Fear has been a concept that has absolutely fascinated me lately. Mostly because, in the last few weeks and months I have been in many situations that once upon a time would have set off my panic button. Instead, for the most part I’ve been pretty calm, with only a day here and there where I’ve been noticably stressed (but not anxious!) When I think about that further, I realise that I’ve come a long way from the girl who first landed in London.
Previously for me, a change into an unknown environment used to instil the fear of death into me.
Now, my life is pivoting drastically every single day. From moving countries, changing jobs multiple times, and looking down the barrel of starting a business in a foreign country, every decision is thrusting me further into unknown territory… and it’s kind of exciting!
Previously for me, having social anxiety meant meeting new people or attending networking events would have me running for the nearest exit.
Now, I’m meeting more and more new people everyday, and fascillitating the mixing and matching of groups and social activities. I’m going to book clubs, champagne nights and conferences. I turn up alone and end up meeting so many amazing people who are just as excited to meet me, and are highly likely to be having the same fears and thoughts of starting a conversation as I have.
Previously for me, being open and vulnerable to others was terrifying. I feared what my friends would think of me, of what society would think of me. I was terrified of being judged and ultimately rejected – banished forever to live a life of loneliness.
Now I talk about my flaws as casually as stating what I ate for breakfast. I’m open about my anxieties. I talk about my imperfections and weaknesses. Because I know for a fact that we all have some degree of it inside ourselves. By normalising it and not hiding, it’s helped me accept myself as who I am, and in the process I have only been met with love and support.
From all these experiences, the greatest lesson I’ve learnt is that fear was only in my head. Once I broke past it and got out of my own way, life on the other side really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it has been an amazingly eye-opening experience. It has afforded me so many opportunities that I never would have gotten if I was still locked away in my house back in Sydney, fearing the outside world.
What’s comforting to know is that all people experience fear. Strong, confident people experience fear. Famous people experience fear. All at different times and for different reasons. It’s instinctually ingrained in our biology as fight or flight mode, although these days we don’t need to run from being eaten or getting attacked. For 90% of the time, fear is all psychological and only in how we frame particular situations, but the reality is, it’s really not that bad.
Through it all, there are two mindset shifts that have helped me achieve this one-eighty result, and go from a shadow that’s terrified of life, to taking back responsibilty and control:
1. Write out the worst case scenerio.
Don’t think about it. Write it. When you’re in a state of fear or doubt your brain is not capable of thinking things out logically to allow it to get unstuck. By writing out all the worst case scenerios and processing each one individually will eventually show you that any outcome is either not as bad as you make it out to be, highly unlikely, or it’s fixable and reversible. Then, there’s no fear of the unknown, just a number of options with different risks sitting in front of you that can now be weighed up.
Note: Sometimes we’re guilty of catasrophisng i.e losing our job and become homeless as worst case scenerio. Be aware that this is fear talking, not you. You are not your fear. Every problem has a solution, so for your absolute worst case scenerios, if god forbid they happen, what solutions are there to fix them?
2. Look it straight in the eyes and charge at it.
Fear only grows with inaction. Action, is the cure to fear. For me, I’m a flight person. If I was ever in trouble I would retreat, hide or run for my life. Now, I look at fear as an opportunity to fight. Anytime I feel fear and want to run, I now know that is a sign to do the completely opposite. Terrifed of public speaking? Join toastmasters or a public speaking club. Hate meeting new people? Start talking to strangers or going to networking events where you have a common interest with other people (NOT business networking events were you just hand out business cards. I’m talking genuine, authentic connections!). Have a phobia of open water like I did? Learn to scuba dive.
I promise you that once you take action and just do it, the fear disappears and you suddenly are afforded some amazing experiences and connections. And from those experiences and connections, life becomes beautiful. Life becomes worth living. A weight will lift off your shoulders and happiness actually starts to become your state of mind. Because when you free your mental energy from the weight of stress and fear, suddenly you have so much more room in your heart and mind to focus on the things that make you happy and at peace.
So start small. What little thing can you do today to face your fears and get out of your comfort zone?