What Are You Afraid Of?
What Are You Afraid Of?
I mean it. What. Are. You. Afraid. Of?
At first blush, you might offer up the obvious things: heights, spiders, tight spaces, dying — but you might have to dig a little deeper to come up with those other (deep-seated) fears…like fear of FAILURE or fear of SUCCESS. Of course, those are nebulous things…deep concepts…not really tangible — until you tie specific events to them. Like: Fear of Failure…because of weight regain. Or, Fear of Success…because you get promoted to a job you’re not sure you can do.
Alright, now we MIGHT be getting somewhere, but I’m still not convinced.
I’m gonna keep digging:
Why does it matter? A lot of us can quickly say what we THINK we’re afraid of, but the reality is, we’re probably afraid of something ELSE. Which brings me to the idea of this post. You see, I’ve been struggling with lots of things lately. Life just isn’t…easy — not that anyone ever promised it would be, but somehow, I always convince myself there will be a manageable “ebb and flow” to things; a sort-of “give and take,” where I get to recover between the shovelfuls of dirt that keep getting dumped upon me. I keep thinking I’ll be able to climb out of the hole whenever I want, but I keep digging, and with each shovelful, I’m convinced I’ll be buried alive. Sometimes, when you can’t see the top of the hole, you begin to fear that you have no options. You convince yourself there is no way out. You become entirely consumed with terror. Why? Because your FEAR TELLS YOU TO.
I know I’m not actually buried — not in dirt anyway — so…what am I afraid of?
- Am I afraid I can’t handle the pressure? Nope. Too nebulous.
- Am I afraid I can’t keep up with the pace? Nuh-uh. Very vague.
- Am I afraid I can’t live up to my own expectations? Lovely, but fuzzy.
If those aren’t my fears, I guess I’m gonna dig a bit deeper.
What is driving this panic? Why do I feel I’m going to suffocate? Why do I fear I will collapse under the weight of it all? Ahhh…I think I’ve hit upon something: I am afraid because I am afraid. Of what, exactly? Being buried alive? No, that’s not the fear. What is it??? Right now, I am afraid of something…NAMELESS…which, for some inexplicable reason, makes it even scarier.
Could it be that if I don’t know what I’m actually afraid of, then my fear is bigger than what I’m actually afraid of? Yes, I think I’m onto it…I’ve uncovered something big and here are the two treasures I have dug up:
- Fear only has as much power as I give it.
- I give fear power when I don’t give it a name.
Well then — it’s time to render my fears powerless and give them names. Ready? (Careful, they’re scary…)
- I am afraid of not meeting impossible deadlines at work.
- I am afraid that if I don’t meet those impossible deadlines at work, I will be accused of untrue things.
- I am afraid that if I am accused of untrue things, I will lose my job.
- I am afraid that if I lose my job, I won’t be able to find another one.
- I am afraid that if I can’t find another job, I will be broke.
- I am afraid of being broke.
Wow. Just take a look at those (until now) unnamed fears! They are real monsters — terrifying monsters — and they have been feeding upon each other AND ME! Well, not anymore, because you see, they now have names, and I have removed their power by reframing my thoughts and actions.
Here’s how that looks:
OLD: I am afraid of not meeting impossible deadlines at work.
NEW: I am only responsible for the effort I put forth to meet impossible deadlines; I cannot guarantee anything that is beyond my control; I am responsible for myself and my actions.
OLD: I am afraid that if I don’t meet the deadlines, I will be accused of untrue things.
NEW: I can be accused of untrue things even IF I meet deadlines because I do not have control over what other people think of me. I am responsible for my own behavior.
OLD: I am afraid I will lose my job.
NEW: I could lose my job for a number of reasons and none of them might have anything to do with me or my effort! The business could dry up; we could lose clients; the owner could decide to shut the doors. I am not responsible for anything other than doing the best job I can do (perfectionism, be damned! There is no room for that here…)
OLD: I am afraid I won’t find another job.
NEW: If I lose my job, I will work very hard to find another job — which may not be easy – but I found this job, and I could find another, if I had to.
OLD: I am afraid I will be broke…and I am afraid of being broke.
NEW: I could be broke, but I would find a way to survive. It would be a challenge, but I am made of better stuff. Would it be scary? Absolutely…the unknown often is — until it becomes KNOWN.
The bottom line is, our level of fear is often disproportionate to the size of the things we actually fear, usually because we don’t define them, or we run from them. And that’s the pits. But, by FACING our fears, we learn just how deep a hole we’re in and what it will take to get out. Basically, we learn what we’re made of, and where our strengths lie when we name our fears. Hey, this stuff isn’t easy. It’s downright scary, and it’s hard, and just knowing what we fear doesn’t make the fear go away. I understand, but that is where courage begins.
Courage is, by definition, facing your fear, but doing it anyway.
So, I ask again: WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
If you don’t know, it’s time to figure it out, because that’s the only way to wrap your arms around it and strategize your survival and recovery.
Need help? Think about Little Red Riding hood — innocently skipping through the woods with a basket of goodies for her grandma. Now, think about what happens when she gets there — she meets the wolf, but tries to convince herself it’s grandma. Silly girl! Instead of facing her fears, she pretends they don’t exist (which is pretty scary, if you ask me), and I kinda think that pretending something isn’t what it is isn’t any better than pretending something is what it isn’t. Did you follow that? If LRRH faced her fear head on, she wouldn’t have gotten eaten by the wolf, likewise, if we spend our lives thinking there’s a wolf around every corner, then we’re just eating ourselves!
Phew! That was very, very deep. But, I don’t want to leave you buried without a shovel — so here are a few things to unearth:
- Are you giving power to your unnamed fears?
- Do you think your fear has “bigger teeth” and “bigger eyes” than it really does?
- Do you believe you can face and beat your fears?
Not sure? Sit with yourself for a bit and figure out what scares you. I mean, what really scares you — not the easy stuff — the tough stuff. Write it down. Say it out loud. Tell someone you trust. Hear the words. Understand the fear. Know where it comes from and if it’s as big as you really fear it is then, plan your way out of the hole. Determine what you can influence, and what you can’t; what you are responsible for, and what you aren’t. What you can live with, and what you can’t. There will be some things you can’t fight — I understand that — but you can definitely minimize their power over you…if you turn and face them. I believe that with all my heart.
Fear not, my friend. You can do this — Just keep digging, you’ll get to the heart of the matter soon enough!