When You Want to Face Your Fear

When You Want to Face Your Fear

What are you afraid of? What fears and feelings of dread do you try to put out of your mind for as long as you can (the same ones that always seem to creep back in)?

When we look at our fears, we look at what makes us uncomfortable. We are afraid of discomfort.

The fear of being uncomfortable is what keeps us at the same job we hate, in the same relationships that we know is wrong for us. It’s what keeps us from training for a marathon, having that difficult conversation, and going on a road trip alone. It’s what keeps us from being the most us we can be. “Sure,” we tell ourselves, “I’m unhappy at my job, but to do what I really want would mean going back to school and I just…” We tell ourselves that it’s easier, better to stay in the relationship, train for the marathon later (never), and not have the difficult conversation.

We’re wrong. How is it easier to go without needs met, feel dissatisfied, and stay boxed in? How is it easier to be unhappy? It’s kind of funny how we won’t push ourselves out of an uncomfortable spot because we’re afraid that we will feel… uncomfortable.

I’m no different. I’ve not tried things I’ve wanted to try, stayed when I knew I should go, and not had the difficult conversations because it seemed easier, better not to. I was scared of being more uncomfortable or uncomfortable in a new way.

What makes me laugh a little is this: the more we tell ourselves that it’s too scary, too much trouble, too uncomfortable, the more we are training our brains to believe it, to dread it, to experience an increase in anxiety when we think about making a change. We work together in concert with our brains to stay uncomfortable.

“Awesome,” you say. “I’m unhappy, and you’re telling me I’m going to stay unhappy, and it’s my fault.” Yes and no. You don’t have to stay unhappy, and you do have a choice about which way to go.

Remember Newton’s first law of motion? “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.” If you’re moving, you tend to keep moving, and if you’re at rest, you tend to stay at rest unless something else is introduced. We notice this when we hit our stride during physical activity or when we stop what we are doing and find it a bit harder to start again.

The first thing we can do, before we do anything else, is to acknowledge that the change might feel uncomfortable and that we might want to turn around and go back. (As humans we like it when our feelings are addressed and validated.) Then we can tell ourselves that, when we get to the place where we want to stop and retreat, we will keep going. We will calm our fears by reminding ourselves that we can maintain our stride in this change by keeping pace. We’ll just keep whatever pace with which we started. As we get used to our own pace, we can pick it up a little bit, then a little bit more.

We can ask ourselves, “What’s happening right now?” Instead of thinking about how scared we are of something that may or may not happen or how much we would rather be doing something else, we can ask ourselves what is happening in that very moment, making no interpretation of or judgment about it. This will help us to keep our focus.

We might still be scared for a while. That’s ok. We have to keep doing it. Keep showing up, keep having those difficult conversations, keep training, keep applying. When we feel overwhelmed by self-doubt, insecurity, and fear, we’ll keep going. We’ll teach ourselves that we can manage our fears, that they aren’t as threatening as we once thought, and that addressing our fear is not nearly as uncomfortable as being driven by it.


Love and Be Loved,

Learn to Manage Your Anger

Learn to Manage Your Anger

I will be the first to say that plenty of things have irritated me, made me mad, frustrated me, or gotten under my skin. I will also be the first to say that I hated how I felt and wanted to be more easy-going about most of the things that bothered me. Some years back I decided that I should probably find out how I could manage my frustration if I wanted to feel more easy-going about things.

Eventually, I started reading, researching, and talking to people about anger. Where does it come from? What drives it? What are some effective ways of understanding and managing anger?

Before I started my quest, I felt the effects of anger on my brain, but I had a hard time seeing the fuller picture. I knew that it was hard to think clearly or make wise decisions the angrier I felt. As I explored the effects of anger, I learned the way the brain shuts down and impacts our behavior (and our relationships) as it succumbs to the anger. Simply, anger makes us stupid.

Sometimes it takes a lot to make us angry. Sometimes it just takes a certain look, a comment, or what would normally appear to be an insignificant action (but for various reasons sends you into full blown rage). It can start to feel like we’re at the mercy of our emotions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of being controlled by my feelings. I feel more stable and resourced when I am managing my emotions.

So, I decided to take what I had learned and put it to good use. Over the years, it has helped me to be more curious about my experience. What is important about how I am feeling? Why?

A couple of years ago, I brought this way of thinking to my therapeutic work to help other people who wanted to learn better ways of managing their feelings. Now, I am bringing it to you. If you have any questions or would like clarification about anything, let me know!

Alright, think of a situation that makes you angry. Maybe you feel it when your partner makes a particular comment or when you’re engaged in various activities at work. Thinking about it right now, ask yourself, “What is important about how I am feeling? Why?”

