Facing Fears: Mind Over What Matters
From Friggatriskaidekaphobia — fear of Friday the 13th – to Arachnophobia — fear of spiders — fear can haunt us. It can rob us of some of our power so it pays to know how to take those matters in hand. If you have phobias like those above, chances are you’ve learned how to deal with those. It’s not that hard to step around spiders!
But what if you’re afraid of more day-to-day events, like trying something new like writing a book or taking a risk, or speaking in front of large crowds? It doesn’t make much difference what scares you, whatever it is you may be able to overcome it or at least to find a way to work around your fear. I was quite frightened about speaking in front of crowds but my job required it so I had to find a way to overcome that fear. I did what I most often do when I need to learn something — I sought out books on the topic. I learned a couple of things. First, there’s a book about practically everything. Secondly, not all of the advice you get is useful.
One book suggested a public speaker could quiet the nerves by imagining everyone in the room in their underwear. I have no idea how that was supposed to make me feel better. At my next event I attempted to picture the audience in their underwear but that mental image just made me all the more jumpy. My clothes hide a myriad of body parts I’d rather not have the world gawking at and imagining similar hideous body parts in a room full of strangers? Let’s just say that’s not a calming image.
I did overcome my fear, though, and my method may just work for you. It can be summed up in two words – “what” and “if.” So before a presentation I began asking myself questions about my fears. What if I freeze up, then what? Well, I’d take a deep breath and compose myself and look at my notes to continue. What if no one laughs at my funny lines, then what? Then I’ll skip the humor in the rest of my speech. What if no one asks any questions when I open up the floor to questions, then what? Then I’ll smile and say, “Great, I guess that means I’ve done a really good job of presenting this material!”
Asking “What If?” can work with many fears. Afraid to ask for a raise? What if you do and you don’t get it? Well, you still have a job and you’re no worse off for asking. Afraid to finally write that book you’ve been writing in your head for years? What if you did? Believe me, I understand that fear. I was considering writing about our very dysfunctional family. The repercussions had devastating potential so before making the publishing decision I had to walk myself through lots of “what ifs.” The point here is if you walk yourself through your worst case scenarios by asking “what if?” you often find the things that frighten you aren’t highly likely to cause any serious damage to your life or anything you can’t handle.
Fears are much more a product of your runaway mind than of anything that is actually happening. So, if you can’t stop it, let your mind run away and follow it through a pathway to see if what you’re fearing is really going to cause you any problems you can’t ultimately solve. Most things we fear don’t kill us, but the worry might! And, if you’re worried, remember this…. Most of the things you worry about never actually happen!
As a bonus, some of your fears and worries may prove to be fodder for some fascinating writing in your future. Keep a journal of your fears; it might be very useful later!
Author Deborah Carroll
Deborah Carroll is a former educator and publisher. She has written two parenting books, published by Penguin and Berkley Books in the 90s. She’s appeared on numerous radio and TV programs including Good Morning America. (One of the most embarrassing events of her life. If you meet her, ask.) She recently published a new parenting book, “Raising Amazing Children While Having A Life of Your Own,” and a memoir, “Tales From The Family Crypt: When Aging Parents Die, Sibling Rivalry Lives.” (If you have crazy family, you need to read it!) She’s currently working on an adorable children’s book, “Real Grands: From A-Z, Everything A Grandparent Can Be.” She’s writing that one because she doesn’t love the way today’s grandparents are portrayed in children’s books. They seem to wear nightcaps and knit (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) and spend a lot of time rocking and not in a good way! She sees today’s grandparents as vibrant and active people. They run, they play hard and work hard, they’re creative and talented. She thinks it’s time for an image upgrade for all Boomer grandparents out there who are redefining aging. Look for it on Amazon in early December! (Great holiday gift awaits!)
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