I’m smiling because, as I sit down to write this article, I’m feeling stuck. Why? Because of fear. The fear of writing a bad article, of not having any ideas to share, of the possibility that what I write may not be of any use to anyone.
So why, then, am I smiling? I’m smiling because I wanted to write an article about fear, and was surprised to find myself unable to start writing because I was afraid. How ironic! So, let’s begin.
In this article I’m going to explain how you can transform fear into your best friend. You’ll also find some suggestions from Lucia Giovannini, trainer, life coach and author of numerous bestselling books that have helped and continue to help thousands of people improve their lives.
I got to know Lucia through her excellent books while I was still in Switzerland, and a few days ago I had the immense pleasure of meeting her in person on the course ‘Heal Your Life’, conceived by Louise Hay and held by Lucia right here in Singapore.
WHAT CAN YOU DO WHEN FEAR HOLDS YOU BACK?
Have you ever found yourself worrying about something that’s going to happen or about a situation you’re going to have to deal with?
Or have you ever been afraid of not being good enough, of not having the ability to do something or of not being up to it?
Perhaps your work isn’t really satisfying you, or you’re not with the person you want to be with, or you have a dream you’ve always wanted to realise, but fear has held you back?
These are just a few examples of the fears that my coaching clients have shared with me. Actually, these are fears that everyone has in common. Though the intensity and frequency may vary, every single one of us has been afraid at least once in our lives.
Being afraid is often viewed as an uncomfortable, negative experience, but fear can actually turn out to be very useful. Just like physical pain, the function of fear is to signal a state of emergency and alert, which prepares the mind and body for an appropriate reaction, such as fight or flight behaviour.
Fear, therefore, is not in principle a negative thing. However, if it’s not managed, it can work agains
t you, particularly when you find yourself faced with new situations or when you want to bring about a positive change in your life.
What can you do when fear holds you back? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
The first step in tackling fear is recognising its existence – being aware that you’re afraid without feeling ashamed.
Caught up in our hectic lives or convinced that it’s better to ‘let sleeping dogs lie’, we frequently ignore our feelings or try not to pay attention to them in the hope that they’ll go away by themselves.
Alternatively, we believe that being afraid is a bad thing, that in life we always need to be strong and that fear is a sign of weakness.
On the contrary, being afraid is completely normal. It’s nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. Being afraid is human.
As Lucia says:
‘Fear doesn’t mean quitting, unless this is really what we want, what we hold in our hearts. Fear is simply an energy, a great energy.’
The next time you end up feeling afraid and paralysed, unable to move forward or frightened in the face of a change, don’t pretend it’s nothing. Be aware of how you’re feeling.
As long as you fail to recognise that you’re afraid, it will be difficult to deal with your fear.
The second step is to accept your fear. Being afraid is normal and happens to everyone. So why insist on pushing it away, on ignoring it?
Even successful people, who have already achieved countless objectives and appear to be indestructible, get scared. However, they don’t let themselves get discouraged by their fear and they don’t let it slow them down.
As Lucia explained in the seminar ‘Heal Your Life’, many illnesses originate from our inability to cope with emotions such as rage, guilt and fear. If we keep these emotions bottled up inside us, they’ll end up damaging our health.
What’s more, these emotions can even have repercussions for our relationships with the people we care about, because– involuntarily – we take out our frustrations on them.
When a situation frightens you, just ask yourself exactly what is making you afraid and identify its cause (awareness). After this, accept the emotions you’re experiencing and express the way you feel, saying the following words aloud:
‘I’m afraid because …. [give the reason]. It’s OK to experience these feelings and to release them.’
These sentences might seem rather trivial to you or it may feel strange saying them aloud. However, I can assure you that this is a very powerful exercise that will help you accept the emotions you’re experiencing and will make you feel freer and lighter. You don’t have to keep your fear inside – let it out!
Accept yourself as you are and love yourself for who you are. And remember that self-acceptance doesn’t mean standing still or stopping growing. It means loving every part of yourself, including your fears, for the simple reason that you exist, and allowing yourself to grow at your own pace.
At this stage, the third step consists of taking an action, even a small one, that will enable you to deal with your fear.
