Should you really do it anyway when you feel the fear?
Some of you may be familiar with Susan Jeffers’ book ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’. It’s well documented that one of the best ways of overcoming fear is to ‘just do it’, and that the feelings we get when we avoid something can be worse than actually getting on with it. I know personally that once something is faced, awesomeness follows and a growth and strength that feels amazing. Susan Jeffers describes the fear as not the feelings associated with actually doing the activity, but the fear of what we’ll feel like if it doesn’t quite go to plan. And it’s this that stops us from progressing.
All of this is great, and it’s agreed that some element of ‘pushing through’ fear is necessary for humans to develop and grow. However, there’s a note of caution about how this might be done. Simply cracking on might not bring the results you hope for, because the impact on our brain and bodies can far outweigh any feel-good feelings from tackling it. Let’s look at what happens when we become afraid. Cortisol and adrenaline are released into your body causing;
- Our heart to beat faster.
- Our breathing increases and may become shallow.
- Blood moves from heart, lungs etc to flight muscles in case getting away is necessary.
- We find we can’t concentrate on anything else.
- Our tummy starts to ‘churn’.
- We might become agitated and stay in a state of alertness.
Now, all of this is necessary if you really do need to run from a lion or tiger, but I’m not sure many of you need to do that in everyday life. So, your body is left with all of these effects and the fight or flight hormones are not put to use; it can take several hours for them to leave your body, explaining why your heart rate might be raised long after the incident.
Now, imagine if this happens regularly as you’re expected to face whatever it is that’s made you afraid without adequate skills or support. The constant presence of these hormones can lead to impaired memory, reduced ability to regulate emotions, depression, a weakened immune system and some other health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
I’m guessing you’ll have a ‘something’ that you’re afraid of doing. Most people who are interested in growing and developing continue to find ways of stretching their comfort zones throughout their lives, and are therefore constantly ‘feeling the fear’.
So, rather than jumping straight in, there are other ways of coming closer to dealing with your fear in a more helpful way. Developing a trust in yourself and your ability to handle whatever life throws at you is fundamental to all of this.
- Do something new every day to grow to help you develop courage, trust and resilience. Don’t wait until you have a ‘something’ to face – do it now! Yes, now!
- It’s got to be worth it – make sure you’re committed to putting in the effort. If it’s not, you’ll always find a reason not to.
- Work out the consequences of doing nothing – it’ll only be when these consequences outweigh the consequences facing the fear that your motivation will grow. Be honest.
- Ask yourself what you would do if you knew you wouldn’t fail? An amazing question – how freeing is that?
- Act as if – pretend that you can already do the thing – amazing what our brains will believe!
- Focus on how you’ll feel when you’ve completed your challenge – that’s got to be worth it, yes?
- Take small steps towards becoming less fearful such as starting to look at a spider in a book rather than the real thing. Gradual exposure will reduce the production of those fight or flight hormones.
- Accept that making progress, not perfection, is the goal, then celebrate the steps you take. This is really important; make sure you are comparing your progress with you, not what you see others saying they’re doing.
One of the most important points that Susan Jeffers makes in her book is that you are not alone. Everyone feels the fear at some point; most more often than they’ll admit. So, when you’re thinking you’re alone on this journey, you’re really not. And, today, you can be more courageous than yesterday.