I feel like that is a really heavy title to start off with but it is intentional. So many of us understand that fears are part of life. We can have irrational fears like jumping into a pool and there's a great white shark waiting to gobble you up. We can have fears based on traumatic events. We can also have fears based on our perception of ourselves and the world around us. These are the fears I want to speak about today.
I am learning a lot from my time as an au pair and as the director of social media and marketing at Free Form Fitness. Both of these present me with daily challenges that I have never faced before. Both of these present opportunities to learn something new every day.
One of the most obvious lessons learned from working with children is that their young fearlessness is actually how they learn at such a rapid pace every day. Every day they go to school and learn something completely new to them. Every day they are presented with challenges in their social lives, which eventually leads to them growing as an individual in a social world. When asked to try something, many kids will say yes without hesitation, which in turn helps them figure out their own likes and dislikes.
As we get older I believe that the fear of embarrassment and the fear of being wrong start to cloud our own sense of fearlessness. We settle into lives where we only do what we are good at and what makes us feel comfortable. I have lived by the saying "life begins outside your comfort zone" for years, and yet I still find myself turning down opportunities just because I am afraid of messing it up.
We can call this perfectionism or self-sabotage but for me, I am choosing to see it as being fearful, and letting those fears stop me from becoming all that I can be.
Exhibit A: Imposter Syndrome
As a more specific example:
My job as the Director of Social Media and Marketing is one that I have worked for since the moment my CEO offered it to me. I presented the position to the CEO, went through a 4 month trial period, and was eventually awarded the job.
In the beginning I was so excited for the opportunity. I had all of these ideas and I felt really energized by the position.
As the responsibilities started to increase, and therefore my own expectations of myself began to increase, I started experiencing more and more episodes of imposter syndrome. This would lead to days of me considering throwing my hands up and leaving the job all together. I thought to myself, "someone else could do this job better, and they probably have the actual qualifications for the role so I should just step back and end the company's suffering at the expense of my ignorance."
What I didn't realize was that I was given more opportunities because I had met, and sometimes surpassed, the expectations of my employer. I had gotten to a place where I was trusted with the tasks I had been given, but I was also counted on to show up and get sh*t done as the role evolved.
"Fear is a green light"
What I have only just realized is that my fear of screwing up or not being good enough, has actually only made me better. I am dedicated to being the best employee to FFF because my fear of being replaced pushes me to do so.
I am (slowly) learning to lean into fear, and to see fear as a moment to learn about myself. Why am I experiencing fear in that moment? What past experiences have brought me to this place where I now fear change, or a task in front of me? "Fear is the green light to keeping moving forward" is a quote from a recent podcast I heard on the Social Media Marketing Podcast. I think it is a great way to sum up the purpose of those moments of fear that we all experience. Fear means "Go".
How Am I Using Fear to Be Better?
Fear is teaching me a lot about myself lately. Right now I react to fear in a few different ways.
Rewiring a bad habit
I had gotten so comfortable with fear being a roadblock, that my habit is now to dip into anxiety and sometimes even experience full on panic attacks whenever a new problem is given to me.
Nowadays I am trying to rewire that habit. Instead of feeling fear and letting it consume me, now I take a few deep breaths, listen to a mindfulness podcast or program from FitBit, and try to cut off the anxiety before it takes over. By doing this, I have found that I actually give myself 10-15 minutes to not only reduce mental stress, but to remind myself that this is one of those moments that is trying to teach me something. This is one of those moments, where I can prove to myself that I am capable, and smart, and creative enough to find the solution to the problem.
This simple step to rewire the old habit of answering fear with anxiety is already proving to be helpful.
The other day I almost starting spiraling when I realized I had a pretty low-key day, with very little exercise. I then started to think that my health goals were all going to go to shit, so now I should just go to the store and buy too much candy, eat it all, feel sick, and then hate myself for the next few days.
Before I got too deep into the internal debate, I decided to take a few deep breaths and ask myself why I was so afraid of having a slow day? What I came up with was that I have been successful at being consistent with exercise and healthy nutrition. But I have also gone way off track and found myself in a position where I am overweight, mentally trapped by addictive foods, and just generally unhappy.
So by having 1 day where I wasn't perfect, I thought that this was the beginning of the end, so I might as well self-sabotage now and save myself from progressing anymore. It seems crazy, but from working with many young, female clients, I know that many of us have gone through this exact same thing.
So now I trust my quiet days, I love my active days, and I even feel comfortable in the days when I do decide to indulge, because I am not acting out of fear in any of those situations. I am not afraid of "falling off the wagon" because I know that I have the tools and resources to keep myself on track, but I also respect that every day won't be perfect, and that's all part of the process as well.
Moral of the story: Don't fear fear. Embrace it. Find out what it is trying to teach you. And then get excited about entering into a new phase of your life that you always knew you deserved.
Riri's Discoveries blog documents Riri's discoveries as she develops her skills as a marketer, and finds new and sustainable ways to stay healthy.