Life Planning

Battling Nameless Fears to Get Your Life Back

Battling Fears

Fear makes a terrific short-term motivator.

If a vehicle is careening toward you or a big branch snaps just behind you in a forest, the release of adrenaline and cortisol might just save your life. Fear is designed to keep us safe. And most of the time, it does a pretty great job. 

But fear sometimes becomes a way of life—motivating our decisions in ways we don’t even realize. Go to the gym. Why? So you’re not judged by others. Stay up to date on current events. Why? So you don’t seem ignorant. Don’t speak up in the meeting. Why? So you don’t risk saying something you’ll regret.

Do you hear the fear? Better question: Do you feel it?

The Fears Behind the Fears

Have you ever noticed how layered fear can be? It’s like an onion. Behind fears are deeper fears. Let’s take one of the fears that fuels overwork as an example: What if I underperform?

If you underperform at work, your colleagues might think less of you. You might lose your job. Then, it’ll be harder to find a new job. You might end up lacking the finances you need. If you peel back the layers, you realize: It’s not really about the job, is it?

We rarely take a long look at our deepest fears. Let’s change that today. Are you ready?

The Fear of Shame

The fear of shame often lingers behind the fear of failure and fear of exposure. What if I’m made to feel incompetent or unworthy? What if I’m seen through the lens of the worst parts of myself? What if I am less than I think I should be? What if I’m less than that person—from my life now or from years ago—thinks I should be? What if I trust again, get hurt, and feel like a fool?

The Fear of Disconnection

What if I’m unloved? What if I let someone see how I feel and who I am and then they walk away? What if I’m abandoned, rejected, and left to fend for myself? What if I’m too much for people? What if I’m not enough for people? What if people I desire intimacy with regard me with contempt—or worse, pity? What if I never receive the delight and honor I crave?

The Fear of Helplessness

Here’s a fear for the avid problem-solvers: What if there’s nothing you can do? You’re in pain, someone you love is in pain, and all you can do is wait. What if you’ve done everything you can and it’s not enough? In short: What if you’re confronted by the glaring reality of your lack of control?

Finding the Way Out

Most of our fears find their roots in wounds. Healing is a long journey, one we can’t take alone. But here’s a simple start for the fears listed above: Know who you are. Find your people. And practice letting go. Let’s look at each of these.

Know Who You Are

Shame attacks who you are. Your best weapon against it is learning to talk back. How? One way is to define your values.

Defining your values takes you to the heart of your identity. Speaking them over yourself daily (or as often as necessary) grounds you in who you are and aspire to be. You will fall short. Guaranteed. But even these failures can invite you out of shame into integrity.

Best yet? Once you’ve defined for yourself who you think you should be, you’re less vulnerable to everyone else’s expectations for who they think you should be. You might not be their cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean you’re not who you should be.

Find Your People

Most of us find our friends by coincidence and the accident of proximity. Sometimes, our relationships become a function of convenience—a way to avoid being alone after work on a Friday. Nothing wrong with that.

But the relationships that truly ease our fears of disconnection need a firmer foundation. They take intention. And they take time. How do you build relationships like those?

Here are a few ideas: Start by noticing the people in your life who have values you respect. Find a place to invest your heart alongside others (try volunteering). And, most importantly, when you find these people, don’t leave the connection to chance.

Get intentional. Put time on the calendar. Commit to showing up. And watch what happens.

Practice Letting Go

There isn’t a solution to the lack of control in this world. There are wordless moments when the presence of others is all that makes pain survivable. There are moments nothing—absolutely nothing—can prepare us for.

So what are we to do? Harden ourselves? Live afraid? Distract ourselves? No. Something harder but infinitely more useful.

We practice receiving the limits of our control. We grieve. We breathe. We forgive. We honor the agency of others to make decisions that hurt us. We acknowledge that pain will come, and there will be goodness on the other side of it (and sometimes, mysteriously, in the middle of it).

Then, we do the hardest—and most important—thing of all.

Dream a Bigger Story

We all live in a story. It seems to be how humans process the world. Fear tries to confine us to a small story. It tells us to risk little. It tells us to lock away who we are and what we want. But we can write a better story.

Dreaming is risky, painfully so. To hope is a courageous act. But it’s worth the risk. Is something stirring in you right now? Will you listen to it? Will you dare to act in response?

If you need help or accountability to dare more for your life, join us for the LifeFocus retreat. It’s an exercise in hope. It’s a chance to join other dreamers. It’s a chance to connect with coaches who truly, earnestly care about who you’re becoming.

What does courage look like for you today? Take the first step.

Then the next.

You’re on your way.

Last modified on March 7th, 2024 at 10:12 am

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