You have a great idea, a strong drive to do something, or an unshakeable feeling you need to take action. You’re all jazzed up, ready to go, and then… the voice kicks in. “Are you sure you can do this?” “But what if you fail?” “What will people think?” “Who do you think you are? Someone that successful? Give me a break.”
Enter: the words of your limiting beliefs, disrupting your plans and causing you to stomp on the break pedal, ready to just stop trying altogether.
When it comes to our limiting beliefs, fear is often the culprit. Let’s take “Are you sure you can do this?” and general feelings of self doubt. They really come down to us wanting to protect ourselves from the potential of negative feelings down the road. Feelings like disappointment, shame, regret, and rejection.
In short, it’s our fear of feeling bad that causes these thoughts to pop up. “But what if you fail?” is our mind’s way of protecting ourselves from feeling shame if we don’t succeed.
And while these thoughts may seem well-meaning, they are the killers of hopes and dreams, and pose huge obstacles to us moving forward with our goals.
With that in mind, today’s post will delve into conquering fear. How can we work through these thoughts and feelings to stay motivated, confident, and on track? And what can we do to understand ourselves better?
Here is an exceptional tool.
The Letter to Fear Exercise
One of the best ways to conquer fear is to seek to understand it. This one may seem a little out there, but hear me out.
It involves two components:
First, writing a “letter from fear”, or exploring what you’re afraid of; and
Second, writing a “letter to fear”, talking about what you’re going to do about it.
Step 1: A Letter from Fear
Start by journalling about your fear. Grab your journal and a pen, and ask yourself: “What am I actually terrified about, in this situation?” Listen, with respect, and write out what comes up. Think of it as letting your fear “speak” through your pen.
When I did this exercise around starting this blog, a few different themes came up.
Fear of Failure
One was around the fear of failure. What if I don’t succeed? I was afraid of letting myself and others down, wasting time, wasting money, and investing my heart in something, just to have it flop. I was fearful of what people would think and the shame I would feel.
Fear of Success
The second was around the fear of success. Yes – you read that right. What if I’m successful but everyone things I’m a sham? Or what if I get a lot of negative comments and backlash online? What if people in my life don’t like me anymore because I get to make money by pursuing my passion and doing something I – gasp – enjoy? What if I out-earn my husband, by doing my “little blog thing”? Will he resent me? These questions come down to many of the same things – a fear of not being liked, losing friends, and alienating my partner.
As you can see, while my anxieties and concerns are pretty widespread, they really come down to a few key things:
First, the fear of not being good enough / Fear of not being liked/loved (self worth)
Second, the fear of what people will think (judgment and criticism)
Third, the fear of being successful doing something I love (something “fraudulent”) (guilt/shame)
All of a sudden, it feels less insurmountable.
As Elizabeth Gilbert says:
“Fear and anxiety can feel like they have infinite depths, like they are afraid of EVERYTHING, but usually they are just afraid of 2 or 3 very specific things, once you look closely. And sometimes those 2 or 3 three things are pretty reasonable. Usually, the letter that my fear writes to me is quite short, and very precise.
And once I see what those 2 or 3 issues are, what I’m actually afraid of…well, now we can talk about it. Like adults. Like friends. ”
Step 2: A Letter to Fear
Now it’s time to switch gears and write a letter back to fear. The goal is to acknowledge it, thank it for its thoughts and contributions, but most importantly, explain your new plan.
What do you intend to do? What are your next steps? Let your fear know exactly what you plan to do.
I wrote a super compassionate letter back saying that I’m not letting the fear stop me from the courageous and creative plans I have. Explaining how NOT pursuing my dreams would, in fact, bring about negative emotions of its own. Neglecting my purpose would bring up many of the same negative emotions around self worth and guilt.
My letter was polite, but firm. I acknowledged my fear, but left no question that I wasn’t going to let it stop me.
While it may sound strange communicating with different aspects of ourselves, face this exercise with an open mind and you may be surprised at how natural it feels.
Give this exercise a go, and let me know how you find it! Were you surprised by any of the things that came up?
What other techniques do you use to conquer fear? Leave us a comment to let us know!