As Lucia suggests, you can:
‘Use that fear, feel it and transform it into energy so that you can be even more focused, even more determined and even better prepared to move forward.’
Instead of letting your fear paralyse you or slow you down, turn it into action.
How? For example, try to look at your fear from a different perspective, or give it a different name.
‘Fear is like excitement in disguise. It’s the same physical sensation. The only difference is the label we give it,’ Lucia continues.
If the sensations you experience when you’re afraid were actually excitement:
- How would that change the situation?
- What would you do?
- How would you behave?
Make use of the energy that fear gives you to identify and carry out an action, even a small one, that could bring you closer to your objective. It can be something very straightforward – you don’t have to take on all your fears in one go!
For example, if you’re afraid of public speaking, you don’t have to immediately test yourself by getting up on stage in front of a hundred people. You can start by reading around your topic, then rehearsing in front of the mirror, then doing some practice runs of five to ten minutes in front of a group of friends, and so on.
You can tackle big objectives one step at a time, just with simple actions of 30 minutes each, as I explain in this article. Step by step, action after action, you’ll have got much further than you expected, almost without realising it. Remember, fear is not negative in itself. It can be a great burden that weighs on your soul, or it can become a dear friend. It’s up to you to decide how you want to make use of it!
Finally, while you’re dealing with your fears, be aware that there will be no lack of occasions when the Universe will put you to the test or place you in difficult situations to check the strength of your convictions.
For example, I can tell you that Lucia, before becoming an accomplished trainer and life coach, had a highly successful career as a model, which allowed her to live what appeared to be a dream life. However, at a certain point she realised that it wasn’t her dream and that she wanted to give her life a deeper meaning.
Deciding to abandon a promising career to change to her current occupation certainly wasn’t easy. There was no lack of moments of discouragement, but Lucia never let herself be beaten:
‘Once I understood and decided what my path would be, I started planning courses, making posters, etc. In the meantime I was still pursuing my modelling career, which was very well paid and enabled me to travel the world. I put up my posters, but didn’t yet have many participants or clients at my coaching sessions.
‘One day I was on a course that lasted for a few days and I decided to dedicate that time to creating my new occupation. I asked the Universe to give me a sign, a clear signal that this really was my path. I asked the Universe to show me by filling up my courses with participants. During those few days I switched off my mobile phone so I could focus completely on my objective.
‘After a few days, when I switched my phone back on, I listened to my voicemail and found it was full of messages. Full of messages from people who wanted me to model for them, and nobody who was calling about my courses! [she laughs]
‘So, there were moments of discouragement, but I believe that it was the Universe’s way of testing me, of asking me, ‘Do you really want this?’ I therefore decided that it wasn’t a signal but that I’d go ahead and do it anyway.’
As you can see, in this kind of situation it’s very easy to tell yourself, ‘This isn’t my path, the Universe is saying no,’ and decide to give it up.
‘When you feel something deep in your heart and you know that it can help other people and can also help you, because it makes you happy, it means that you have to do it no matter what!’ Lucia concludes.
In the full awareness that perhaps her courses wouldn’t have participants in the short term, or that she might continue to receive offers related to her old job, Lucia stayed strong and decided to go ahead anyway because she trusted that everything would work out well.
Follow her example and keep believing in yourself and in the Universe!
TO SUM UP
Being afraid is normal, but don’t let fear stop you from moving forward and making your dreams a reality. Instead, transform it into a dear friend.
The next time you happen to feel afraid:
- Be aware of how you’re feeling;
- Accept and acknowledge that you’re having these feelings;
- Decide which action(s) you can take to move closer to your goal;
- Keep believing in yourself and in the Universe.
Make use of the energy that fear gives you to put even more strength and effort into your actions. And even when things don’t seem to be going as they should, keep having faith.
I’ll finish by saying that if you know in your heart that what you’re doing is really important, that it’s really what you want, stay strong and never give in!
A huge thank you to Lucia for this incredible experience and for being such a great inspiration to me.
Here we are. I’ve made it to the end of this article, despite my initial fears!
- What are your fears?
- How are you dealing with them?
- What is helping/has helped you?
Let me know by sharing your experiences in the comments box below.
Until next time,
P.S. You’ll find the full interview with Lucia Giovannini in the book Master the Art of Life.