Tackling My Fears, One Layer at a Time

That’s me holding a baby alligator in Louisiana.

I was thinking it’s about time to write a post about Fear, our chronic companion if we are alive.

Really, it’s such a huge topic, and understanding it is so critical for our success and well-being. Helping people rise above their fears is probably the main thing I do as a coach. So, where do I begin?

Then I realized, well, uh, I’m in the midst of tackling some fears right now so I might as well get personal here. The Exposure Fear in me is resisting telling you about it!

Here’s the story and how I’m tackling those fears. And I’m not referring to holding the alligator you see in the photo. That was easy.

I had a full-on panic about a week ago when I was preparing to launch some new programs. I felt pressure to get it all done, yesterday.

It’s September after all and it’s time to rush, rush, rush, launch new ventures, and keep up with the Joneses. I had booked myself tightly: a teleseminar (fast approaching!), two live workshops, three group courses to launch, new clients to attend to, and that’s not to mention time scheduled with family and friends.

The flu insisted on joining the party, but fortunately left quickly. Now for catch-up time. Avalanche alarm bells.

Head spinning, I froze. I got even more nervous as nothing was getting done while I was stuck. (Luckily, my new assistant was moving ahead on her end. Glad I broke through the fear of hiring help!)

Let the Fear Battle Begin

I’ll let you in on the wrestling match so you can see you’re not alone when you experience the same kind of fear fest. It happens to anyone with a human brain.

In hindsight, I can now see three classic fears that were gripping me. I’ve given them names to help disarm their power. (That naming trick works well for most people.)

First, I was having a dose of First-Time Fear. I was nervous about doing a teleseminar for the first time. I know that anytime we do something for the first time, fear will come up, and luckily I busted through that fear enough times to recognize it and keep going. (The self-employment leap is a great teacher for that one.)

First-Time Fear had brought its usual cousin, Exposure Panic, who sounds like this: “But people will hear me stumble on my words, or mess up, or go blank, and then I’ll be exposed….” or whatever nonsense that seems so true in the moment.

Eventually I tackled Exposure Panic with a dose of reality: “Of course I’ll flub some words but no one cares and they rarely notice. You know what you’re talking about. Just be yourself. All is well.”

Exposure Panic is an especially common fear for introverts like me. I know it well! Hey, I can do this. After all, I’m known as the ex-wallflower who has tackled Exposure Panic when it comes to networking.

Then why does it still plague me at times? Because it’s about something new. New stuff always brings a new layer of fear.

In fact, having fear is a good sign. Really. An increase in fear means you’re courageously venturing into new territory. Which means Growth. A fulfilling life requires walking past those fears, not waiting for them to go away.

OK, Exposure Panic, I’ve got your number. You can’t stop me. I’m actually excited to have a teleseminar about making networking easier. My heart is in charge now, not you.

The third fear that was rising up was a fear that I would disappoint someone in the midst of my frenzy, if I had to say “no” to something, or reschedule, or if I messed up in any way.

Ah, the Disappointment Police in my head was grabbing the reins: “Yikes, someone might think I’m untrustworthy.”

Add a dose of exhaustion or hormone swings, and that “untrustworthy” thought blows up into: “My business will be ruined. My friends will vanish. I’m doomed.” It’s so ridiculous to see it in writing now, but that’s how it can feel in the moment. Are you recognizing this experience?

And then, wouldn’t you know it, I DID disappoint a close friend, in a big way. Ouch. Which totally gave Disappointment Police new evidence for its case. Full-on panic spiral.

When I ventured out from under a rock about that, I confided in a friend who reminded me, “Sometimes we disappoint people. It’s OK.” That simple truth calmed me. I tossed Disappointment Police out of the driver’s seat.

I Won That Round!

Eventually, with those fear-busting matches done, I got some rest, and everything looked easier in the morning.

That next day, I laughed along with my clients who were, interestingly, all in the same autumn head-spin — scurrying around like squirrels gathering acorns for winter.

Fear is in our bones, sometimes to protect us, and sometimes working overtime when we don’t need it. That means feeling fear is always with us and it’s no excuse for stopping. It’s something to say No to so you can keep growing. Layer after layer.

One of the big classic fears that we all face is fear of being judged. That’s what Shyness is all about. (Learn about shyness and introversion – the differences and connections.)

Fear Lessons in a Nutshell

  1. Everyone has fear when they try something new. It’s a sign you are stretching and living fully.
  2. As new layers of fear show up, we can tackle them one step at a time.
  3. Our fears take on many voices in our heads. Naming each voice can help disarm them.
  4. Question your fearful thoughts. They often shrink in the light of day.
  5. Get out from under that rock and call a friend for a reality check.
  6. If you’re trying to do it all, chill out. Take something off the calendar. Really.

Fear-Busting Inspiration

Try It.

Ready to face your Exposure Fear and leave a comment below? Try it. Once you do it once, it’s easier the next time.

Update with New Insight

I’ve reread this post, years after writing it, and I want to share a new insight since then. The crazy idea that I should have been trying to do that many things all at the same time makes me laugh. There is no need to book one’s calendar that much. It only serves to push us into overwhelm more often and we are not at our best.

If you are in a pressure cooker, that isnt where you or the greater good can thrive. There is another way.

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18 thoughts on “Tackling My Fears, One Layer at a Time

  1. Pingback: Stress Relief for Introverts in Career Transition | Val Nelson

  2. I am glad to be reminded that I am human with my fears!!  I notice that the anticipation is usually worse than the action itself.    Thanks for sharing!  Good timing.

  3. An update: I did the teleseminar on Friday so I made it through that leap of faith!! Yay.
    I admit I had another panic about 20 minutes before we went on the air, and then I mostly relaxed after calling a friend and reviewing my notes again. I was even more relaxed after it started.
    The funny thing is that I’ve done radio interviews, podcast interviews, TV interviews, etc. I don’t know why a teleseminar felt different, but it did. I felt like “I really better know my stuff if people have signed up to listen.” Even though I do know my stuff, that old fear voice tried to trick me into thinking I didn’t. Thanks everyone for the encouraging words. We all need it sometimes.

  4. I hope you’re celebrating all of these new and awesome accomplishments as you slay all these fears. You’re just amazing at what you do. And thanks for this well-timed post.

    •  Thanks Kara! You have a knack for sharing your authentic self on your website and I love it. Truthfully I’m still nervous for the teleseminar tomorrow. I guess I should prepare.

    •  Thanks Jill. I guess “weirdness” is normal. Goes to show how much of ourselves we normally hide. Feels good to share the “weirdness/normalness” and get such thoughtful feedback.

  5. Val, you show tremendous courage (not fear) by sharing your story.  It’s amazing how many voices live inside us.  Great post!

  6. As always, you are an inspiration! I love the bit about giving each of our fears “names to help disarm their power”. That’s incredibly helpful to me. Thanks Val for having the courage to share your fears.

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