Last week we talked about how making a change starts in your mind. Today we are thinking about how fear can hold us back from taking the first step. It may be helpful to recognise that typically one of our biggest fears is failure. In fact, the hardest part of going to the gym for the very first time can often be getting through the front doors! And thus fear of failure is unhelpful for our health and wellbeing when it prevents us making healthier choices.
So what is fear, and why does it prevent us from taking first steps?
Simply putting it, fear causes the higher functioning level of our brain to temporarily shut down and either withdraw, or release hormones for us to fight back – You may have heard of the fight or flight response?
On one hand fear is a healthy self-preservation mechanism to help us overcome those times when we find ourselves in front of genuine danger – jumping off a high pier, facing a lion, or avoiding a speeding car are some obvious scenarios where fear is very helpful in making a quick and wise decision based on self-protection.
But fear can also come from un-substantiated thoughts rather than actual danger or threats. These fears usually lead to unhelpful emotions, behaviours or actions that can affect our health and wellbeing.
It can therefore be helpful to take a moment and explore some of our emotions when we feel fearful and see if they are true, or just unhelpful thoughts.
- “I tried a healthy diet or exercise plan before, and it didn’t last, and I can’t be seen to fail again – so better to not try that again” …this is an unhelpful fear of failure
- “ I’m never going to be as good as him or her, so better I don’t try in the first place”…this is unhelpful fear of not being good enough or perfect.
- “People who go to the gym are not like me – they wear lycra, speak a different language and enjoy exercise and pain!”…this is an unhelpful fear of the assumptions/unknown…
You get the picture!
So often, all of these fears, whilst sounding so rational in our head, cause our brain and thoughts to self-preserve, mainly by convincing us that we shouldn’t put ourselves ‘out there’. Being afraid of the unknown, what others might think, that we might fail, or of trying something new, is not always helpful when it comes to living a healthy and vibrant life to the full. We know this because we find ourselves admiring people who show the courage to deal with these kinds of fears.
In reality fear is like a shadow – it looms large and follows us around, telling us what we can’t or shouldn’t be doing – but it has no real substance if we don’t pay it any attention or stand nearer to the light.
This is evident by the times we loose our fear as soon as we’ve done something new a couple of times and have learned something new instead!
So to finish, here are a 3 helpful things to takeaway;
- Recognise and admit to yourself, a friend or accountable buddy (ideally all three!), that you are or might be afraid… embrace it, for example; going into the gym might sound fearful in your head, but when you say it out loud to yourself or others, it quite often loses power over your actions.
- Remember fear alone isn’t a reason to stop you… there’s good news! you can instead trade it in for hope and courage. You don’t have to allow fear to stop you from living a life to the full or learning something new by trying.
- Overcoming fear in one area of life, for example going to the gym, can really motivate you to overcome fears in another like going for a new job, so if you’ve already overcome fear in one area of life, there’s evidence of courage to do it again!
Til next week.
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