by Makeda Pennycooke | Featured Contributor
I’ve spent much of the first weeks of this year learning and doing things I’ve never done before. I’m being stretched in ways I never imagined and in the process discovering new things about myself.
While this growth has been good, what has not been as good is the battles I have had to wage with fear. It seems that fear has been my constant companion during this season, showing up like clockwork with every new endeavor I undertake.
I used to let fear stand in my way. I would feel fear and take it as a sign that I had to stop whatever it was I was attempting to do.
I have learned however, that fear doesn’t have to stop me. If I can learn to deal effectively with it, my fears can actually work to my advantage.
Using the letters of F.E.A.R. as an acronym, I’d like to share four ways you can deal with your fear and keep it from limiting your progress forward.
The first step to dealing with fear is you have to face it. Fear stands as a sentinel at the edge of your comfort zone. The closer you get to stepping outside your comfort zone the more fear will show to keep you from taking that step.
To face your fear, personify it and see that it is trying to keep you safe. There is so much unknown “out there” but here in your comfort zone, everything is familiar and safe. Your fear simply wants to keep you out of danger.
The problem is that all the magic happens outside your comfort zone. If you stay there you will never discover all that you’re capable of becoming. As Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us, “you must do that thing you think you cannot do” because “you gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
Expect it and work with it
Everyone deals with fear. The difference is some people let fear stop them and others learn to work with their fear.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield shared that Academy Award winner Henry Fonda, threw up before every stage performance, well into his seventies and even after winner numerous awards for his work. He felt the fear every time but he still showed up to do his work.
What Henry Fonda understood, and what you have to learn, is that fear is a constant. You have to expect it and learn to work with it. Make friends with your fear and discover how it likes to show up for you. Once you know this then you can create a plan for dealing with it.
For me, fear shows up in my chest and with shallow breaths. I’ve learned that going for a walk, intentionally taking deeper breaths, and prayer/meditation are some of the tools that help me work with my fear.
Acknowledge and name it
Often simply acknowledging and naming fear strips it of the ability to paralyze you from moving forward.
As much as you are able, give language to what it is you are afraid will happen and then follow that fear to its end game. Imagine how you would handle it if the worst thing happened and then ask yourself, so what?
For example, if you are afraid of that a new product or service you want to offer will be rejected by your customers or clients, ask yourself, if it were rejected, so what? Then what? And see where the answer takes you. Keep asking yourself “so what? Then what” until your resolve grows and the fear doesn’t feel as strong.
Refuse to let it stop you
Sometimes despite your best efforts, the fear still persists. At those times you have to make a conscious decision not to let your fear stop you. Decide to take the fear with you and make it a part of your journey. The key is to keep fear out of the driver’s seat.
Tara Mohr suggests thinking of fear like the annoying driver in the car one lane over from you, keeping pace with you. He’s not in your way; you are in your own lane, driving toward your goal. He’s just an irritating presence always visible just out the corner of your eye. That’s fear.
If you’re finding it hard to soften into your fear then take it with you into the scary thing you think you cannot do. Refuse to allow fear to be in control of who you will become or the impact you will have.
Use these four strategies to reclaim the power your fear is trying to steal from you.
Here’s to you rising into your greatness!
Makeda Pennycooke, Women’s Leadership Mentor and Coach
Makeda Pennycooke is a mentor and coach specifically supporting women leaders. I have 15+ years experience leading and developing teams, including six years serving at the executive level. I believe women are being asked to play by rules that don’t work for them and many women feel stuck living a life that isn’t right for them. After spending too many years letting other people’s opinion decide how I should live and lead, I am now committed to empowering women leaders to redefine leadership on their own terms.
In my spare time, you might find me curled up with a book in my favorite recliner; wandering around in pursuit of beauty behind the lens of my camera; or attempting to further my budding relationship with yoga.
I believe chocolate makes everything better, and life should be filled with moments that make your heart sing. I love the ocean, sun-kissed days and a good cup of steaming hot tea (always tea, never coffee). I can be found sharing tips and inspiration for women leaders at www.makedapennycooke.com Let’s be friends Twitter | LinkedIn | Facebook