The paragraph below, the first proper paragraph of this post, makes me feel uncomfortable. It makes me feel exposed and vulnerable, and the thought of sharing it actually feels a quite scary.
But I’ve shared it anyway.
I’ve shared it because it puts the rest of the post in context – I could have just written about how we all need to be ok with feeling uncomfortable, and that would still have been a useful post. But by sharing my own vulnerabilities, my own discomfort, my own fears, my hope is that it makes it feel more ‘ok’ to think about and accept your vulnerabilities, discomfort and fears.
And I’ve shared it because it’s also a part of proving to myself (and therefore to you guys I guess) that I can take action despite my fears. That I can feel that discomfort and walk on through it, which is one of the tactics I mention later in the post. I am walking the walk.
So stand by and get ready for a little vulnerability, followed by what I hope is a really useful post!
I have been having some therapy over the last few months to help me ‘deal with’ a long-standing depression that has been affecting my life for over 20 years now. I struggled with addictive behaviours in the form of eating disorders and alcohol abuse for a decade, and although I have been able to put those destructive behaviours behind me, it always felt like the negative thought processes were still there. Hence the therapy.
At my session this week, my therapist talked about the fact that ‘recovery’ is measured by how willing you are to take actions that make you feel uncomfortable. That is how we grow, how we change, how we ‘recover’.
And it struck me that this was something that we all need to embrace. We all need to learn to make friends with fear.
We all have a comfort zone. Many of us will spend most of our life safe and secure within that comfort zone, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Until that is, we want to change and to grow and to make stuff happen.
As changemakers, as ethical entrepreneurs, as people making a difference to the world, we need to learn to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. To step out of our comfort zones and embrace the discomfort and the fear of the unknown and the new.
We need to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Fear keeps us small.
It keeps us in our comfort zone, doing the same things, in the same way, and getting the same results.
Shaking things up and doing things differently means moving out of our comfort zones. It means feeling that slightly sick-y feeling in our stomachs, and acknowledging those voices in our heads screaming at us to “STOP!” Warning us that danger lies ahead.
Our brains are wired to be on the look-out for danger. Back in the days of the cave-men and women, new things, unfamiliar things, could kill you. So you avoided them. You stuck with what you knew.
The world has moved on, and it’s not like that any more. But our brains haven’t caught up yet – even though logic tells us that new things won’t kill us (or are very unlikely to!), we still have the same response. The sense of discomfort, of fear, is designed to stop us from wandering into danger, to keep us safe.
But by playing it safe, by listening to those voices, yes we stay safe, but we stay small.
And when we stay small, when we let fear keep us in our nice, safe place, and doing the same things we have always done, we don’t do the stuff we want to do.
We spend our lives watching other people achieve their dreams, wondering what secret gift they have that allows them to create the change they want to see.
But there is no secret gift – the fear doesn’t go away.
Talking to my therapist this week, I wanted him to tell me that there was some secret method of dealing with fear. Some tool or trick to break it down, to make it disappear.
There isn’t. It doesn’t go away. Hence the need to make friends with it.
Those people you see taking action, making a difference, living their dreams, they get scared too.
They aren’t fearless. They still feel the fear.
The only difference is that they feel it, they acknowledge it, and they take action despite it.
But the good news is that the more we practice facing and overcoming our fears, the stronger we get. It’s like a muscle – the more we flex it, the stronger it (and we) get. We get better at recognising our procrastination and our resistance, and labelling it for what it is – fear. We get better at acknowledging it, and then figuring out how we can ‘walk alongside it’. Put one foot in front of the other and just keep going, one terrifying, fear-embracing step at a time.
We only grow, as human beings and as entrepreneurs when we are prepared to step out of our comfort zones.
When we dare to dream. And not only to dream, but to take action.
Do pop back for my next post when I’ll share with you some ways to help you flex that muscle and take action despite your fears.
And if you feel up to a little shared vulnerability, do leave a comment – let me know what your fears are, what’s holding you back. And what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail 🙂