Fear plays a huge role in how willing or unwilling we are to step outside of our current life and start creating a life that we're excited about. As we covered in the first blog post in my keto series, before you can address a problem you have to gain clarity around what exactly is going on. Fear shows up in our lives for a lot of good reasons, but it's this very fear that's trying to protect us that is holding us back from living large and in charge. You can tell if fear is running the show in your life if you feel hopeless, helpless, mildly depressed, empty, unfulfilled, chronically anxious, and like you're meant for something more but you just can't figure out what.
In order to feel alive, excited, and joyous about life you have to first be brave enough to look inside to see where your fear is and how it's showing up in your life. We've often grown so accustomed to this fear that we don't even realize it's there anymore. Fear can make us feel all of those above crummy emotions, but behaviorally it shows up as excuses, settling for less than you really want, being a victim, and playing small in your life.
Identifying where and how fear is showing up in your life will give you a clearer picture into why you might not begin working towards something, why you keep losing progress on something you care about, or why you just feel frozen and stuck in your life at large. Identifying and addressing the fear helps you solve the problem or challenge directly instead of stabbing wildly in the dark to try to do things that will help make you feel better. If you know there's a leak in your house and you're pretty sure it's coming from the kitchen sink, but you're too afraid to look under the kitchen sink to figure out where the leak is and how your pipes broke, then you're going to have a soggy and moldy kitchen in no time. And, if you decide that it's easier and less scary to first check the bathroom sink for leaks (because deep down you know it's the kitchen, but you don't want to deal with that real problem) then your kitchen sink problem will only grow worse.
It's important to call this feeling what it is: fear. It often gets called other emotions or people are ashamed to admit that they feel afraid to act so they shame and guilt themselves about being afraid until they just wear themselves out and give up. Here are six ways (there are many more) that I see fear showing up in my own life and my clients'. One thing I'd like to note, is that all of the below behaviors are how victims choose to behave.
Judgement is poison. Judging the behavior, thoughts, and feelings of other people AND of yourself is the first step to never doing anything great. When you look outside of yourself and judge what other people are doing, you're having a huge fear-based reaction about your own behavior. Whatever they're doing (we're talking about benign behavior and opinions here not things that are objectively morally or ethically abhorrent) that causes you feel conjure up some judgement is a huge indicator that you feel fear about something you're doing or not doing yourself. When I was a super chub, I was the most judgmental and shitty (in my head) about the appearance, behavior, and choices of other chubs. When I projected this fear outward, it made me feel mildly "better" in the short term, but ultimately turned my mind to a festering pool of self-pity and self-hatred. You can also guess how I judged myself and my attempts to not be a super chub. Your judgement, inward and outward, is a mirror reflecting what you think and feel about yourself and what you're too afraid to face. Where are you judging yourself or others, what fear is prompting the judgement?
Procrastination steps in when you are: "Too busy!," "don't have enough energy / time," "starting Monday," or when you let other less important things take precedence over your long term wants, needs, and goals. This could look as passive as lounging on the couch watching TV instead of, say, prepping healthy meals, or it could look as active as committing yourself to a bunch of nonsense at work, in your community, or with your family / friends. Obviously either of these things is isn't necessarily inherently bad, but sometimes people let this doing things for the sake of doing things or numbing out on the couch stop them from facing the real fears and making progress towards things that are important to them. This is the "checking the bathroom sink when you know it's the kitchen sink that's leaking." Can you spot any areas in your life where you're just kinda shooting the shit until you "feel inspired" to do something about real challenges? What about commitments that don't bring you a ton of joy, but you just hold onto for fear of replacing them?
Bad timing is similar to procrastination, but I feel like this one requires a little bit more self-awareness to at least admit to. Procrastinators might not even realize that they're procrastinating. They might just be running on autopilot. People who claim bad timing know that they need to take action on something but are just being a victim of circumstances. Too young. Too old. Too cold. Too hot. Too fat. Too skinny. Too many things going on. Wrong season. Wrong time of day. The timing or situation will never "feel right" so just start now. What have you been putting off for a reason that seems like a totally logical, analytical, and practical reason because the timing / situation just isn't there?
People who are terrified to put themselves out in the world are usually perfectionists. Dr. Brené Brown talks about this a lot in her book, Daring Greatly (HIGHLY recommend).There is nothing wrong with taking the time to make the work you're doing or the action you're taking as best as you can make it, but done is always better than perfect. The thing that you're creating will never be perfect, that's ok. Nothing is. Using perfection, or being a control freak, is a quick way to stay stuck right where you are. My girl Twyla Tharp lays the smackdown on perfectionist thinking, "Once executed, the idea will never be as good as it is in my mind! Toughen up. Leon Battista Alberti, a fifteenth-century architectural theorist, said, 'Errors accumulate in the sketch and compound in the model.' But better an imperfect dome in Florence than cathedrals in the clouds." Where are you letting perfection stop you? Where are you worried that someone will see the real, imperfect you?
When you're terrified to take action on anything in your life, you'll always live with a hopeless, helpless discomfort. Always. It's just always there. It sucks. By failing to look inside at what fears are really consuming you, you're leaving yourself to suffer through this baseline, normalized discomfort. So, you'll reach for whatever is handy to make that feeling of uncomfortable inadequacy go away. Booze, drugs, sugar, mindless social media, mindless TV watching, sex, being overcommitted to the point of not taking care of yourself, smoking, drama, or any other addictive behavior that makes you feel less intensely. This is another thing Dr. Brené Brown talks about in Daring Greatly. One thing that she points out that always sticks with me is that you can't selectively numb feelings. Once you numb the bad, you numb the good. For me, cleaning up my diet in a huge way made me realize where I was neglecting my feelings and trying to shove them away from me. What behaviors do you do to not feel anything?
You Get Sick A Lot
I'm not saying this as some woo-woo "negative feelings attract sickness into your life!!!!!" sorta thing. You can choose to look at it that way if that works for you. I'm talking on a physiological level. When fear is showing up in your life, especially chronic fear that just kinda hangs around as background noise, your body is pumping out all kinds of quick fix chemicals to help you fight that fear in the moment - not for weeks / months / years at a time. When you're in this state, your body is in defensive mode, so it's not too worried about things like tending to keeping longterm systems, like your immune system or going to sleep, online. It's on high alert because according your old ass brain a saber toothed cat is about to bite your entire skull and fascinate anthropology nerds for millennia. Another thing to keep in mind related to this is that if you're constantly in fight or flight mode, you'll feel like garbage, so you'll be less likely to eat right, go to the gym, do yoga, meditate, and just generally take care of yourself. So if you keep getting sick for apparently no reason, is there some fear in the background that is keep your immune system suppressed or keeping you from maintaining more hygienic habits?
Do you see yourself in any of these fear based behaviors? What action can you take right now to help make the fear go away?