I was not a shy kid. I loved to dance, sing, and ask LOTS of questions – in front of anyone who would listen. Then one day my mom asked me to call and order pizza and I was suddenly terrified at the thought of speaking to the stranger who would be on the other end of the line.
I dialed, and immediately hung up. Mom made it clear that there would be no pizza if I didn’t order it, and I was able to make the call.
Later that week, it happened again. She asked me to take some birthday cake over to the neighbors, and I was afraid to. Afraid they wouldn’t want it. Afraid they would think I was dumb for bringing it over. I was 8 years old, and already beginning to fear rejection from others on a daily basis. She made me do it anyway (I left the cake on their front doorstep, rang the doorbell, and ran. But it counts!).
It wasn’t until I was in my first month on the job in corporate america that I fully appreciated what my mother had done for me. I spent my entire DAY emailing people I didn’t know, calling strangers on the phone, and delegating tasks in meetings to people I’d never met, yet none of it was the slightest bit uncomfortable for me. It was then that I realized: by giving me no choice but to face my fears my mother saved me years of social anxiety.
Lately I’ve been thinking alot about fear. This is because tomorrow I give my icebreaker speech for Toastmasters, and I. Am. Terrified. So why am I doing it? I’m doing it because a few years ago I realized in order to continue evolving into my best self I needed to FACE MY FEARS. All of them.
This is especially important for parents because we can’t encourage our children to face their fears if we are not modeling the same behavior. Still not motivated enough to face your own fears?
I have a friend whose mother was afraid of heights. His family never took one flight his entire childhood. As a result, he thought he was also afraid of flying and continued to avoid air travel. At 24, all grown up and ready for his first business trip, he realized he was going to have to fly. Once in the air, he realized he had never been afraid of heights, but had projected his mother’s fear upon himself.
Now that’s a scary thought. Our children will have plenty of their own fears without taking on ours as well. Unsure how to get started facing your fears? Here’s a handy guide to get you on your way!
1. IDENTIFY YOUR FEARS
You may think you know what scares you, but you won’t know for sure until you start writing them down! Case in point: despite years of repeating the same pattern of dating guys I knew I’d never marry, I didn’t pin this down to be “fear of commitment” until I made my list.
2. EXAMINE YOUR OWN BEHAVIOR
Often our fears help illuminate things that are going on within ourselves. After listing my fears I realized several fell into a category I called “fear of judgement”. Once I saw how I was judging others in my own life, and began to shift this behavior, those fears began to ease.
3. JUST DO IT
The next time an opportunity presents itself where you feel the fear rise and know it’s the last thing you’d want to do, that is your cue to say “YES!”. For me, this moment came recently when I was asked to give a presentation in front of a large group of people. When I realized that I wanted to decline not because I didn’t have time to prepare but because speaking in front of a large group of people frightens me, I agreed to do it.
4. REPEAT STEP 3
Baby steps lead to big steps. Repetition builds strength. KEEP GOING!
5. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR GROWTH
Whenever I’m unhappy about not being entirely comfortable speaking in front of people, I look at examples like my last presentation and realize how much easier it becomes each time I face the fear. I look back at my original list of fears, and each one that I’ve overcome has taught me that fears are inherently weak, while I am stronger than I’d ever imagined!
Facing fears builds confidence and allows us a glimpse of what we are truly capable of. When we start owning our own power in this way, we have no limitations! And as you face your own fears, you will know how to be firm yet compassionate as you help your children face theirs.
When we come upon a fear, we imagine the worst that could happen. Fear of failure might cause us to think, “If I try this new sport, I might not be good at it!” Next time acknowledge that possibility, then ask yourself or your child, “But what’s the BEST thing that could happen?”
Maybe they’ll be the next Olympic champion in that sport. Maybe they’ll make a new friend. Maybe they won’t be the best, but still find an activity they enjoy for years to come. But definitely, their life will change forever for having tried it.
So, what fears do you have? If you faced them, what’s the BEST thing that could happen?
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