Fear isn’t the problem.
Not taking action is.
Fear is a slippery slicker isn’t it? It can be something that unfurls from deep inside of us, like a sniggering snake, its birth never quite witnessed. Or it’s such a part of our DNA it’s always been there. (I often see kids who run away from my small, friendly rescue dog, their parent recoiling in fear, and I can tell that the parent’s fear has been absorbed by the child).
Sometimes fear creeps up on you, insidious and infectious so that one small fear can infiltrate many aspects of your life. A jolt to your confidence or a slow wearing down of exuberance that can slowly spread leaving a stain of distain.
A woman bruised by a bad marriage not able to contemplate dating again.
A woman who has stepped out of her career for a while to raise a family unable to conjure up the power to get back into the pow suits.
A woman trying to stay relevant in an age of anti-ageing propaganda.
Insidious little suckers.
Is there a fear that is paralysing you from taking action? It could be a blanket fear that cripples you from on high, or a relatively small one that paralyses a part of you?
I see it all the time with some of the women I coach. Your mind is whirring, but rather than a clean machine of thought processing, it feels like standing in the middle of a tornado. Often with clients, my job is to create a space to take each whirring thought out of the swirl, to get a better look at the issues.
We go about our lives, making decisions (or not!) and without some curiosity and intention (two of the midlife superpowers) you can be sabotaging yourself because of some deep rooted fear that is holding you back, or a superficial fear that is stopping you make a simple decision.
I had a client who had never had a conversation with her long-term partner about sex, and so because of that fear of a conversation, they eventually stopped having it.
Another was paralysed by the fear of decorating and doing DIY jobs in her new house because she'd always had a husband or money to get them done. Now she had neither, the mere thought of them made her feel she would never be happy in this house despite her being a woman of significant capability. With work, I asked her to take one small job and think about a few solutions. I can’t tell you how proud she is of herself for measuring that window and going and buying a blind. Now she’s a full on DIY legend.
Because here’s the thing about fear. It doesn’t take courage or confidence to overcome it; it takes action.
I know that myself when my marriage ended. A home owner before getting married, I had painted and DIY’d fairly proficiently, even plumbing in my own washing machine. But by the time my ex had left our marriage, we’d fallen into roles and so it had been 10 years since I’d done certain jobs. As the months moved on after he left, my kitchen got darker and darker as the ceiling spotlights slowly ran out of juice at the same rate as my confidence. He’d always made such a big deal of changing them that I’d grown an irrational fear that it wasn’t something I could do (despite being so capable in many other areas). Eventually, when I was almost cooking by candlelight, I decided to at least buy the replacements. Small action. Then one day I thought, ‘it can’t be that bloody hard!”
So I tried, and lo and behold: how many men does it take to change a lightbulb? None. It was a 10 second job that had taken me 10 months to tackle. Because of fear.
Confidence doesn’t arrive neatly wrapped and decorated with a bow.
Confidence comes from taking action.
Fear can slip into any corner of our lives.
You can be storming it in the boardroom, yet have fear about your body in the bedroom.
You can be a technical whizz in computers, yet afraid to whisk as egg in the kitchen.
You can be a confident woman at work, and an insecure imbecile at the school gates.
Small actions are the key to courage.
The fear of decision can be really hard but what I often see is the fear isn’t about which decision, but of not being able to make a decision.
When a woman comes to me and says she doesn’t know what to do - be that career, marriage, purpose, life - often the key is to help her see that her fear is not in the decision. Her fear is in her fear of not having an answer.
In fact, being at a crossroads is a really good place to be. It feels really uncomfortable - because we’re used to having the roadmap or the solution. But a crossroads is a chance to stop, get curious, settle for a moment in the indecision and then take small actions to decide which direction to take. Sometimes the best action is to decide not to have an answer for a couple of months and to explore, build knowledge, become the project yourself. This is so liberating.
I had a client who felt she was hanging off a cliff. She couldn’t see how to move forward, so paralysed by fear she shut down every possibility. She had been incredibly successful but now (in her eyes) felt a failure because she wasn’t doing what she’d done before. We had to create space away from that edge - help her take tiny steps back and the further back she got, the more space she could see for potential. Turns out not doing what she did before was the biggest success she could never have imagined. She’s chosen a different path and yes, there is still fear, but now it’s the fear of ever feeling that paralysed again. She knows action diminishes fear.
Sometimes you need to stand still and alongside the fear, imagine. Imagine what the path looks like and then tentatively and with fear, take a step. You have to see it before you can work towards it.
The client with the fear of changing her house? She had to imagine first what it would look like; small changes that would make it hers.
Seeing it as an overwhelming overhaul, her fear paralysed her.
But imagining how it would be different walking down the stairs in the morning, walking into the kitchen, sitting on the sofa in the evening - seeing it, and then taking tiny small steps towards each little job, slowly diminished the fear. A picture here. A blind there. And with each action, her confidence returned. In no time she found her energy and creativity again and began to revel in the renovations.
No-one is fearless. It can come at you at any time. The key is not to fear the fear, but to know it’s ok, and to take action anyway.
What fears might be holding you back?
If you’d like to take a moment to check in on your life to see how you can manage things differently, you can book a one hour 1:1 Discovery Coaching Session with me where you get to think about you, how to manage this life you are living, and invest some time and thought on you. Radical idea that, is it? To invest some time and thought on you?
Paid subscribers get a 10% discount. Details are here.