How was your week? Have you figured out which fears you would like to work on? Mine is a fear of disapproval, so I’m drawing on courage in order to send out my thoughts to so many people. (Meanwhile, a loved one is fighting fear that returned cancer will win, which puts my small worries into perspective.)
Not to back away from risk, but because I want to give you the advantage of an expert’s input, we will turn this week to the work of Susan Jeffers. In the book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®, (great title, right?) she inspires us to take brave action. Jeffers attained a PhD in Psychology from Columbia University and wrote several self-help books. Parents might know her from other accomplishments. She wrote and/or illustrated children’s books on horses, classic stories, and a little dog named McDuff.
Jeffers categorizes our fears into:
- Things that happen, like aging or accidents
- Things that require action, like giving speeches, making decisions or leaving a bad situation
- Damage to our ego and sense of well-being, like ridicule or fear of failure
- Feeling unable to handle whatever comes our way
She tells us five truths to help us combat those fears:
- Fear will always be present as long as we continue to grow.
- The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.
- The only way to feel better about myself is to go out… and do it.
- Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else!
- Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness.
Since everyone is dealing with fear, but some do it more successfully, it must mean it isn’t danger paralyzing us, but rather our attitude. In Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, we are encouraged to handle our fear from an attitude of power, rather than pain. We do this gradually, by intentionally moving away from pain, towards claiming our power. The author recommends we draw a line on a piece of paper with “Pain” at the left side and “Power” at the right. Each day we pin where we are on the line, with the intention of moving right toward Power.
Even our vocabulary can help us move into our strength:
Pain →——————————————–→ Power
I can’t ——————————————–→ I won’t
I should ——————————————→ I could
It’s not my fault ——————————-→ I’m totally responsible
I’s a problem ———————————–→ It’s an opportunity
I’m never satisfied —————————-→ I want to learn and grow
Life’s a struggle ——————————–→ Life’s an adventure
I hope ——————————————–→ I know
If only ——————————————–→ Next time
What will I do ———————————-→ I know I can handle it
It’s terrible ————————————–→ It’s a learning experience
To grow in confidence we need to do something daily that widens the space in our comfort zone. Each night we can plan the risk we are going to take the following day. For instance, call someone we are intimidated to call. Visualizing or practicing it makes it a bit less scary. As long as we are taking those risks that build our sense of self-worth, we are moving to the right on the Pain-to-Power chart.
Taking responsibility for our method of handling fear means:
- Never blaming others for anything we are being, doing or feeling
- Not blaming ourselves, but becoming aware of those circumstances in which we are not taking responsibility, so that we can eventually change
- Handling the Chatterbox – Replace that negative inner voice with love.
- Being aware of payoffs that keep us stuck. What do I gain from staying afraid? The comfort of not changing?
- Figuring out what we want in life and acting on it.
- Being aware of the multitude of choices we have in any given situation. Let’s pick the one that contributes the most to our aliveness and growth.
Psychology commonly accepts that our actions and thoughts are interdependent. We can increase our courage by either acting more confidently or by thinking more confidently. The former is the “fake it until you make it” strategy. The more bravely we behave, the more we see ourselves as brave, until we no longer are faking it, but actually become brave.
The latter, thinking more confidently, is where we take control of our negative, frightened inner voice. If our thoughts are negative and critical and fearful, our behavior will be less than our best. If our thoughts are positive, we will behave in a confident manner. This even works if we don’t, at first, believe our words. We can repeat positive thoughts, or affirmations, enough that we begin to believe them and, as a consequence, our actions evolve to prove them true.
Here is my favorite of Susan Jeffers’ affirmations:
I AM POWERFUL AND I AM LOVING AND I HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR
Let’s repeat this (or your own affirmation) aloud at least 10 times a day for the next week. (I’m reminded of several rides in reckless foreign taxis when I closed my eyes and repeated, “I’m safe right now; I’m safe right now.” It really did help prevent panic.)
I highly recommend Susan Jeffers book, and also her website at www.susanjeffers.com where more self-help information and affirmations are available.
One of my favorite quotes from the book: “The less you need someone’s approval, the more you are able to love them.”
May you grow in courage this week!