When Self-Talk Manifests Fear
Fear is something everyone faces at one point or another. The good news is that fear can be overcome by facing it and by taking some pro-active steps toward change. Here’s Julie’s story:
A few years ago, Julie took a leap of faith to start her own business. She was pleased when her client list grew and she no longer felt it was necessary to actively market her services.
Then suddenly, Julie’s client list began to shrink. She realized that the economic downturn had negatively affected her business, and she began to be concerned. Soon, Julie started to doubt her decision to go into business for herself, and she even questioned her skills and abilities. This negative self-talk began to manifest fear.
The negative self-talk got worse until Julie was overcome with a paralyzing fear. This fear literally stopped her in her tracks. Rather than re-engaging with the marketing plan that had proven to work when she first started her business, Julie worried constantly about her finances and focused on how awful the consequences of the downturn could be for her. She was so paralyzed by fear that she didn’t do anything pro-active to change her circumstances.
Julie is not alone. If allowed to manifest, fear has the power to control thoughts, which in turn control actions. This fear often interferes with a person’s ability to be effective, successful, happy, and healthy.
Fear is a thought process that results from telling yourself negative things about a situation. This is self-talk, and it can be very destructive. When confronted with a new challenge or a potentially negative situation, people often choose to focus on why it won’t work rather than why it will. When feeling fearful, people often magnify their inadequacies and former failures. They start to feel unworthy and unable to cope. And the negative cycle just builds from there.
Fear, and the resulting anxiety, can trigger physical symptoms and bodily responses. Common physical reactions to anxiety include shortness of breath, sweaty palms, inability to hear, think or focus, increased heart rate, distractability, and long-term emotional pain or illnesses.
The problem with fear is that it lurks in the back of the mind. Then, at unexpected times, when feeling most vulnerable, it surfaces, grips a person’s thoughts, and directs or dictates behaviors.
Julie had a difficult time facing her fear because it brought up painful emotions and reminded her that she is vulnerable and not always in control. Julie’s lack of pro-activity was actually an avoidance tactic. She didn’t want to look at her fear or deal with the negative emotions that accompanied it.
The good news about fear is that once a person chooses to confront it, it no longer has control. Fear only has power over those who run from it. The faster one runs and the more effort put into ignoring or denying the fear, the stronger and more powerful it becomes. So, the goal is to reduce the intensity of the fear in order to think clearly and take steps toward change.
It takes courage to face fears. And sometimes it requires a coach or a close friend to act as a guide during the process. The following are 10 important steps Julie took to overcome her fears. (These are steps anyone can take to move away from fear.)
- Clarify the problem. Be honest with yourself.
- Confront your fear and look deeply to discover exactly what you are afraid of.
- Look beyond the fear to see what might be hiding behind it.
- Ask yourself what is the worst that could happen if the fear was realized. Would you still be alive and able to start over?
- Let go of your need to control.
- Change the focus from the negative to the positive by visualizing what it is you really want.
- Concentrate on your hopes and what you CAN do, not what you can’t.
- Decide what steps to take in order to move toward your new focus.
- Visualize yourself moving ahead and your end goal as accomplished.
- Take action! It’s time to move ahead!
When you change the way you think, you change the way feel, which changes the way you act.
Julie finally realized that what she created with her imagination was much worse than the reality. She accepted that if the worst happened and she lost her business, she was a capable, competent person and could easily rebuild or find employment doing something else.
Once Julie stopped running from her fear and faced it head on, its power to intimidate and paralyze her diminished. This allowed Julie to free her mind and begin to strategize ways to move forward with a plan.
For example, Julie created an action plan that included revisiting and updating her original marketing plan. She joined new networking groups and reconnected with people and organizations she had met during her early years in business. Julie made herself available to speak at meetings and began to support the work of others by attending conferences and seminars.
By eliminating the fear, Julie moved forward. She not only rebuilt her business but was able to expand her services and eventually add staff.
Remember — When you confront your fear you will be able to use positive self- talk to work your way through it.
Sandra Abell is the author of the best-selling book Feeling Good About You and also Moving Up To Management: Leadership and Management Skills for New Supervisors (both available on Amazon). She is a business and life coach, author, educator, speaker and Licensed Professional Counselor. Visit Sandy at www.insidejobscoach.com.