I want to share with you, my wonderful readers, some insights into how our own life experiences have shaped the fear that all of us feel from time to time, the different levels of fear, and how we can combat fear and anxiety in our everyday lives. Let’s get started!
Our life experiences cause fear
Growing up, we can probably all relate to the fact our parents were not perfect in rearing us. They made mistakes – hopefully learning from them – told us they were sorry, and continued to provide the love and nurturing parents are required to perform.
However, some of us may have not had our needs met by our parents on a consistent basis. Now this wasn’t our fault, perhaps it was the result of a neglectful parent, or a single-parent household, even a parent dealing with mental illness.
Or there was a traumatic event like a divorce, a death in the family, or abuse. Regardless of the situational event, a child experiencing one or more of these things will tend to be overly fearful and anxiety-prone. I know that’s exactly what happened to me.
This causes a child to see the world as a dangerous, untrustworthy, and frightening place. Having this programmed into your brain at a young age will stay with a person their whole life. Even though as adults we may be responsible and competent people, a functioning part of society, everyday we live with needless fear and anxiety that paralyzes and controls us.
Wouldn’t it be awesome to know that these feelings that cause us to stay in a boring dead-end job (“it’s comfortable though”), to continue a relationship you’d be happier ending (“I can’t be alone, how will I find someone else?”), to not reach your full potential (“I’ll fail, I can’t do that, I don’t have the right skills”), are simply leftover from childhood?
The good news is when we realize that, and take a little bit of action to overcome our fear and anxiety, we can lead an exciting and adventurous life. The same life we wish for because we see other people living it!
The realistic levels of fear
We know fear is a normal emotion. It’s a survival mechanism, a fight-or-flight response, that happens during an attack or other harmful event (e.g., like a snake-covered bear when you’re camping), that threatens our life on this planet.
There’s different levels of fear, from low to high:
- Level 1 – Making decisions, switching careers, asking for a raise, interviewing for a job, or giving a speech.
- Level 2 – Rejection, success, failure.
- Level 3 – Simply, “I can’t handle it.”
Here’s the thing, fear and anxiety will never go away. If we are growing, we should feel uncomfortable, and we should feel some fear. It’s when it paralyzes and controls us that we need to confront it head-on, as counter-intuitive as that seems. In the past I looked for ways around my fears, or ignored them, or avoided them, hoping that by not dealing with them they would go away.
Then I made a life-changing decision to stop avoiding my fears that paralyzed and controlled me and to deal with them, with confidence, as a challenge to overcome. Fun, right?!
How to respond to fear
“I can’t handle it” is used for all sorts of situations in our lives. Have these thoughts ever crept into your mind?
I can’t handle making a mistake, so I’m not going to try something I haven’t done before.
I can’t handle more responsibility or being in the spotlight at work, so I’ll just stay in my current job.
I can’t handle the unpredictability of having kids, so I don’t want any.
I can’t handle people not liking me, so I’ll say yes to whatever people ask me to do.
You know what? Successful people handle fear with confidence, and they think whatever happens, they will handle it. That mindset has become a favorite mantra of Mr. Everyday Dollar, and I want to tell you about a fear of mine I thought I couldn’t handle.
I couldn’t handle talking in front of a large group of people, so I avoided giving speeches or presentations. Just recently I realized I couldn’t live my whole life carrying this fear on my shoulders, so I leapt into action.
I researched how to overcome a fear of public speaking and was lead to a professional organization called Toastmasters, that helps people develop public speaking and leadership skills. I found a local club near my home and started going to their bi-monthly meetings, ready to start giving my own speeches after a few weeks in.
However, my fear and anxiety of public speaking overcame me. I started making excuses for why I couldn’t give a speech: I was too busy to write one, there were too many other activities on meeting nights, oh, I’ll do it after I get back from Argentina. Months without giving a speech turned into a year.
Then I forced myself to sign up to give a speech, so there was no backing out. I wrote it, I practiced it endlessly, I had a sleepless night worrying about it. Mr. Everyday Dollar was a mess.
The day of my speech came and I showed up to the meeting, after convincing myself not to fake an illness. With heart racing and mouth dry, I waited until I was introduced. Delivering my speech with sweaty palms and plenty of nervous energy (manifesting itself into pacing), I pulled off the speech without a hitch. I felt awesome!
I had faced my fears and I had won. I handled it, even though I was convinced I couldn’t.
With an additional speech under my belt that I gave last week (on emergency funds), I now feel like an old pro up there. Sure, I still feel a little fear and anxiety delivering a speech, but overall it’s no big deal and I never thought that was possible. In fact, I like giving speeches now!
So readers, I want you to imagine how much you could accomplish at work and in your personal life if you believed whatever happens, I will handle it.
Has fear ever paralyzed and controlled you? Would it be different if you confronted your fear head-on? Have you?
If you lived your life without fear and anxiety, in your career and personal life, what would you being doing differently?