10 Small Ways to Feel Less Afraid
We’ve all felt that feeling of knowing we need a change – the twinge in our gut, the almost-physical pull, the whisper from our intuition that won’t leave us alone. And yet almost every time, we try to run away from it at first. It’s human instinct to resist the things we don’t feel comfortable with - and if you’re like me, unknowns fit squarely in the ‘uncomfortable’ column.
It’s almost too easy to rattle off a long list of reasons now’s not the right time for a change:
I’ll do it when I’m ready.
I’m just too busy, with all that other stuff going on.
I’d really like to feel more sure before I take the leap; I just need to think through it more.
Or, maybe things will get better, and I won’t have to worry about making a big change after all.
It’s not that these reasons are totally invalid – there’s almost always truth to them, which is what makes them easy to cling to. But if we look a little more closely at our motivation to resist change, I think it almost always comes down to two things: fear, and paralysis.
Next week, we’ll really dive into that second part about paralysis and how to move through it, but today I want to focus on the fear.
Fear Likes to be the Loudest Voice in the Room
As someone who lives my life feeling #allthefeelings (and often all at once) I can tell you that what we feel is rarely single threaded. We’re like big, complicated emotional onions who regularly feel in layers.
Where there’s excitement, there’s probably nervousness, joy, and confidence simmering just beneath it. With apprehension often comes hints of doubt, anxiety, and hope.
There’s something about fear, though, that loves to dominate the other thoughts and feelings.
Looking Past the Fear
In my early twenties, I spent four years in a relationship that wasn’t right for me in about a thousand ways, and yet we spent most of those years running full speed toward a future together I could barely imagine myself in. The voice inside me that was crying out, begging me to make a U-turn and run the other way got louder and more relentless as time went on, but that didn’t stop the list of reasons that I couldn’t leave from scrolling clearly in my mind.
I’d have nowhere to live.
I’ve spent so much time and energy on this relationship, what would people think if I just walked away?
I understand him, and he needs me.
I’m terrified of having to start over.
But every now and then, I’d remember how to look past the fear. I could quiet the panicked voice that spouted off all those reasons to stay, and I could imagine what the other side would feel like. It cleared the fog.
Suddenly, even just for a minute, I could vividly imagine what a life outside that relationship could look like and feel like. Without the weight of everything that wasn’t working now, without the worry that I’d never feel fully relaxed and like myself again, and without parts of that relationship that felt like small betrayals to who I really was. It felt light and airy and calming.
It felt freeing.
Big Shifts Start With Small Actions
Finding a way to mute the fear for a minute and visualize what it would feel like on the other side of doing the thing can go a long way in reassuring you why it just might be a leap worth taking – even when that leap might be full of uncertainties. If visualizing that future lifts a weight off your shoulders, or makes your future feel brighter and more like yourself, or feels a lot like relief, I’d encourage you to really, really look at that. Sit with that honesty.
The good news is that big change can start small – and in fact, it has to.
Sometimes all you need is one small, intentional, brave action to shift your mindset; and that mindset shift can set a whole new tone for your day, which can propel you into a place where you feel more powerful and more ready to take some bigger chances on yourself.
It has to start somewhere, and below are a handful of my favorite small, totally manageable, everyday steps you can take to start peeling away the layers fear.
10 Small Things You Can Do Today to Diffuse the Fear:
Tackle a small, unrelated thing that you’ve been putting off. Feel that power.
Try something new for the first time - something you choose for yourself on your own terms, that you’re genuinely excited to try. It might look like a new food, reaching out to a new coworker, learning a new skill, whatever feels good. Even if the thing doesn’t totally work out like you’d hoped, experience that liberation of trying it because you wanted to.
Make a list of the bravest things you’ve done, that you can think of. It could be this week, or this month, or even this past year. Regardless, take the time to really look at it. Look at all those crazy big things you’ve done and lived to talk about, and marinate in how awesome that is.
Break up one daunting task you’ve dreading into smaller steps, and then tackle one of them. Just one. Give yourself permission to stop there for today.
Replace negative talk with positive talk in your everyday conversations. Instead of giving yourself permission to wield negative words against others or against yourself, consciously make the choice to pause, and find something positive to say (something you really mean) instead of that negative thing. Say it out loud. Notice how if feels.
Try saying “no” to something small, where you might normally go with a begrudging “ok, fine.”
Try saying “yes” to something small, where you might otherwise opt out and wonder if it was the right choice.
Take charge of your morning, and fill it with more of what makes you feel good - it can play a huge role in setting a positive, empowering tone for the rest of your day.
See if you can move your fear to the back burner for a minute, and picture your ‘what if’ scenario. Put pen to paper and get specific about what the ‘other side’ of a big change you’ve been contemplating looks like, and how it feels. Just write it out.
If you’re on the fence about doing something bold, talk it out with a friend. Saying the thing out loud and putting it out into the universe will make it feel more real and more possible, and that alone can help clear the fog.
Is there a change or a choice that’s been weighing on you, where you’ve been struggling with whether or not to take action? Which of these are you willing to try this week to ignite some courage? Do you have any other go-to methods for peeling away the fear of doing? Let me know below, or shoot me a note and let’s chat about it.