New Year, Same Fear
"I'm just afraid that they won't get me," she said. "All of these people have established friendships with each other, it's like there's no room for me. It's probably not even worth it - I don't belong anywhere."
There are so many things that our fear can hold us back from. The biggest of these - in my humble opinion - is strong, healthy relationships with others.
Fear keeps us from adding to conversations when we have something important, or hilarious, or curious to contribute.
It keeps us from going to that event, or that get-together.
It keeps us from saying how we really feel when we are hurt, confused, or angry. It even can keep us from sharing our joy with others.
We set goals around so many different things as the new year begins - around our health and fitness, our finances, our careers - and even those goals are often hindered by fear.
So how can we move past it? How can we dispel our fears so we can see progress?
1. Squash the lies and identify the fear.
"What are you afraid of?" often gets a big reaction in sessions with my clients. Usually that's because we don't recognize fear for what it is, so we haven't thought it through.
Fear can hide itself behind the lies that we have told ourselves for years - so that instead of calling it fear, we call it truth.
"I don't belong" is something that we tell ourselves to cover up the fear of rejection, or of discomfort around new situations.
"I'm not enough" is something that we learn from comparing ourselves to others and not taking into account our own personal circumstances - or theirs. The fear behind that is what can convince you that someone is going to find out about all of your failures.
There are millions of different things that we tell ourselves about our lives that amp up our anxieties, and keep us from moving forward.
The truth is that we are wired as human beings to think in this way - it has what kept our species alive for as long as we have been. Fear can be an important, and useful, emotion - it keeps us from doing the things that will kill us, after all!
But also, as we have moved away from surviving in the wild, it hasn't toned itself down to match the society that we live in now. So it's up to us to keep it in check and look past it to reach our potential.
2. Decide who you want to be.
Now that we've identified the fear - how is it keeping you from the life that you want to live?
Are you super lonely and looking for some friends? Are you looking to make some changes in your relationship with your spouse? Worried about not meeting someone else's expectations of your life? Are you trying to move past some perfectionistic tendencies so you can enjoy the "small stuff" instead of trying to just get through it?
If you could pinpoint the things in your life that need to change - what are the areas that have you stuck, and what changes would have to happen to move them forward?
And what does your fear tell you about it?
Many of us hold on to the expectations of other people - our parents, spouse, friends, community - and use those standards to make our choices.
But you have the ability to give yourself permission to live your life and make your decisions based on the values that you hold dear.
And just some added bonus encouragement - many of my clients have unmet needs (like spending time with friends, or by themselves, or taking up a hobby) because they tell themselves that they can't do it.
When expressing those desires to spouse or family, they are often met with more encouragement than they ever expected.
Maybe some confusion or surprise, maybe some skepticism - but in general, encouragement that they are doing things to fulfill their needs and make them happy.
3. Focus on Cans, Not Can'ts.
Ok, so my value is traveling. I want to live a life where I can travel whenever I want, wherever I want.
Is that realistic for my lifestyle currently? Nope.
But what is? Making plans so that those things can be a reality.
Bringing in income, paying off debt, saving money, and making decisions that set me and my family up for the life that we want.
Taking trips as we are able to financially that make me excited about what is to come.
Keeping myself motivated looks like understanding reality, and doing little things that put me on that path over time.
If I sat and focused on all of the places that I wasn't able to go, we would definitely never get anywhere at all.
Similarly, if you want to have more, or better, relationships, those things definitely don't come overnight. Instead, they come from learning how to find people that you connect with, and intentionally making them a priority, gaining trust and being vulnerable - all of which take an investment.
Each decision that you make in an area you are trying to grow in, or towards, is an opportunity to bring you closer to the life you want.
4. Take action.
So, we identified fear. We identified some values. We know what we can do. What's left?
Do it. Take those small steps towards your goals. Lean into that fear and embrace stretching beyond what you thought were your limits.
Make that phone call. Go to that event. Have that conversation.
And if it still feels like too hard, or too much? Make that counseling appointment. Because you don't have to stay stuck in your fear.
No matter what you feel like you are missing, you don't have to stay stuck where you are. It just takes a small changes, and time, to see progress.
"Great things are done by series of small things brought together." - Vincent Van Gogh
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