At first, anger appeals to us because it can make us feel powerful. Situations in which we might otherwise feel vulnerable or powerless tend to leave us feeling ineffectual. These are times when we might reach for the closest coping mechanism, no matter how it impacts us later. Eventually, using anger doesn’t feel as good as it used to and we start to feel like our anger is controlling us. What is that anger doing for us? And what is hiding underneath it?

Take a look at this:


A n g e r

/               \

Hurt       Fear


Typically, when we react in anger to something or someone, we are hiding behind that feeling to avoid experiencing less savory feelings such as hurt and fear. Depending on the accessibility of our feelings, it might take any amount of exploration. Why does a specific comment get to you the way it does? If you are honest with yourself, you know that it doesn’t simply “piss you off” or feel disrespectful. Ask yourself some questions. What about it pisses you off or feels disrespectful? Why is that important? These are good starter questions if you have a hard time thinking of yourself being hurt or fearful.

For those of you who have more access to your fear and hurt, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of? And what part of me is hurt/wounded and seeking protection underneath this anger?”

You can use these questions to slow you down in the moment or after the fact to gain perspective (and strengthen yourself for the next time around). As you use this strategy, let me know how it’s going for you. I can’t wait to hear about it!


Love and Be Loved,

Managing and Learning from Fear and Failure

Managing and Learning from Fear and Failure

I’m willing to bet that you have experienced failure. In fact, you have probably had some real showstoppers. I can relate.

We all want the experience of success whether it’s in our relationships, careers, academics, finances, safe-driving records- whatever. Failure isn’t usually one of our goals. It’s a funny thing about failure, though; we go from “not counting failure as a goal” (reasonable), to “failure is the worst thing that could ever happen.” How… did we get there? And more importantly, why?

Perhaps some of us grew up in an era during which undiscerning praise and awards were given to us for merely showing up. Perhaps, through that, some of us now believe that there is no failure or that failure is not our fault. Others might have understood those trophies and awards, as a sort of “Hail Mary”, deliverance from such failure that is a dark abyss of shame into which we would fall and never get out. Maybe some of us were intentionally taught that failure is an outcome worse than death, and we still believe it. Maybe we’re afraid of failure for other reasons.

Why? What does failure mean to us? Some people overidentify with failure- failure means “I’m not a good (fill in the blank).” Others become overwhelmed- “I just can’t handle going through that again,” and attempt an escape in various ways. It’s easy to be blinded by our pain and forget that these are stories we tell ourselves, not facts. But we believe them. We believe that if we fail a test, we’re (feel in the blank); if we end a relationship, we must not be (fill in the blank); if our business isn’t thriving, it’s obviously because of (fill in the blank).

Failure is a lot less powerful than that, although we can find our power in experiencing it. Failure does not define us. It communicates to us.

If we failed that (again, fill in the blank), maybe it means that we didn’t use the best form of preparation, that we need to learn how to manage conflict better, that we didn’t have all of the information we needed.

Maybe it wasn’t a failure at all, and something was incompatible for or with us. When we experience something as failure, we get to ask ourselves “why?” We get to find out what we need to do differently and how we can produce better results next time. We have the chance to learn, get smarter, get better.

When we fail, we can connect to our resilience. We get to see that, after all, the hardship, pain, and rejection we’re still standing. We’re given the chance to learn that we are our champions. We get back up after each fall, and continue with more knowledge, courage, and perspective, each time less controlled by our fear.

With that kind of perseverance, self-trust becomes increasingly available to us. We begin to realize our potential. We need less external validation. Reassessing our parameters, lifting a boundary here while strengthening a boundary there seems more doable for us… because we’re more comfortable with the truth about who we are.

This week, let’s be curious about our failures. Hey- and whatever you do? Don’t fail. Just kidding.

Love and Be Loved,

Learn How to Take Control of Your Fear

Learn How to Take Control of Your Fear

If you’ve ever had that uneasy feeling of insecurity creep in while you’re working on a project or sitting in a meeting, you’re not alone. Maybe you’ve had thoughts like, “Do I even know what I’m doing? Am I good enough at this?” or “Everyone else sounds like they know what they’re talking about. They’re going to think I look stupid.” This is an incredibly painful and scary place to be.

You might do all sorts of things to avoid letting people see how insecure you are.  Maybe you keep quiet when you want to share an idea. Perhaps you don’t ask for clarification about something when you know you need it. Maybe keeping quiet isn’t your style and instead, you speak your mind, but not about the relevant issue at hand; you joke or talk in circles about the issue. You might take on a lot more responsibility than you can handle to prove your competence to others (and to yourself). There are a lot of different ways to hide insecurity.

