Facing My Fears

abstract-fear-tunnel
Image courtesy of chrisroll at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Almost a year ago I wrote Sharing Your Fears where I listed six of my fears. It was meant to be a reminder for me to again face my fears. Truth be told, I haven’t really faced my fears since then. I’ve been living too comfortable, I haven’t felt the need to face many fears; I’ve wanted to face them, but I’ve had a too good life—i.e. I haven’t been frustrated enough by my fears and I’m still not frustrated. But I want to challenge myself as I haven’t really challenged myself in the past year—I have been challenged by other experiences but I haven’t challenged myself. Why now, you might ask? A couple of days ago I read High Earners Adrift (by Steve Pavlina) containing this paragraph:

One man decides to no longer relate to life on the basis of fear avoidance. From now on he’s going to face, accept, and welcome what he fears. He’s tired of seeing his reality shrink as he sidesteps his fears. He adopts a new rule for himself: Whatever I fear, I must face. He stops resisting life’s challenges. And lo and behold, he finds that the fear was just an illusion anyway. He was the one feeding it all along.

I found this so inspiring that I stopped reading, put down my pad and pondered on that paragraph for a long long time. Finally I understood that I had succumbed to a lot of fears, not only those mentioned in Sharing Your Fears. I have stopped opening up to people and actually started reverting back to my former self, trying to avoid and in fact steering subjects away certain topics, anything to avoid opening up. It’s funny though, if someone ask me a question where I’m required to open up it’s not really a problem and it’s quite easy for me to open up, but I really dread the moment I might have to open up. It’s really weird, it could be that I’m scared of that people might not want to know how I feel or my problems, but if they ask they probably want to know. I know one thing: I need a plan.

I’m not sure if I want to actively track down and eliminate my fears or pursue all fears that present themselves in my day to day life. The first options sounds best and I think it will yield the best results (as I’ve used that method before), at the same time I’m feeling stressed about other things in my life so I don’t really want to have another big and exhausting project going on now. I decide to go with the second and simpler option until end of April and see how that goes. If I haven’t made any progress by then I will switch strategy.

Most of the time I know when I’m avoiding a fear—I feel this lump of fear in my stomach and think “I probably wait for a better opportunity, when …” which seldom happens and when it happens I change it to something else. I’ll use this as a trigger and use one or more of the tactics below to face my fear.

Tactics

The tactics can be split into two groups: General tactics and topic-specific tactics. General tactics (should) work in all situations, whereas topic-specific tactics only work for one or some specified topics. E.g. saying something like “I have been thinking of something I’d like to say” doesn’t really work well if I’m facing the dark, as I don’t think the dark can hear me 😛

I want at most 3 tactics per topic as I don’t think I’ll be able to remember 10 tactics per topic. I’ll also only work on those topics I want to work on at the moment, i.e. I don’t really feel the need to work on my fear of the dark as it has never limited me in my options, sure it can be scary to go outside when it’s dark but when I have to I just do it, there’s no alternative.

General tactics

  1. Think about the worst, the best, and the middle scenario and how likely they are to happens if I face my fear. My hope is that the best and the middle scenario won’t be that bad and that at least the middle and worst scenario won’t happen that often.
  2. Stop and psyche myself to do it. Basically I will stop doing anything I’m doing at the moment (even talking) and not continue with this until I’ve done it. I’m not sure if this will work as it might just become harder especially as I’ll stop talking to another person.

Giving compliments

I quite often hold in with compliments because they are so hard to say because of my illogical thoughts: If I don’t compliment them directly I feel bad for not complimenting them and thus I won’t say them the next time I have the opportunity (from ten minutes to a few weeks afterwards) because I think they will think I’m bad because I didn’t compliment them at the “right” moment. I usually keep this compliment within myself for several weeks and I’m always reminded by it whenever I meet the person that I didn’t compliment them.

  1. Ask for permission to give a compliment. This may seem weird, but I think it helps me because then I know the other person wants a compliment 🙂

Opening up

Sometimes I really want to share something about myself, as mentioned before, but I’m not sure if the other person wants to hear it.

  1. Ask: “There is/has been something on my thoughts I want to share, but I really don’t know how to put it. Do you want to hear them?”. I’m not really sure about the phrasing, but I want something similar to this and I want it to remain a question (I think).
  2. Say: “I currently have this project about facing my fears and there is something I want to share with you that I’m not entirely comfortable saying. Do you want to hear it? a no is an acceptable answer.” I think this might be easier for me to say because people usually know I’m into personal development and if they know me they know I’m kinda of weird and could say something like this 😛 So maybe I’ll go with this more often than the first tactic.

Starting a conversation/getting to know people

I usually have a hard time starting a conversation since I don’t really know what I should talk about. I especially have a hard time starting conversations with girls because of my fear of girls (second fear in Sharing Your Fears).

  1. Ask something simple like “How’s your day been?” or “What was the most un-/interesting thing that happened to you today?”. This is mostly a conversation starter and I need to practise on starting conversations.
  2. Inquire them about things they like (e.g. their calling) and how those things work. The goal should be to learn what they like, but also what kind of person they are.
  3. If they ask me a question, ask them the same question. This should be a given, but sometimes I really forget and the conversation is lost.

Tracking progress

To track my progress (so I know if the strategy and tactics work) I will use an app that can track multiple counters, I will track how many times I’ve faced and conquered the fear vs. succumbed to it. I.e. two counters per topic. During the project I will regularly (every Sunday) check in on how I’m doing if I might be in need of some extra tactics or not. At the end of April, if I have succumbed more than 25% of the time I will create an active strategy, otherwise I’m continuing this strategy until I’ve had a month where I conquered 95% of my faced fears 😀 It’s really good to track your progress with tangible results as it’s quite easy to think that you’re making accomplishments (or not) when you’re doing the opposite.

Conclusions

It feels good to have some sort of plan on what I should do. Now I only need to install an app 🙂 I feel motivated to face my fears; some of the scenarios I’ve thought of are really scary, but at the same time I’m excited to see what fearful encounters the world will hurl at me. I hope this might inspire someone else to face their fears; if you want a buddy just message me and we can discuss and motivate each other to conquer our fears. 🙂

 

Many hugs
/Matteus

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