When you want better, do something Scary

FearSo I’m  therapist, we’re usually the worst at taking our own advice, and I hear my clients talking about the horrible situations they’re stuck in every day.  I tell them to go ahead and take the risk, make the change, do that scary thing that’s been holding you back.  Then I’m not willing to do it myself.

For example, way back when this blog was started I was scared of the internet, computers, people reading my writing, no one even noticing my writing, etc, etc.  So I didn’t really set this up. Someone else did it for me so that I wouldn’t have to face my fears.  I knew just enough to get to my page and write a post with a picture in it.  That was it and it stayed that way for years.  Nothing grew, nothing got better with this blog.  I went along feeling bad that I wasn’t writing in it and forgot how to even get to my page to write a new post.  Sounds bad.  It was easy.

It is completely easy to avoid doing scary things and slide into a mediocre place that you swore you’d never occupy.  It can be just as easy to stay in a hole lined with your own excrement because you don’t know if it will get better, so why try?  Or maybe you don’t think you deserve better, you’re waiting for someone else to rescue you, you know you’ll fail, or any of the other things we tell ourselves.

Most people think I’ll tell them that all those fears are horse crap and to let them go!  No.  You’re smarter than that and so am I.  You, as a smart person who knows your life, have come up with an internal list of fears that have real meaning for you.  Now write them out, validate them, and plan your attack.

Seriously get a pen and paper and write out all the desperate fears and negative self-beliefs.  You may get a stomach ache while you do this.  I’ve had clients have asthma attacks.  I tend to feel like my stomach is being squeezed and my throat is burning.  Persevere.  This is where you build the tolerance to your own fear while validating that you have a right to be afraid.  Let’s say that again.  You have the right to be afraid.  The idea that we should go through life fearless, tough and never crying is the kind of crap that sells cigarettes and bad TV shows.

When you’re ready, because you may have to put down your list and take a walk, go through and think of a valid reason for each fear.  Because if they’re real, you are not crazy or stupid or whatever nasty thing you’ve been calling yourself.  So think of that reason.

Let’s go back to my fear list that I gave at the beginning of this post.  I’m afraid of computers because when I was younger I got yelled at and told how fragile they were.  I’ve been scared they’ll break from my cursed touch ever since. I validate that I have a right to be scared and I’m not stupid or a pansy or crazy.  Now I plan an attack on that fear.  I will have multiple exposures to my computer.  I will explore all those buttons.  I will thank the good Lord for YouTube and play videos that show me how to use the computer.  I will occasionally stop and cuss at the screen because anger feels better than fear.  I will go to Barnes & Noble to look at a “Dummies” book and reward myself with a latte.

I now have five different things I can do to face that fear and get past it.  Each one is simple and can be done in the next few days.  At that point I can look at the fear again and make a new plan as needed.

So when I go over this with clients I hear, “It can’t be that simple!” and “My fears don’t have simple solutions!”  Well, those are both fears, so do the same thing with them. The first one is usually about, “I will never be fixed.”  This one usually has to do with early messages you got as a child, topped with that romantic relationship that crapped on you. You have every right to worry about this when you’ve had bad messages about your worth and whether or not you’re damaged. Write out a for/against on if you need to be fixed. Read a blog post about self-esteem. Write out your usual negative litany of hopelessness and then try to read it aloud imagining you’re talking to a 10 year old.  Think of the funniest thing you can say about how damaged you are.  Write out what you would say to a friend in your shoes.  Once you’ve done all that, assess it again, repeat.

Real change on your deeper fears takes lots of repetition.  You’ve been afraid of some of this stuff for years. Every day.  For years.  You can afford a little time to overcome now. You really do deserve that.

As for me, here I am on my Surface.  I feel a little less nauseous every time I open it.  If I start worrying about how it will die and I will be at fault, I put another $5 into the replacement fund and carry on.  My fear is not gone, but it’s not holding me frozen anymore.  I hope the same for each of you reading this.

This is the simplified version.  If you have questions please comment and I’ll try to expand where you need it.  Thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon.

 

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