BOO! Mortgages, retirement, family time, romance, self-care, career, oh my! I don’t know about you, but my biggest fears as an adult are very different than I would have guessed as a child. My biggest fears are worries of failure, not reaching my goals, and losing out on the things that I care most about. These are less tangible and perhaps less spooky than the boogeyman, but just as real and dangerous. To celebrate Halloween and my birthday, I want to talk about how to overcome your fears.
Your fears as a child were probably very real to you.
As a child, my biggest fear was this old man down the street. He was bony and mean as could be. He’d yell at us if my friends and I got too close or played too loudly. We used to worry and gossip that he would kidnap children who annoyed him too much. As an adult, I can realize that the man was simply aging and grumpy. Perhaps he was lonely or unhappy. As an adult, I can understand that the man must have had circumstances that made him so scary to me. But he was the real boogeyman to me as a child. He terrified my friends and me.
Adult fears are just as real. Take them seriously. Notice the behaviors they cause.
When we get to a certain age, our childhood fears completely fade away and new fears replace them. These new anxieties are no less real to us, but they can be harder to understand. If you are like most people, your greatest fear as an adult is probably the fear of failure. But it’s so important to notice that your fears manifest as behaviors. This comes in many shapes and sizes, of course. Maybe you’re afraid of not financially succeeding, which manifests itself as an obsessive work focus. Or maybe you worry you’ll fail as a parent, which manifests itself as controlling parenting and judgment of other families.
Fears create behaviors that reinforce the fear. Behaviors become your habits, which shape your life.
Fears often manifest into protective action or defensive inaction. As I mentioned in my blog about what keeps you stuck, fear of failure is a main contributor to getting stuck. So if you’re afraid of failure, maybe you won’t apply to the job you really want, or ask your partner to marry you, or go on the trip you’ve been eyeing. If you are paralyzed by fear of failure, you will make that fear come true. As a child, my terror meant that I avoided that part of the neighborhood. This meant my parents were always telling me to go out and explore. So when I tried to avoid being yelled at, my parents still yelled at me. If you don’t apply for that job because you’re afraid of rejection, you’ll never get that job. This can cause you to live with regret and disappointment in yourself.
Figure those fears out. Nothing is scary when you understand it.
So how do you fight the fears? They’re paralyzing, right? They make your heart beat wildly and your palms sweat. But listen: nothing is as scary once you understand it. That old man in my neighborhood isn’t scary now that I know he was just grumpy and lonely. Horror movies aren’t as frightening if you know that the demon is really just a guy in a green jumpsuit. In the same way, if you understand your fears – why you have them, what reality is, how you make them real – you can understand how to fight them. So I’ve made a worksheet for you to find out why you have the fears and how you make them come alive. This will help you combat them.