Fear will always be present in our lives. It is a useful and necessary emotion, it gives a warning that there is a threat and it makes us look for a solution.
But fear can become our worst enemy. If fear takes over, it can hold us back from making decisions that will lead to a more successful and fulfilling life.
What happens when you make decisions based on fear?
Imagine you are given the opportunity to give a presentation about the work you are doing in an important event.
You feel excited, you know it’s a great opportunity but you also feel nervous. Fear kicks in.
So you start hearing all those: ‘don’t bother, it will take a lot of work’, ‘you’re not good at public speaking’, ‘you will get too nervous and mess up’… And maybe you start considering if it would be better to just say no.
An inner voice might say: ‘It´s just not worth all the stress and preparation. Just say you’re busy and you can’t do it’.
So here’s the dilemma: you really want to go and give the presentation but the fear is giving you too many reasons to just forget about the idea.
Decisions based on fear will help you survive, not thrive.
Fear will try to keep you safe. It will try to save you from making mistakes, from feeling disappointed or going through an uncomfortable situation.
The function of fear is to protect ourselves from danger.
Now there are two options:
- Ignore the fear and let it operate in the unconscious. If we don’t even acknowledge that we are feeling fear, we might just make up excuses to avoid ‘dangerous’ situations like giving that presentation. We will feel safer, but also we will miss many opportunities for growth, development and fulfilment.
- Manage the fear. Once we are aware that we are feeling fear, we can do something about it. That way we can use it in our advantage (for example, preparing as much as we can to make sure the presentation goes smoothly) and take on challenges that we know will help us grow, get us closer to our goals or simply enjoy the experience!
So when you feel that fear is about to take over, here a few questions to ask yourself (use them as journal prompts and write about them to get more clarity!):
- If you had no fear of a potential outcome or other people’s opinion, what would you do? What decisions would you make? What would you be doing differently? What would change? What would you be doing more of? What would you be doing less of?
- What is it that you fear? How likely is it to happen?
- If it happened, how would you deal with it? What is the ‘back-up’ plan? What alternatives would you have? How have you dealt with similar situations before?
- What is fear trying to protect you from?
- How can you calm that fear? What alternatives or ‘backup’ plans do you have?
- Fear takes over when we think we don’t have resources to deal with whatever outcome we are worrying about. So make a detailed list of all the resources and skills you have to deal with whatever you are scared of. Think about previous challenges you’ve faced, difficult situations you have experienced and how you dealt with them. Think of all the lessons you’ve learnt and all the internal and external resources you have. For more detailed instructions about this exercise, check this article.
Journaling is very powerful tool and I would recommend you spend some time writing about these questions.You will be surprised at how much clearer things become when you write about it!
Understanding your fears and knowing that if something goes wrong you have a list of inner resources and alternatives will give you confidence to make decisions that will help you thrive instead of survive.
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