This week was a big week for many going back to school. I can’t help but remember how painful it was for me all throughout my years of school and college. I spent way too much time trying to figure out which professors assigned presentations and how to get out of them as soon as I saw the syllabus. My avoidance “strategy” didn’t always work and ultimately caused a delay in my graduation twice, in my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
When you think back to school, does it still bring up unpleasant feelings?
Do you continue to have these thoughts when it comes to situations now, such as job interviews, staff meeting/presentations, the anxiety you feel at social events, thinking everyone will know how nervous you are?
If your social anxiety and/or fear of public speaking is interfering with your ability to get a job you want, a promotion, attending events, or your ability to function doing something that you love, it’s time to start taking action!
We are conditioned to avoid pain and discomfort. Don’t judge yourself for having fear; it´s normal. When it overtakes your life and inhibits you, it’s time to break the vicious cycle.
Have you experienced a turning point, where you felt that you could no longer continue on as you are, that something needs to change? That the pain of feeling “stuck” and afraid is far worse than facing your fears?
I lived my life like that for many years, too caught up in the cycle of fear to do anything about it. Living a self-limited life, when the avoidance and self-induced guilt of not trying to change, became too much to bear. Then I learned that taking charge and changing my thought process would make me feel better.
Fear is an unpleasant emotion, a feeling of extreme discomfort. That means most of us are afraid of the feeling, not the actual situation (such as socializing or public speaking) that we think we are so terrified of. This is where the famous quote comes in, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Do not honor, accept or waste time on the fear of fear. Understand it enough so that you are aware of your thought patterns that are causing it, and change your way of thinking.
Everything worth doing, everything worth growing for is going to make you feel anxious. Fear is the reason we need courage. Courage doesn’t exist without fear. When you move towards fear, open yourself up to it, you still feel the anxiety, it’s still unpleasant, but you get to release the resistance, see that it’s not as bad as you thought it was, and you’ll feel proud of yourself for moving towards your goals.
Most people keep their expectations really low, they never go outside their comfort zone, which means they are living an unfulfilled life because they’re not even giving themselves a chance.
What will you regret more?
- Trying and it not going exactly as you expected (all or nothing thinking?) or not even trying and remaining stuck?
- Are you willing to risk not trying?
- Are you willing to be so afraid that you don’t give yourself a chance?
There will never be a good time to do anything. There’s always fear, uncomfortable sensations, negative thoughts, distractions and so on. We tend to believe that we first have to overcome of all of these obstacles before we can actually do what we want in life. Understanding that things won’t change until you take action is important.
Fear means that you’re a human – that you evolved with fear in order to protect yourself but it’s no longer serving you when it’s this. Fear is a natural part of the human experience: embrace it, let it be part of your experience but do not let it hold you back.
One of my most defining moments was about 8 years ago, searching desperately to work on my fear of public speaking and social situations. Once I found the Getting Over Stage Fright workshop, I knew there was no going back. My fear had already transformed into enthusiasm as I eagerly anticipated the workshop. Naturally, I experienced anticipatory anxiety, but the excitement was much more prevalent. I finally felt hopeful and a deep commitment to change.
Looking back, I now think of my fear as one of my greatest gifts, to fully becoming who I was meant to be, to reaching beyond my highest expectations, creating a community of like-minded individuals, and most importantly coming to peace within myself.
What if you weren’t afraid of the emotion of fear? How would your life be different?
The good news is that you have the strength and the power to take action towards your goals – no matter what you fear.
Now is the time to change. The key is to start before you think you’re “ready”!