We are conditioned to believe that our fear is the result of things we do. This makes intuitively sense, but does the statement hold the whole truth when we look into it in more detail?
At first sight, it sounds self-explanatory. Just think of the title of the classic self-help book ‘Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway’. The implication here is that fear is a given when taking action, so you might as well get on with it and do things. We are also often referring to our comfort zone and how doing anything that takes us out of it, creates fear (I discussed this topic in a previous article)
But how often do we really do things in our lives which are out of the ordinary? Well, not as often as the times we feel fear or anxiety. Can you think of the last time you felt fearful in your life? Did it happen yesterday, last week, last month?
Perhaps you started feeling unease when your partner didn’t come home at the usual time, without notifying you of the delay. Maybe you were worried when the cat threw up excessively, or anxious of an upcoming Zoom call at work. It’s possible you felt dread expecting a call or email from an unhappy client, or felt butterflies when you were about to make a sales call.
If you are an insomnia sufferer, you might often feel fearful when going to bed, expecting another long, restless night. As an artist, you will regularly feel stage fright, and sometimes be fearful of people’s reaction when you are about to complete a new piece of art.
None of the above examples are rare or extraordinary. Not many of them imply any behaviours that take you out of your comfort zone. They do have one thing in common, which is shared by all experiences of fear; they all start with a thought: the thought that something might be wrong with your partner, as they should be home by now; that the cat might be seriously ill; that you will feel awkward at the Zoom call; that the client will make you feel bad, ashamed, incompetent and so on.
Fear is not always the result of action. In fact, action is often the very thing that removes the thought that creates the fear. Making a call or sending a text to your partner to check they are ok; committing to observe the cat’s behaviour to ensure the vomiting was one-off; preparing yourself sufficiently for the Zoom call and deciding to be in control of your reactions at the meeting; anticipating the client’s pain points, getting in touch first to apologize rather than waiting for them to call or email, clearing up any misunderstandings and getting the record straight…those are all behaviours that are likely to make your fear disappear, or at the very least reduce it.
Our minds favour a sense of control, and fear arises from the thought of losing control. So start by taking control of your thoughts in the first place. Keep a daily journal of thoughts that create fear, and reflect on them. Once you start analyzing them, you will find that they are usually exaggerations based on no evidence at all, other than your anticipated fear and failure.