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Taking action, when fear is holding you back

Image of person with long blonde haired walking down the aisle of a lecture theatre about to present at a conference.
Image by Bayley Nargang from Pixabay

Imagine you're about to walk on stage and talk to 300 people.

You get a lump in your throat that forces you to keep swallowing hard as your mouth feels dry. Your jaw feels tight from clenching your teeth so hard. Trickles of sweat start to appear around your forehead. Your body is physically telling you something isn't right, so you pull at your collar to give yourself some more air as the temperature in the room feels like it's rising.

You squeeze your hands together tightly and allow your mind to give yourself a little pep talk.

This is a natural response, you'll be fine, you can do this, it's all about the message you want to give, it's not about you.

With that, you stand up straight, you pull those shoulders back, you take a few deep belly breaths and bring to the forefront your favourite song which you start humming to yourself to help shift your focus.

Then you're signalled to come to the stage. Now, it's all down to you.

Three, Two, One.... You've got this.

You smile to the audience and pause. Around you, hundreds of eyes are staring back at you, waiting patiently for some pearls of wisdom to be shared. You see lights glaringly around you, a videographer zoning in on you, and oh yes, there it is, the first yawn, before you've even started!

Yes, I knew it, they won't be interested in what I have to say, it won't be anything new to them, who am I to give this talk anyway... let's just end it here shall we, and pretend I've walked in the wrong room!

Moments have passed on by and you realise you're still standing there, staring at the audience.

You clear your throat and then try and say something funny, which actually comes out arrogant, or perhaps it sounded sarcastic or, maybe it was funny! Then you start to wonder whether you said anything at all! Oh this is torture! Get me out of here!

Three, two, one - you wake up. With a heavy heart you are filled with regret. You can see that you allowed your mind to sabotage something you had been working so hard towards. Will you ever be taken seriously? Will you ever get the same opportunity again? Will you ever stop over-thinking?

Yes. Because the feeling from that nightmare; the fear, the self-doubt, and then the regret, and the self-hatred that followed, often comes when you put yourself out of your comfort zone, work hard towards something, and then sabotage it, because your overactive mind has talked you out of it.

We've all been there. Whether it's a fear of public speaking, the fear of failing, the fear of going travelling on your own because you have no one to go with, or the fear of success.

Whatever the fear, it can hold you back from following your dreams. Sometimes and quite often, the fear is not even logical or rational. Sometimes you may not even realise it's fear that's actually holding you back. There's 101 reasons that roll off your tongue, why this cannot and will not be done. There's always something that keeps stopping you.

Or perhaps, you come to the conclusion that this is actually not something you want after all, and you know what, that's okay. All of the reasons are okay. We are all doing the best we can in this life, so why put pressure on yourself if you change your mind?

However... if it is something you really want to do, how proud would you be, if you felt that fear and did it anyway!

How exciting would it be to let nothing hold you back from doing something you've always wanted to do. To work hard towards making it happen, to get through those roadblocks, to give it a good shot and know that you rose above the challenge, stepped out of your comfort zone and made it happen! How amazing would it feel?

I can tell you, the adrenalin and endorphins are epic, not to mention how empowered you feel for taking action and proving to yourself you can do it!

So why do so many of us hold ourselves back out of fear, when there are so many things we really want to do?

Here are some tips to help you take action, when fear is always holding you back.

Tip 1: Be kind to yourself and recognise that fear is a natural emotional response that can be overcome.

Tip 2: Do your research. Some fears are rational and some fears are common, but some fears get in the way of you doing what you need to do, to live your best life. Understand what is involved and understand what it is that is holding you back and then look to find a role model who has already done it. If they've done it, chances are they've felt the same as you at some point. If they can do it, is there any real reason why you can't?

Tip 3: Find out what skills and strategies will help you. If you want to be able to speak in public, practice in front of an audience you trust first, get feedback, find out how your body reacts so that you can put in place strategies to support you. If you want to change careers in your 50's, what strengths and skills do you already bring to the table and which ones are you going to have to work at? I'm not saying it'll be easy, I'm not saying you won't have to work hard to make it work, I'm not even saying you'll be doing the things you originally planned and life will be roses. What I am saying is, by taking those steps forward, to take action, to work towards something, enables opportunities to come to us as we explore different norms, meet new people, learn new skills and learn more about what we like and dislike. We don't always have all the answers from the start, but by trying, by feeling the fear and giving things a go, we allow ourselves to grow as a person and open up new doors of opportunity.

Tip 4: Reframe the outcome. If you framed your outcome to be to learn more about yourself - would it matter if you gave it ago and realised you didn't want to continue with it? If you reframed your reason for trying to be exactly that, to try, the pressure to be perfect has gone, the pressure to be an expert has evaporated. This leaves you open to learning, open to being easier on yourself and open to trying something new because you want to.

If you want to do something and fear is holding you back, eventually that voice in your head will get louder and louder. Don't allow the "what if's" to fill your mind - take small steps, find out more information, get supportive people around you, and think about how you'll feel if you never try, because there is no greater reward than taking control of a situation, for putting in the effort and being proud of yourself for trying!

Do you feel like you need some support to help you get there? Get in touch! I'd love to hear from you!


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