Conquer Your Fear!
Imagine, you’re teetering at the top of a terribly steep slope. You stare down, frozen in terror. There’s only one way out. You KNOW you can’t go down without falling! You can’t think. You can’t move.
That was me, last winter, on a skiing trip. Although I ski pretty well, my expert group of friends had encouraged me to try the harder slopes. I had been progressing well, until I found myself on the hardest level of all: the “double balck diamond” slope. I was definitely not ready for that!
Of course, I had skied just far enough that turning back was no longer an option. Looking down, I felt that if I leaned forward just a little too far, I’d lose all control and tumble down. This was going to be a horror show. I was petrified!
“You Can Do This!”
As I stood there panicking, my friend Dave skied up behind me. Quietly, he stood with me for a minute, fully acknowledging my fear. Then he assured me I could make it down, saying, “Let’s just take it one turn at a time, OK?”
He didn’t rush me but provided gentle encouragement. The rest of our group was waiting at the bottom of the slope, shouting their encouragement.
But what did I want to do? Sit down, cry and wait for ski patrol take me down in a stretcher! While I could have done that, I chose to try to make it down the mountain on my own.
And I did. No, it wasn’t pretty! I was out of control at times. I cursed. But I got there — and I felt pretty good about myself afterwards. I thanked Dave and my cheering squad. We were a team, and we all earned our hot chocolate that day!
When Fear Paralyzes
There have been other times in my life when I’ve found myself outside my comfort zone… so paralyzed by fear that I couldn’t move forward. Mental fear can produce the same paralyzing grip of immobility as a physical fear.
I’ve learned that the best way to fight fear is head on. Rodney Atkins’ lyrics say it well:
If you’re goin’ through hell, keep on going
Don’t slow down, if you’re scared don’t show it
You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there
Here are three Power Challenges that help me when I’m overwhelmed, gripped with fear and unable to move forward. Try any or all of them the next time you find yourself on the wrong side of a dark cloud.
POWER CHALLENGE ONE: JOURNAL TO GAIN CONTROL
The first step in regaining a sense of control is to honestly acknowledge what you’re dealing with. A powerful (and private) way to do that is journaling.
- Find a place to think. Close your door at work, sit down in a quiet place at home or head to your favorite coffee shop.
- In a notebook, jot down everything that’s going wrong for you. Write all of it — the big, little and in-between stuff. Now is not the time to try to save paper.
- Now, go back and put an ”X” next to the things you have no control over. Circle all the things you do (or could) have control over.
- Review your circled items. Pick one that you can tackle. Write in your journal about what you are going to do to overcome the obstacle. Start small!
This journaling exercise can be an incredible stress management tool. It empowers and helps you keep perspective.
You can only do what you can do.
POWER CHALLENGE 2: SHARE YOUR FEELINGS (REALLY!)
When you are scared or overwhelmed, you may want to keep your feelings to yourself. But isolation just intensifies those emotions, leaving you feeling even more powerless.
Venting (maybe tinged with just a touch of whining) to your friends, family or a trusted colleague — can bring some welcome relief. Often, the act of talking with someone about what’s bothering you can go a long way in helping you get back on the right track.
In small doses, venting can be very cathartic. However, be careful. Repetitive complaining will make you feel worse. When you endlessly complain without taking any action, it solidifies feelings of victimhood. It may also cause people to avoid you.
If journaling and talking to others do not help, and you just can’t shake the dark cloud feeling, it may be time to get professional help.
POWER CHALLENGE 3: LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Heck no, that’s out of my comfort zone!
You’ve heard this or said it yourself. Most people mean they like the predictability and familiarity of their self-imposed boundaries. But what they are really saying is that they are scared to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable.
Comfort zones are really about fear, not comfort! So, do you want to challenge yourself and deal with fear? Follow the steps below.
(1) Define what’s outside your comfort zone.
What is it you would like to do? What do you believe is worth doing — but not done, because you are afraid of disappointment or failure? Make a list and then circle your biggest fear.
My colleague Susan wanted to expand her boundaries and apply for a new job position. She was well-qualified, but something was holding her back.
She listed everything that scared her about the new position. More hours, more responsibility, more travel… etc. But she realized her biggest fear was public speaking. The position would require a lot of presentations and conference panel discussions.
(2) Define the fear behind the discomfort.
What is it that really scares you? What’s holding you back? Be specific.
Susan’s fear of public speaking was about not wanting to embarrass herself; she did not want to come across as lacking knowledge about her topic. She also worried that her style was boring. She did not want to be “that speaker” causing her audience to mentally check out! And she was afraid of being ignored.
We suffer more in imagination than in reality. – Seneca
(3) Set a goal. Make a plan.
Name what you want to do. Then write down the steps you need to take to meet your goal. Make sure to break the big goal down into manageable steps. Focus on one step at a time.
Susan’s plan did not start with presenting to 200 people in an amphitheater! She started small by volunteering to present at staff meetings. She worked her way up to other internal (but still small) presentations. She joined a local Toastmasters group to become a better public speaker. And she practiced — a lot. Finally, she ventured out to do public presentations.
(4) Accept that you will fail.
Many of us are so afraid of failure that we would rather do nothing than take the chance to succeed! I choose to look at failure this way: Failure is our teacher. Most highly successful people failed plenty of times before they succeeded.
When we are afraid to fail or get hurt, we create boundaries. It’s those boundaries that prevent us from new experiences and challenges.
Without taking risks in life, we may never enjoy the results of personal growth and change. We’ll miss out on some pretty cool things!
As you slowly push past your comfort zone, you’ll feel more and more at ease. Don’t give up.
Some of Susan’s public speaking engagements have not been stellar. She’s improving, but she still has times when things don’t go well. When that happens, she immediately reviews her presentation to identify what she could have done better. She uses her mistakes as teaching tools for her next speaking engagement. She now has the confidence to apply for future jobs that require public speaking.
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” — Anonymous
Looking for a motivational speaker for your next event? Carla energizes and inspires attendees to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.