While researching the factors that keep us from completing or even attempting new goals one main theme kept popping up. Fear.
I know all about fear. I feel it every single time I step in front of a class. Even thinking about my very first class 20 years ago is leaving me feeling somewhat anxious.
There I was, about to go in front of 25 strangers, and lead a Basic Fitness class.Confession time; I had never even taken a live fitness class, much less led one.
I had done everything right up to that point.
I had a personal fitness program I had been working on for a couple years. I did my research and found the best fitness certification, studied intensely, took the exam and passed. I got a gig, and created, practiced, created, practiced.
This was old school aerobics my friends, and much, much harder to create and teach than the bootcampy or yoga type classes I currently teach. Even though I had done everything correctly, as I cued up the music and adjusted my headset, every freaking cell in my body yelled:
“Get out of here while you can…what business do you have to teach these people…you are too old (I was 37) to be doing this…what if they don’t like my music, my moves, my clothes, my hair…you are going to make a fool out of yourself…” and on and on.
With shaking knees and trembling voice I went on to teach a pretty bad class. But oddly enough, no one seemed to notice or even care. They showed up the next week. They even complimented me on it. My fears were irrational. And still are.
I know intellectually, I have good teaching and motivating skills, but there is always the little corner of my mind that holds my fear that I am a fraud.
The inner critic seems to be the voice of our fears. Taking the first step to walk through the fear on my very first class made it easier each time. Had I not taken the first step to walk through the fear, I would not be sitting here writing this article. And it may have stopped me from trying new things altogether.
Fear is an universal emotion. It’s okay to have it. It is not okay to let it paralyze you. If we take a bit of time to understand fear, it will lose some of it’s power. And hopefully, you will find the courage to walk through it when it appears.
There are 4 main types of fear regarding achievement:
- Fear of failure
- Fear of success
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of being uncomfortable
Fear of failure, atychiphobia, is a fairly simple concept that most of us understand. It is quite common to feel we cannot succeed. If you are reluctant to try new things, you may suffer from this fear.
Fear of success, sometimes referred to as achievemephobia, seems like it would be less common, but is actually very similar to fear of failure. In this fear, your success may provoke negative emotions in others such as envy, jealousy, and resentment. Some people may find you threatening at this point. Fear of success has many questioning whether they are up to the new task or challenge.
Fear of rejection, there are several medical names for this fear, may flood our bodies with feelings of isolation, being alone, or cut off from our tribe. Rejection may lead to the deepest of human fears, the feeling that we are unlovable. Feelings of pain and hurt occur when we are feeling rejected. Anger is a function of this type of fear. We see it a lot in our society today.
Fear of being uncomfortable, anthrophobia, can range from shyness and timidity, the fear of annoying or inconveniencing other people, or the simple fear of being judged. I didn’t even know this was a “thing.” I have this feeling of inconveniencing people, to the point I will inconvenience myself before anyone else. No wonder everyone thinks I am “nice.” Now I know it’s there, I can acknowledge it and work on it. Toughen up a bit, maybe inconvenience someone else for a change.
There are some folks whose fears become out of control, full-blown phobias and anxiety disorders. These extreme disorders should be addressed by the proper mental-health professionals and are well out of my scope of practice. I would like to be clear on that issue.
For our purposes, I am referring to the more garden-type variety of fear most of us suffer from from time to time. An appropriate acronym for these common fears is:
False Evidence Appearing Real
Most of these fears are made up stories we tell ourselves. They are not real. No one has actually said this to us. We visualize crazy scenarios in our heads. We are quite sure the outside world views us as losers who can accomplish nothing, or as in my case, a fraud. And in the process of negative thinking we wire our brains to think this way and become our own worst enemy.
The good news is, what has been wired, can be rewired. Here are a few ideas to help you get moving if fear is causing procrastination, or worse yet, stopping you from trying anything new or challenging:
- You have heard me say many times, get comfortable being uncomfortable-do this in small doses if fear plagues you. Maybe you don’t want to give the speech, but perhaps you could introduce the speaker, if the fear of public speaking is something you would like to overcome.
- Make a list of small successes. Maybe you didn’t get your run in today, but you took a walk and did some light stretching.
- Challenge yourself. You tried the yoga class and liked it. Try branching out to Pilates or some other form of mind-body program
- Observe yourself from a detached point of view when you find yourself shrinking from fear. See how you respond. Be aware of what is going on.
- Get in touch with your support network, discuss your fears with them.
- My favorite, imagine the worse case scenario, make it as hideous as you can, so awful it’s laughable. This one can be fun. Fear hates good humor and laughter, and will generally dissipate in it’s presence.
- Be on the lookout for the naysayers. These are negatively charged people who can spread bad feelings and unreal fears in a heartbeat. I can only guess something went terribly awry in the life of the chronic naysayer. They are the least supportive of all people, their life is stuck and they want everyone around them stuck right with them in the swamp of negativity. Run away as fast as you can away from these types of people so you don’t get sucked into their chronic pity party. You deserve better.
- Look in the mirror, and tell your inner critic to shut the (insert favorite cuss word here) up. Then laugh…loudly
Working on small tasks and repeating them over and over will help develop any skill we put our mind to, and is a strong step toward rewiring our brain to a more positive viewpoint. Face the fear. Practice walking through it.
I did it, and so can you.
I learned courage was not the absence of fear, but triumph over it.-Nelson Mandela