Whenever we take a chance and enter unfamiliar territory or put ourselves into the world in a new way, we often experience fear. Very often this fear keeps us from moving ahead with our lives or trying new things. The trick is, as the title of a really great book by Susan Jeffers says, “FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY”. You have to have the courage to explore the barriers that keep you from experiencing life the way you want to live it instead of stopping yourself from a new experience that would enrich your life and move you toward your goals.
Fear often gets and leaves you caught in what I call “the comfort zone.” This is where you live when you continue to make the same kinds of decisions over and over again because it makes you feel comfortable, even if you don’t like the outcome or your behavior. It’s where you feel at home. It’s a combination of our habitual thoughts and feelings, both physical and mental; you know the old mind/body connection. It is not necessarily the most resourceful or comfortable place, but it is the most familiar and can often feel like the only way you can be, which is not the truth. When you feel uncomfortable enough, long enough, you tend to feel discouraged. So, you return to your thoughts, feelings, and actions that are more familiar, more practiced and more predictable, that feel safe, regardless of whether they’re helpful or get you to where you want to go.
Susan Jeffers talks about the three levels of fear in her book. She explains that, level one and two are the insidious qualities of fear that tend to permeate many areas of your lives. For example you might fear being in a new situation like a Summer Program where you are constantly meeting new people, working in a new venue, direction or different style and trying to impress. Therefore you might also have a bit of fear when it comes to networking when you go to events or parties, when meeting strangers and creating relationships, when auditioning and performing for those in your program, and throwing yourself into any unfamiliar acting exercises, etc. You get the picture.
Level I – Fear of things that just happen. You have no control over them.
- Being Alone
- Losing a loved one.
Level II – Those that require action of some sort and definitely involve the ego. This can cause you to shut down and close out the world around you so your time, energy and monies you spent on your current experience are totally wasted.
- Being vulnerable
Level III – Fear of not being able to handle everything in the outside world. You won’t be able to control the situation or person, and you don’t trust yourself because what you do has to be perfect and often even when it is, it still doesn’t give you the outcome you want. Now notice how the previous two fears all boil down to this Level III fear of not being able to handle it.
- I can’t handle making a mistake and looking stupid.
- I can’t handle being alone in life with no one to go home to.
- I can’t handle illness.
- I can’t handle looking like a fool.
- I can’t handle the responsibility of being successful.
- I can’t handle failure.
- I can’t handle all the business aspects of a career.
- I just can’t handle it!!
The only way you can get rid of fear of something is to go out and do it. Fear might never completely go away, but the act of confronting each fear, the “doing it action” has to come before the fear goes away. Does that sound crazy or what??
“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” – Eddie Rickenbacker
Many years ago, after having created and built my Aria Ready Bootcamp material, I was hired by a University Music Dept. to come and present it. Believe you me, when I say I was filled with fear. I knew my material was very worthwhile, important and to the point, but wasn’t sure that how I was presenting it would get across or make sense to anyone else. I even had trouble introducing myself because I felt kind of like a fraud in that moment. Imagine that. I thought I would be found out. (For what I’m not sure!) Crazy stuff!!! But once I got into the material and started engaging with the students and realized that they were just as afraid as I was because I was asking them to expand their thinking to include new ideas, etc, all was well. It was a success. And this gave me the confidence to continue honing the material and doing it again and again a little less afraid each time. And as you might already imagined, I realized that pushing through that fear helped me grow and change in a way I liked and wanted. It wasn’t easy or fun but it still continues to help me build a fierce confidence in myself and what I do.
Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from the feeling of helplessness, confusion and then being angry, disgusted and disappointed with yourself because you let yet another opportunity pass you by. Everyone is afraid to some degree. That is the truth. Some more than others, but ask around. Ask how they deal with their fear?
Anger is your reminder that you are not taking responsibility for your personal growth by taking action instead of always just reacting. It’s fearful to confront a friend, colleague, unwanted habit or loved one. Often when we contemplate taking action we have this continuing dialogue with what I call “The Brat” inside our head, our internal dialogue. It’s you trying to convince yourself to go ahead and do something about the situation or unwanted habit or behavior and “The Brat” taking the devils advocates part by telling you all the negative and untrue things that MIGHT happen so you stay scared and are not in charge any longer. Your “Brat”, that inner voice often makes you the victim. It constantly plays the “what if” game.
So what are the “payoffs” of playing this “what if” game? In staying where you are, you don’t have to face possible rejection or perceived humiliation , you don’t have to question your competency, or talent, or performance ability, you don’t have to waste any extra energy, and most importantly you know you can handle where you are now, as uncomfortable as it may be. Those are the “payoffs”. They are not difficult to discover once you realize that they exist. It’s simply a matter of sitting down with pencil and paper or computer and mind mapping or listing them – all of them. And sometimes it helps if you ask a friend to help you come to grips with all of them, even the ones you have yet to recognize.
Remember that responsibility means figuring out what you want in life and acting on it even though you are afraid. And it also allows you to become aware of the multitude of choices you have in any given situation. As you go through each day, it is important to realize that at every moment you are choosing the way you feel, what state you are in emotionally. These are the most immediate parts of our experience and vary in intensity, length and familiarity. And we often think states are caused by events outside our control. Oh contraire, Mon ami, you create them yourself; emotion goes from outside in. So if you can change your physiology you change the emotion. If you are feeling anything but great right this minute, try putting your hands up in the air and waving them around wildly as you force a smile or even laugh the whole while. It will change your attitude immediately.
As Aristotle said, “Fear is pain arising from the anticipation of evil.” Fear allows your mind to imagine the outcome of any action before you actually take action. Then all that is left is to react. It’s the flight equation of the fight or flight response. Here is another way to think about it. Fear is interest paid on a debt you may not owe.
Good states for learning are curiosity, fascination, interest, excitement and flexibility. When you are bored, listless, anxious or hostile, you can’t and don’t learn anything. So always ask yourself, “What state do I want to be in to make this easy, interesting and worthwhile?” And notice what kind of reaction you have to those that can just jump in and aren’t afraid to possibly appear foolish. Don’t you wish you could do that as well? The answer is simple, it’s just not easy to accomplish in the beginning. It takes practice like anything else worth doing.
Why not wake yourself up right this minute and truly be in control of your life and how you do what you do. There is no right or wrong to how to start moving yourself in this new direction of dealing with your fear. Remember, you have to start trusting yourself, so give the Universe some room to work its magic as well. Now is the time to step up to the plate and take a swing at the ball no matter how or if you hit it. It’s time to use your own powers to their fullest, get involved, take action, participate, sign up, give out compliments, smiles, and lighten up by feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
Log on to the Aria Ready Facebook page and let me hear your stories of how this worked for you. Avanti until next time.