALIZE: Give yourself a pep talk. Rationalize what is happening logically to calm your nerves and adrenaline. You know how to make the best of a tough situation. Talk yourself through it with words of encouragement. Create your own version from these examples:
“The letter was balanced and captured how I feel. It will commit me to the right course of action.”
“The audience is filled with friends I haven’t met yet. They’re rooting for me.”
“If I have fun, this will be fun.”
2. DISTRACT: Change the channel on Fear Radio. Redirect your attention to override the unhelpful fear messages. Take in information you choose—TV, podcast, music, etc.—and refocus on what you want to take in.
3. PROCESS: Be with the fear. Allow it. Breathe through it. Meditate on the shape and texture of it. See a positive outcome. Release the need to control, and allow. Do what calms you.
SEEING YOUR FEAR
We begin to see our fear by getting curious about it, asking questions that help you get to know it. What brought is on? Where and when do I feel this way? In what kind of situations? The incisive question that aims for the heart of the fear: What could be the worst thing that could be exposed about you? According to Grange,
“Underneath all your fear is the fear of not being good enough, of being cast out and ‘abandoned.’”
The presence of fear is a signal to pay attention to emotions we would likely prefer to ignore, suppress, and push past. To see our fear, we have to have “the courage to be vulnerable to admit fear,” and expect it to want to stay hidden, free from the threat of being known and disempowered.
Fear gets recycled in beliefs that we unconsciously adopt from our culture, be it family, community, or society influenced. Challenge those beliefs by asking yourself what success means to you.
I come from a set of very independent and outspoken parents. As a result, I developed a misbelief that to speak out and share my opinions made me intolerable to others, as in too much or too demanding. It was a belief born from how I often experienced them as a child. Looking at the role fear has played in my life, I had to remember why it’s important to speak up, telling myself “Your voice is needed. Your opinion matters.” I had to decide, as we all have to at some point, that I was going to be for my own success (defined on my terms) and creative expression, and no longer be an obstacle to it.
The gift is in the greatness that lives within you that fear tries to hide. If you look for it, you can find the opportunity the lies under the veneer of fear in the catalyzing power of change it offers. If our vision for what we want is more powerful than the resistance, we can create the change we want to see in the world. The key is the identify the step to take now, and the next step to follow.
FACING YOUR FEAR
Consider these questions:
· Is fear changing the tone and quality of the success you experience?
· What is fear inhibiting you from trying to, from starting, or from stopping?
· What is fear doing to your relationships?
Facing your fear may involve some discomfort as you look inside your own values and sense of identity. But isn’t it worth it if you can feel freer, more authentically you, more fully self-expressed and alive in your life?
REPLACING YOUR FEAR
Fear is part of being human. Remember when I told you that all fear boils down to two core fears? Did you guess what those were before I told you? I bet you did. We are all too familiar with the impact of living with fear. But just because we know it well, it doesn’t mean we have a relationship with it that works for us.
Here’s what can help you turn your fear into something that supports you rather than inhibits you:
1. Be Empowered. Choose to believe in that which empowers rather than limits you. Often our fears manifest as limiting beliefs about ourselves and our world. We get in our heads an idea and we have no way of knowing whether or not it is true. When that happens, rather than choosing the negative belief, instead choose a belief that empowers you to take action toward being your best self.
2. Be Aligned. Make choices that align with who you are, what you value and what you want to contribute to the world. Find the thing you can work with and use it to fill your spirit. Grange says, “None of us can sell out for security and comfort without risk losing ourselves—we are wild at heart.”
3. Be Purpose-led in your decision making and action taking. It doesn’t have to be grand or flashy, but it needs to mean a lot to you. Take aim and fire!
4. Be Creative. Use your imagination to ignite desire and build a dream. Change is proactive, daring, and creative.
“Dreams are (renewable) rocket fuel for creativity and the psyche.”
5. Be Resilient. Build on your mistakes and failures. You fear is less scary when you are in the practice of making from the mess of life. You fail, no big deal. You make something beautiful from the lesson of the experience.
6. Be Present in this moment. Life is happening now. Get out of your head where the not-good-enough thoughts hang out, and shift your attention to your body to be aware of what this moment feels like. Return to the body any time you need to get out of your head. A walk outside or a few minutes lying on the ground are great ways to let go and reconnect to this moment where the figment of fear falls away.
Take these insights about what is fear and how we experience it in our minds and bodies, to explore for yourself how fear is showing up in your life. We all experience fear, it’s universal and human. Fear is a thought construct sourced from emotion and is not always rational.
Your willingness to bravely face your fears shines the light on any misbeliefs you can release and creates space for you to define proactively for yourself what is the desire or dream that you are making more important to realize than your fear.
Fear shmear. It ain’t no thang.
The truth is. You are bigger than your fear. You are brilliant.
You got this. I got you.
Works Cited Granger, Pippa. Fear Less: Face Not-Good-Enough to Replace Your Doubts, Achieve Your Goals, and Unlock Your Success. New York: McGraw Hill, 2021.