Why is it so compelling to go to these lengths of protection against allowing others to see your self-doubt? Well, when you’re insecure about your ability, your skill, or your worth you’ve usually been comparing yourself to other people, generally in your group or cohort. Chances are, your cohort is important to you (as it is for most of us), and so is their acceptance and opinion. You fear their judgment, appearing one-dimensional, being misunderstood. You begin to feel that losing your membership to this group is a real possibility, that you could be excluded. As a human, you are a social being, driven to connect; you are motivated by relationships so, the threat of losing them is terrifying. You avoid exclusion and isolation from your group at all cost.

But when you’re focused on protecting yourself from pain and rejection, you’re not authentic which means you’re not being seen for who you are. Your group doesn’t get to see the real you and your bonds are not as strong as they might be. You’re trading one type of isolation for another. It can be easy to lose yourself in this and begin to develop more feelings of fear and loneliness.

What can you do? You don’t want to feel like this, but you don’t want them to find out you’re not as good as they think you are. There are many things you can do, but here are just a few. Here is the first recommendation:


-You’re going to have to stop thinking of yourself as, “not as good as they think you are.” That sounds like a substantial change in thought habit and it is, but it’s necessary. We can talk more about it. I’m not saying you don’t ever get to feel insecure again- it’s still an option (if you want it). Start slowly at first. For 10 or 15 minutes a day you will allow yourself to do something that gets you in touch with feeling your talent, worth, and expertise, on your way to becoming even more skilled. You can increase this time as you get the hang of it. This will build your confidence and increase your comfort with thinking more highly of yourself.


-Next, you have to allow yourself to say, “I don’t know.” You have to be able to say it to yourself and others. This will allow you to see that a) the earth doesn’t swallow you up if you don’t know everything and b) you can increase genuine self -confidence without knowing all the answers. I guarantee that you will find a sense of freedom the more you allow yourself to say, “I don’t know.”

-Finally, when someone compliments you or your work, start taking it in. Don’t push it aside. Don’t intellectualize it away until it’s meaningless. Allow yourself to feel positivity in it, however slight. Feel free to ask for specific feedback on the compliment, too, so that you can hold onto concrete examples of what someone appreciated about you or your work.


These are a few things that are helpful in getting the ball rolling away from your “fear of being found out,” toward the satisfaction and peace of living more authentically, enjoying increased self-confidence and more genuine relationships. People get to interact with you, not your defenses.


Love and Be Loved,


Fear, Depression, and Hope

Fear, Depression, and Hope

Most of the time you are not consciously thinking about what is at the core of what scares you.  You might not know what’s at the core. Maybe you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of being afraid, the impact of fear on your wellbeing. Whether or not you have given it a lot of thought, for some, fear can seem as though it has infinite power. It can feel paralyzing, isolating, and uncontrollable.

It can feel as though there is an endless supply of fear, that it can be turned in any direction- fear of the unknown, fear of rejection, fear of being alone, fear of failure, fear of economic instability, fear of “being found out.” Most of the time you want to feel good. (Who doesn’t?) To do that you probably tend to act in a way that you believe will allow you to avoid pain.  You try to predict what will cause you pain by using experience from the past and making assumptions about the future. Fear can be pretty motivating.

It’s possible to go to incredible lengths to avoid or control fear- intense preoccupation with details, intense preoccupation with outer appearance, addiction, aggression, are a few examples.

When there is so much fear telling you what you need to avoid to feel ok, it doesn’t leave much time to sit productively with what is happening in the present. You probably find that you enjoy your relationships, jobs, families, and hobbies much less. You are not as productive when you are distracted by fear, however; if you use your productivity to defend against fear, you might find that you get a lot done, but still feel incredibly anxious.

At some point, there is a circumstance that encourages you to stop avoiding whatever it is you fear. Perhaps you make a conscious choice to face it because you have renewed resolve. Maybe you find yourself in the dreaded situation and begin to see that you are already getting through it and that it has not overtaken you. Or maybe you have decided that so much avoidance is exhausting so you begin to take slow, small steps toward a courageous shift.

Fear is a pretty compelling emotion. It’s why some of you stay in relationships or jobs long after you want to be there. It’s why some of you suffer from addiction. It can drive you to lead completely inauthentic lives by denying who you are and what you want, and you begin to live for someone else, what that person wants, who that person wants you to be. This can cause depression and anxiety which feeds addictive behavior; it can be tough to extricate yourself from this cycle.

That small step toward a courageous shift I was talking about earlier is essential for getting yourself out of this pattern. On another hand, when you are in this cycle, it can be hard to see that you have any choices. Maybe you feel like you don’t have any choices at all. That’s a normal feeling. When you have been experiencing the same behavioral and emotional cycle for a length of time, it can be difficult to remember a time when things were different. Maybe things weren’t ever different, and your hope for change is slim. But if you’re here, you have found some amount of hope somewhere within you. Together we can increase that hope.


Love and Be Loved,