Do you pay close attention to the signs you pass every day? If you have the awareness to notice the signs which your brain pops up, you can stop fear holding you back.
Over the Christmas holiday, I was driving in a foreign country. Naturally, I was paying pretty close attention to the signs I saw around me, which is how I noticed something fascinating.
The signs I was seeing were all fear based: Warning: Dangerous Bend certainly had my foot on the brake. Severe Bends Ahead had me nearly pulling the car to a halt! Caution Children at Play, had me alert but not alarmed. But I was alarmed enough not to stop and see what was so dangerous about the children in the town where I saw the sign: Extreme Caution: Children.
Now, a certain amount of alertness and being ready for anything is healthy when driving. But, too many fear-based signs can leave you on constant edge, with a white-knuckle grip on the wheel and the whole joy of the journey totally missed. A classic case of fear holding you back.
And so it is as we navigate everyday life.
The brain puts up signs every day. Its job is to keep you safe and away from threat. When the brain senses threat or even suspects there might be a potential threat, it starts signalling you to step away from the danger.
No doubt it’s helpful that your brain looks out for you and keeps you alive, but, there are a couple of problems with the whole ‘Stay away from threat’ thing as well.
The first problem is that your brain doesn’t distinguish between physical threat and social threat.
That means that you receive an equally alarming signal from your brain whether you see a bus bearing down upon you as you cross the road or you hear people laughing behind you at a party. The end result is the same though: fear holding you back. It’s an effective result as far as your brain is concerned: you take care before crossing the road, you are cautious about putting yourself out there.
The second problem is that fear is a master of disguise.
The signs that you receive from your brain are not as simple as Stop! or Caution! Instead, what you tend to hear are stories like ‘You can’t do that, you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll embarrass yourself, you’ll get it wrong’, ‘You should just give up’, ‘Who do you think you are?’
A certain amount of apprehension, stress and being ready for anything can help you to achieve your goals, accomplish a particular task or even navigate your way through an important situation. But when there is too much fear, you lose your ability to perform at your best, you miss important information and you talk yourself out of taking action.
Fear tells you that everything is out to get you, to threaten you, to hurt/shame/embarrass you.
We cannot ever totally eliminate fear and to try and do so is a waste of time and energy. The challenge is to strike a balance: a balance that allows you to hold an acceptance and awareness of fear without letting it make your choices and decisions for you.
Watch this 5 minute clip where I explain How to Embrace your Fear
Check out this piece on meeting and accepting your fear