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Does Fear stop you from living your life as you want to live it?

Does Fear stop you from living your life as you want to live it?

I wrote and posted this blog a while ago, on my website for in-person classes and Personal Training, and having re-read it I thought it would be the perfect first one for my new website, and online home, that you have now been welcomed into.

This new direction that I am taking has been in the planning stages for what seems like forever and I’ve, many a time, questioned why I haven’t gone ahead and just launched it earlier. The biggest thing, I personally feel, that was holding me back was fear – fear that I wasn’t ready, fear that it wasn’t how I wanted it to be, fear that not everything was finished just yet, fear about what other people would think and say about it but … as President Franklin Roosevelt famously asserted, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself." and … as Nike say sometimes you have to ‘Just do it’!

How many times have you not done something because you’ve been too scared to do it, too fearful of the reaction of others, afraid of what could happen?

Fear has a lot to answer for – it can stop clever, intelligent, very able people from fulfilling their potential, from seizing opportunities, from becoming what they’ve dreamed of being. Being fearful seems to create more problems than there would have been without the fear and hinders so many aspects of so many people’s lives.

There’s been many times in my life that I have been fearful and many times that I have allowed the fear to take priority in my life, often to the detriment of my health and well-being and … in this case … it has hindered my business and personal development. Fear can be disabling, it can increase disproportionately to the actual risk involved and potential outcome, leading to illness, disturbed thoughts, panic attacks and general unhappiness.

There are, of course, things that we do need to be genuinely fearful of, and we take the appropriate measures to minimise the risk of such fears, but to live your life in fear most of the time is not to live at all. This is especially poignant in the current climate within which we live with the world seeming to be a much less safe place than it ever has been.

Fear can come in many forms …

There are those fears which have a name and, whilst researching for this blog, I came across quite a few that I’d never heard of but are definitely real for many people – http://list25.com/the-25-strangest-phobias-you-could-have/ - Nomophobia being one which I think is very pertinent in the age in which we live – it’s ‘short for no-mobile-phone phobia, this is the constant fear of not having service and according to researchers in the UK a whopping 50% of people have it.’ I see this fear every day and may even have it a bit myself as I do tend to panic when I don’t know where my phone is or I don’t have signal! Something I do have to work on.

Fear of failure – this can be huge for so many, we’re afraid to try, or do, something in case we don’t succeed but how limiting is that? If we don’t try we won’t know if we can succeed but sometimes the fear of failure is bigger than the possibility of succeeding. This ties in with the fear of not ‘getting it right’ – there’s always so much pressure to get things right first time that often we don’t even try at all. Add to that the current frenzy of social media activity and it’s a wonder we try anything at all – nowadays it seems like nothing is kept out of the public arena and there are always people ready to put you out there, whether you want to be or not, and then, more often than not, put you down as well.

Fear of criticism – nobody likes to be criticised, it doesn’t tend to do much for the self-esteem but … if it’s constructive and it’s been asked for then it can be a huge help. I always, always ask for constructive feedback at the end of my classes, sessions, anything I do and it is important to me to help me evolve and develop but … it has to be constructive. I have had some quite hurtful criticism and this does hinder me at times as it plays on my mind and I wonder what I’ve done wrong to make someone feel like that and for them to feel the need to let me know, knowing it would be hurtful. Then I do a reality check and more often than not someone who says something along these lines is just reflecting how they feel about themselves onto you.

Fear of looking and/or sounding stupid – how many times have you not asked a question or sought advice because you were afraid of appearing to be stupid. How many times have you not worn something or tried something because you were afraid of how you would look?

I often get scared of not remembering things and yes, appearing stupid and not knowing what I’m doing, especially when teaching a class, so, as a lot of you know; to overcome this I put in place something that would help me overcome this fear. When teaching classes I use a board with the exercises on which works as a trigger and, of course, when I practice and have done the class many times then it’s not often required. It does reduce the fear in me though and helps me to introduce routines and exercise that otherwise I might not have done

Fear of what other people think – so many times people do not do things because they’re afraid of the opinions of other people, they allow themselves to succumb to what they believe other people think that they should do rather than actually believe in themselves and so what they think is right. This is a subject for a complete blog in its own right!

When I made the decision to move to Lanzarote with my daughters I was so scared and fearful as to whether or not I had made the right decision.  I spent many a sleepless night going over and over it, even up to the night before we left. I had panic attacks, I had the shakes, I cried BUT … it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. It wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t an easy move but it was the right move and I managed to work through my fear and just did it, despite all the misgivings from myself and lots of other people. If I hadn’t had done that I would be sitting here wondering ‘what-if’ and I find that thinking that is what really spurs me on.

Fear of letting people down and a fear of missing out (FOMO) – how often do we do things that we’d rather not because we’re worried about letting other people down and/or we’re worried we’re missing out on something? We fear that if we don’t attend a party, a night out, a gathering and so on that we’re going to miss out on something important or that other people will benefit from being there whilst we won’t even though, we’d much rather not actually be there. Not necessarily because we don’t want to see who is there (or maybe we really don’t!) but that perhaps we’re just not feeling social, we’re not feeling well, we’re just not up to it.

Fear of rejection – gosh, how many people fear rejection? Whether as a friend, as a partner, as an employee and so on. What this is though is not believing you’re good enough or that you’re not the right person – maybe you’re not but you’re not going to find out until you try, and like the saying goes ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’. You’ve also not got to be afraid of swallowing your pride and grabbing opportunities when they appear.

