When You Want to Face Your Fear

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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,

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