"Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do
that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."
– Mark Twain
When you get stuck,
you have countless ways to free yourself. Here are five potent fear-busters from
Secrets You Keep From Yourself:
Fear's Track Record
2) Get Curious
3) When Fear Plays the Survival Card, Call Its Bluff
4) Check Your
5) Recognize and Break
Fear-buster #1: Measure Fear's Track Record
Fear's job is to get your
attention, yet for many of us fear has a lousy track record. We worry about
worst-case scenarios regardless of likelihood. To bring fear back into line, try
this experiment: Write down everything you are afraid of or anxious about that
might happen to you in the next week. Then put your list away and forget about
it. Seven days from now, take out your list. How much of what you feared
actually came true? Most people find that few of their fears materialize and,
for many of those that do materialize, they aren't as bad as you'd thought or
you find yourself able to handle the situation just fine. And remember, you're
not alone in having self-doubts. Look what some others have said:
"I have offended God
and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have."
– Leonardo da Vinci
"There will be no proof that I ever was a writer."
– Franz Kafka
"My life has been nothing but a failure."
– Claude Monet
#2: Get Curious
In the face of overwhelming
feelings, asking yourself the right
questions can move you from a reactive to a proactive stance. For example:
- If you find that you tend to criticize yourself or
others to excess, keep the question "What positive thing can I say at this
time?" close at hand.
- If you feel emotionally numb, ask, "What am I feeling
right now?" or "What was the last emotion I recall?"
- If you’re an overwhelmed overachiever, a question might
be, "What would be most satisfying right now?"
- If you’d like to improve the quality of your primary
relationship, the next time you are around your mate, keep in mind the question,
"What would she most appreciate from me right now?"
Creative questioning can give fresh perspectives and
innovative solutions. For example, when faced with a perplexing challenge, look
at it from several different angles. Ask yourself:
- If this was my only problem, how would I solve it?
- If this was my smallest problem, how would I handle it?
- If I knew I could make a difference, what would I do?
- How much will this matter in a year?
- How would I assess this situation if I were ten years
older or younger than I am now?
Fear-buster #3: When
Fear Plays the Survival Card, Call Its Bluff
Our worst fears devolve into concerns about our
survival. When your fears deal the survival card, play it out. Ask yourself:
- Is my actual, physical survival at stake?
- What is the likelihood that a life-threatening
situation will materialize?
- What are my options for action?
- What have I done in similar situations in the
Fear-buster #4: Check Your Assumptions
Fear makes the leap from possibility to
probability, and it does so on the backs of unrealistic and illogical
assumptions. For example, you might think: "If this relationship falls apart,
I’ll never find another love." Such a fear is based on such unfounded
- We only get one love per lifetime.
- Whether I meet appropriate partners is completely
outside of my control.
- I don’t have the ability to mourn, heal, and move on.
Another example: "I could never tell my lover some of my
negative thoughts about him." The underlying assumptions:
- If you love someone, you won’t have negative thoughts
or feelings about him.
- People who love you will leave you, retaliate, or fall
apart when they hear a negative judgment.
- There is something wrong with me that I sometimes think
negatively about my lover.
When you recognize unrealistic
assumptions, you have the chance to redefine your reality from a healthier
#5: Recognize and Break Denial
We all have a personal "Defense Department"
designed to keep internal emotional and psychological peace. A certain amount of
denial can be adaptive. Ignoring, forgetting, or pretending can help you through
rough times. However, like a faulty circuit breaker, denial sometimes trips
prematurely or stays off too long. We are not always aware when we avoid our
feelings or overreact to events.
Denial is the glue that binds the parts of ourselves
which disturb us. The good news is that if denial is the glue that allows for
self-deception, awareness is the solvent that dissolves denial. Here's an
exercise to bring your denial into the light of day where you can dissolve it.
Think of a current or past situation that troubles or
puzzles you. Then ask yourself:
1) Are any of my thoughts, feelings, or actions serving
to . . .
- Sidestep or camouflage more painful feelings?
- Procrastinate or avoid something?
- Assuage my guilt?
- Pre-empt loss?
- Take the focus off me?
2) Do I feel distracted or fixated?
3) How grounded and authentic do I feel right now? Is
this how I want to feel?
4) If someone I deeply admire asked me what I’m in
denial about, what would I say?
5) How would the best part of me handle this situation?