Fear seems like kind of a funny topic to talk about at the beginning of the year. (At the time I’m writing this, it will be my first blog post of 2022.) Usually this is when we bust out the vision boards, make our resolutions, and do some dreaming about what we want to experience in the coming year. We usually use BIG words like BOLD! BRAVE! BODACIOUS!
In my own experience and what I see across the spectrum of my coaching clients, however, it seems like after any exciting period of planning, fear seems to be hiding just around the corner, holding its breath, crouching down, and waiting to take a Chuck-Norris style leg sweep to us, knocking us right on our butts. And when that happens (not if!), it throws many of us into a doubt spiral.
It’s usually at this point that the spiral gets compounded by other doubt-infested or fear-based thoughts. And I know, at least for me, this is the point at which I get frustrated with myself. How can I be so afraid? I should be more confident! I can’t believe I’m still worrying about this! I’m being ridiculous!
The pressure we can experience to be completely fearless is INTENSE. Whether it’s well-meaning slogans on a tampon wrapper, a meme on social media, or even a well-intended compliment, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we should be completely free of any sort of fear around what we want to work towards. I had a Mayor tell me once that what he admired about me was that I was FEARLESS. My first thought was, “This dude obviously doesn’t know what goes on inside my head! I’m constantly afraid I’m going to mess something up or make the wrong call.” And my second thought right on the heels of that was, “Ohmygosh. I’m a fraud! I shouldn’t be afraid! I shouldn’t be second-guessing myself! What is wrong with me???” (Ok, so that was more than one thought. In coaching we call the “writhing ball of snakes” or “Christmas lights” thoughts – the ones that are all kind of interconnected and tangled up.)
I can only speak for myself in that if I were to spend my time trying to get rid of every fearful thought, every anxious worry, and every doubt that crosses my mind, it would be a full time occupation. That’s why over the last few years I’ve really worked on simply fearing less than trying to be fearless. It’s an approach that has given me back some of my sanity and eased a lot of the pressure I felt to be mentally perfect as well as to execute perfectly as well.
As I work with my coaching clients, we often talk about the pressure they feel to have everything figured out completely. I don’t know if it’s a learned behavior, a Western culture kind of thing, or a natural desire, but we all seem to want to be THERE. It always feels better to have full resolution rather than to be “in process” with something. That’s why when we think we have to be fearless, there’s an implication that if we are anything other than that, something is wrong. Instead, if we simply worked on fearing less – even if it’s by 1% – I think we’d be encouraged by the progress we see, and I am damn sure we’d be a lot more relaxed about it.
I tried this recently with some changes I was making to my business. One change in particular was creating a lot of angst, and I was getting frustrated with myself. After all, I coach people who are interested in COURAGEOUS TRANSFORMATION. How the heck could I be falling into the fear trap, dammit?!? I decided to list out all my fears about the change. Right down to the teeny-tiny ones. Then I scanned what I’d written and decided which ones I was going to take off the list. Now, this doesn’t mean that I literally never have those thoughts anymore, but it does mean that when I do, I recognize them and say, “Nope. I’ve decided not to be afraid of that.” Kind of like picking something up and then making yourself put it back down. At first, it’s a billion times a day, maybe. But over time, it lessens, and eventually that thing I decided I wasn’t going to give any more energy to is released.
Next time you’re struggling with the perception that you need to be completely fearless, instead, see where you can fear less. And go from there.