Oftentimes, I have this uncanny feeling that something is wrong. When I turn my attention to it, I go through my list: the stove is off, the kids are in school, they left happy, I’ve done all my morning rituals including designing my day and manifesting and even picking a soul card. I’m on the ball with my people and to-dos for the day and I’m following my plans and priorities. I’m getting lots done, sourced by my mission and noticing miracles along the way.
Nonetheless, through my day I have a low-grade sense of something is wrong. Hmmmm.
Then, at a certain point in the day, it all switches around and I feel freer, happier and more energetic. It’s almost magical. It’s almost like I’ve just had a massive pep talk by the Uni-verse, or some coffee (which I don’t drink.)
Odd, right? Can you guess when this shift happens most days? I finally figured it out. It’s right after I do the thing I am afraid to do.
Here are my five top fears that I have to face regularly:
1) Leading groups in person or on the phone.
Even though I do it every Monday and usually a few other times a week, I am always nervous to face the audience. I almost always share personal stuff, and not usually very glamorous stuff, and I am hugely invested that people get personal value, though not everyone gets to speak out loud. Even though you might think the fear would subside with experience, I am never quite easy about being vulnerable and being judged. When I’m not talking, there is less risk of being un-liked. If nobody shows up, well, less risk. But if nobody shows up, I’m a loser. Nice mind game, ay? The rush of relief–nay, the high– after I tackle this fear is worth it every time.
2) Preparing to lead.
This one surprised me. For most of the things I lead, I like to practice out loud first to see how it sounds, smooth out rough patches and make sure I’ve included everything I think will be important. And yet, I avoid this until the last minute, so much so, that I now have a promise that I HAVE to do it 24 hours in advance. Now this is odd, because here, there is no audience to impress or to judge me. And yet, I feel almost the same way in anticipation of my prep time. I figured out that I actually fear my own judgment as much as others’ judgment, and the act of demonstrating my work, even to myself, feels really vulnerable. I get the same high once I face and move through this fear, even if I find lots of problems with my work.
3) Talking with people I think are further along than I am or from whom I want something.
I hope you’re seeing a trend now. Any opportunity to be rejected in any way is a source of fear. If I have the supposed upper hand, like say in a relationship where I am someone’s boss, I am much more relaxed. But knowing I need to call someone to make a pitch for or ask for something, wooooweee, I’d rather bury myself in email, except that “low-grade feeling of something wrong” doesn’t go away until I deal.
4) Dealing with someone who is mad at me or wants something from me.
Here again, the need to be vulnerable is making itself all too obvious. I know in this case I am going to be humbled, embarrassed or, at the very least, having to work through some emotions. Most of us spend our days very busy, avoiding unpleasant emotions. I do, too. But these conversations turn out to be the richest, most intimacy-building parts of my day, and by the end of the day, are the interactions of which I am most proud.
5) Delivering unpleasant feedback, aka “constructive criticism.”
If there is anything as bad as dealing with one’s own sticky feelings, it’s being present for someone else’s while they are dealing. In fact, the peak moments of life usually happen when one or two people (or more) work through sticky emotions together, and yet we’d like to avoid these experiences as much as possible. I only have to face this one every once in a while (because the people around me are SO awesome), but like all the others, the feeling of relief and connection afterwards is well worth the build up.
I bet you have a similar list, and if it’s anywhere near as long as mine, you could create a sexier context for dealing with fear rather than “avoid it!” It took me awhile, but I’m so glad now that I face my fears regularly, daily even. I suggest you be alert enough to feel and name it. What will help is if you list your triggers from experience, as I have. Now that I see my triggers, I can have a much better sense of humor about that something is wrong feeling.
The next step is to have rules about how you deal with your triggers, so they don’t get to “rule you.” As the “author of my life,” I take charge over this mechanism of fear and how it treats me, by promising to prepare for leading in advance (which also makes me much less afraid to lead) and promising to have difficult conversations within 24 hours of needing one. I also have a promise to spend an hour once a week reaching out to people with whom I want to partner, so I can’t avoid that either. This is “feel the fear and do it anyway” in action.
As I implied, sometimes it seems the high of being on the other side of fear is worth the anxiety wave, but after much analysis, I think it really isn’t. Fear can be turned into excitement when you know how to spot it and leash it. You’ll still be honoring emotion, you just won’t be getting sucked down into the “something is wrong” pit. The remarkable thing, which I have learned from experience, is that regardless of how mature you are about your fear, when you act in the face of it, you feel like you’ve just had the best coffee ever, and the high lasts longer!
Which fear will you face today?
Come to Fear: Let’s Face It, to look your fear in the face and say “boo!” Show it who’s boss.