My oldest son Michael was petrified of candles until he was almost 3 years old. You would have thought he was being held at gunpoint by an armed robber when we sang him happy birthday and showed him the cake on his second birthday. DON’T SHOOT! I’ll GIVE YOU MY TALKING ELMO! PLEASE DON’T KILL ME!
(Side note: does it make me a bad mom if, in moments like these, I grab the camera instead of calming his fear?)
Obviously now that he’s almost seven, he knows candles are fun and harmless as long as you don’t touch them when lit. He laughs every time he sees this picture and makes fun of himself for being so scared.
We all have irrational fears. And for many of us, that fear can make us do crazy things. It can keep us from doing the work we were truly meant to do.
(Please understand I’m not talking about rational fear. If someone is really holding a gun to your head, the advice below does not apply.)
We all have that inner voice. It’s constantly telling us why we shouldn’t do something, why were are not good enough, why we are not ready or why we should stay quiet. In the book Linchpin, Seth Godin calls it the lizard brain. When we feel certain feelings (stress, fear, doubt, vulnerable, anger, confusion), cortisol is released in our brain, causing us to do anything we can to run from the fear. It’s fight or flight. Instead of being honest and pushing through, we lash our or run and hide.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield calls it resistance. And here’s the thing about the resistance, or the lizard brain. It lies!! Pressfield says “If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit”.
I’ve struggled with anxiety, fear and doubt my entire life. It has caused me to do crazy things.
Over the past few years I’ve found a few coping strategies that have helped me find confidence to face these fears.
1. I give the resistance (or lizard brain) a name. I call mine Newman. “Hello Newman” (I say in my very best Jerry Seinfeld voice). I acknowledge my feelings. “Oh, hey there anxiety. Nice seeing you again. NOT!”
2. I repeat my inner mantra: Let your purpose trump fear and doubt.
3. I ask myself for advice in the 3rd person. “Ginny, if your best friend was going through this, what advice would you give them?” This removes my emotions from the equation, allowing me to think rationally as if I’m looking in from the outside.
4. If the above doesn’t work, I reach out to my support system. Sometimes I need someone to check my thinking to ensure I’m doing what is right for me and my family. Sometimes I’m trying to do something that the resistance is convincing me is right. Find someone who will give you the honest truth (not just what you want to hear) and put you in your place when you need a kick in the butt.
I’ve felt more fear and anxiety in the past 2 months than I have in my entire life. And I’ve never felt more confident to tackle it.
As Pressfield explains,“Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it”.
Next time your lizard brain walks in your front door and lies to you, shove it out the back door. If you continue to believe it and let it stand in your way, you only have yourself to blame.
Don’t be afraid to tell your spouse how you feel. Don’t be afraid to tell your boss you aren’t happy. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before because you might look like a fool. Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about difficult topics. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends or family you need help with an addiction. Don’t be afraid to change something you don’t like about yourself, even if that means cutting people or things out of your life.
Do you remember what babies look like when they first start to walk? Their hands held out, taking a few wobbly steps, and then falling. Do you still walk like that? No, because you got back up and tried again. And again. And again. If you REALLY want to do something, and it’s for the RIGHT reasons, find the inner strength to do it.