Years ago I was relocating back to High Wycombe, having lived in Kelvedon Hatch in Essex for a couple of years. Whilst living in Essex I was working as the Sports Development Team Leader for the London Borough of Redbridge but the commute was too much so I was looking for a more local job. One came up, as Contract Manager for the Beacon Centre in Beaconsfield, ideal, or so I thought, for my experience and knowledge and just down the road. So I applied, I was interviewed but then rejected, someone with more experience got the job, fair enough I thought, back to the applications, thinking this time maybe I shouldn’t apply for such a job as I was fearful of being rejected again, maybe I should lower my sights. BUT … this person turned the job down, the MD phoned me and asked if I would meet him to discuss me taking the job, I did swallow my pride and I did end up with the job after all, I didn’t let the fear, or my pride, stand in my way.

Fear of loss – this is a big one for me, I’m not sure if it’s because of the way my brain is wired, because of the experiences I have had in life or just because, but I find it very hard to let go. Letting go of relationships, clients, friends, is something that I find incredibly difficult and this could then either make me fearful of getting close in case it happens, make me create situations in which it does happen (thinking that I’m then in control) or I could just go with the flow and if it happens, then so be it and I find ways to manage it that don’t affect my health and well-being. This one is definitely a work in progress for me but it’s getting better.

Fear of the Pasthow many times do you feel that your past comes back to haunt you? You feel you’ve moved on, you’re getting on with your life now and then, bang, something or someone from the past appears and you’re back in that place of uncertainty. Maybe a place that caused the fear to develop in the first place. You fear that the past is always going to hold you back in some way, shape or form.

Fear of the Future when I was much younger, as a child, the future didn’t really seem to have any impact on me. I lived in the present, as children tend to do, and didn’t think too much about the future. It was only as a teenager and on becoming an adult that fear of the future started to creep in. Would I ever meet anyone with whom I’d want to spend my life with, would I have children, would I have enough money, would I have a job that I enjoy, how would I cope if I lost someone dear to me – these were just some of the worries that existed for me and I’m sure the same happened for other people. I began to become fearful of not achieving or having these things and of not being able to cope if they didn’t happen or, in the case of losing someone, if they did happen.

Understanding fear – to overcome fear we need to understand it, understand where it stemmed from, understand why it can affect us so much and stop us doing what we think we want to do. A certain amount of fear can be a good thing, it can give us the drive we need to get out there and overcome it and once we’ve done this doesn’t it feel good?

But … there is fear that holds us back, that prevents us doing what we really want to do, become who we really want to be and it is this fear that we need to learn to manage and, hopefully, overcome if we want to move forward and actually enjoy life.

Overcoming and managing fear

Identify the fear, what you’re afraid of and why and ask yourself – what is the worst that can happen? There are some fears though that are so deeply ingrained within us that maybe professional help is the way to start managing and eroding the fear. Never be fearful of seeking help. Knowing when to seek help and actually asking for help is strength in itself and can be a first major step in moving forward where before you would have not dared try.

Do not worry what other people think – we all do this and it is so hard a lot of the time to do otherwise but … I will say this again and again and again, even if just to convince myself. It is nobody else’s business how you lead your life. If you try something and you kind of mess it up, so what?!! Learn from it, try it again with maybe some changes, or move on acknowledging it perhaps wasn’t for you. BUT … don’t ever not try and don’t ever be afraid of trying, you never know you may actually succeed and you may find yes it was for you and it was the best thing you ever did.

Ask yourself what might be stopping you from doing something and what can you put in place to help you overcome this fear. Do you need more practice, do you need to talk to someone about it, do you need to find out more about it. Whatever it is, just do it, thinking about it doesn’t always help, it’s useful but you can only spend so much time thinking before you’ve probably talked yourself out of it.

Remember times when you have been fearful but you have managed to work through the fear and overcome it. What did you do, what worked, what didn’t? What was the outcome? What can you learn from it and how can you go forward.

Enjoy spending time alone – find things which you enjoy, you don’t have to spend every minute of every day in company, in fact, happily spending time on your own in your own company helps you to become happier and more productive but of course you still also want to enjoy the benefits of being with others so find a balance but don’t ever be afraid of your own company.

Don’t fight your fear, or your fear will fight you - one of the best things you can do to help combat fear is to relax and focus. Be aware of the thoughts in your mind and try to work on what is real and what is not, or is imagined fear, that could stem from worry.

Personally I want to get myself to a place where yes I weigh up the pros and cons of something but, if I really want to do it, then I’ll find a way to do so, I don’t want to be held back by overwhelming fear, by all consuming fear. I don’t want fear to dictate who I am and what I do and how I live my life.

I’ll leave you with this from www.ideas.ted.com:

‘You don’t want to get rid of your fear; you need it to keep you alive. We’re all here because we had fear that preserved us. So there’s a little bit of a lack of appreciation for fear when we say that we want to be fearless. But then, fear is the oldest, deepest and least subtle part of our emotional life, and so therefore it’s boring. It’s dull. It doesn’t have any nuance. So have a little conversation with your fear when it starts to get riled up when you’re trying to do something creative. But don’t try to go to war against it, that’s such a waste of energy. Just converse with it and then move on.’