How action reduces fear

Action reduces fear, because doing something scary effectively tells our fear to shut up.Action reduces fear, so act.

Truth be told, this neat little quote isn’t my own. It’s one that I came upon while reading a summary of David Schwartz’ classic “The Magic of Thinking Big”. But it stuck with me.

For someone plagued by low confidence and self-esteem, the idea that action reduces fear could very well seem counter-intuitive. Because often, it’s when we need to take action on something — especially something important — that fear arises.

There’s the fear that we’ll mess something up, and that, as a result, people will judge us and ridicule us. But there’s also the fear that we might successfully carry through with our endeavor and advance to a higher level. — We’d have expectations coming at us from all sides! And responsibilities!

Whether it’s one or both, or some other fear, fear associated with taking action is definitely real. So, why would anyone claim that action reduces fear??

To find the answer, take a moment to think about another topic that seems to cause non-fidents a lot of pain: Over-thinking.

We’ve all been there. Stuck with a seemingly unsolvable choice, entirely unable to weigh out the pros and cons. Or, having done just that, unable to make a decision because either option seems just as good — or bad — as the other.

No-one’s exactly a fan, that’s for sure. But still, as it is said in the personal coaching world, there’s always a pay-off.

You see, over-thinking is, deep down, a defense mechanism. When we over-think something, it’s because of exactly those aforementioned fears.

No-one likes over-thinking. But it still feels way less uncomfortable than having to make a tough decision or do something that makes you feel exposed and put on the line.

Over-thinking, then, is the antithesis to the action that it prevents. The two cannot co-exist. It’s either one, or the other.

Sometimes, the over-thinking wins, and we end up doing nothing at all. That’s when we really give in to our doubts and fears.

And so, it’s when we stop thinking and just do it that action reduces fear.

Action reduces fear, because when we act, we only do it because we’ve sufficiently silenced that fearsome part of our brains telling us to abort and run away. Like I said, the two cannot co-exist.

But doesn’t that mean that I’d have to compromise my thinking if I want to get things done? What if I, like, really treasure my thinking?”

Sounds like a defense mechanism to me. 😉

No, seriously, it does. But I DO get where you’re coming from. I was there.

The thing is, thinking isn’t necessarily good for us altogether. Thinking isn’t a means to an end. We have more thoughts every day than can be measured, and that’s not exactly beneficial.

On the contrary, many a study have been done on how meditation helps us by training us to simply observe our thoughts and stay focused on the ones that matter, rather than blowing the insignificant ones out of proportion.*

Also, after we’ve done whatever frightening actions we’re doing, we can evaluate ourselves and get better at it the next time. And, of course, we wanna start out by taking babysteps. This goes for whatever we’re doing. Some people even get help from a confidence coach. (Something I obviously highly recommend doing.)

Bottom line: If you’re feeling anxious about doing something, it probably means it’s important, and you should do it. And really, there are lots of ways to go about your challenges safely and securely. But only the action reduces fear. And, as another quote from the initially mentioned summary goes: Nothing happens just by thinking.

Yes, it’s scary. Do it anyway.


* Sources: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation/overview.htm; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719544/; http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-may-ease-anxiety-mental-stress-201401086967

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On the paradox of finding comfort in low confidence

No matter how safe you might feel, staying with your low confidence is the biggest risk of all.If you know anyone with low confidence, you’d want them to feel more confident, right?

However, things aren’t always that simple.

Low confidence is a lot like depression. In that it has that one counter-intuitive paradox to it:

Depression and low confidence holds us back. But for that same reason, they can actually feel safe.

Indeed, confidence can be scary!

… Well, actually, it’s not confidence in itself that’s scary. On the contrary, confidence is the antithesis to being scared.

However, if one has low confidence or none at all, the IDEA of having it can sometimes be quite frightening.

Indeed, if you have low confidence, confident people can come off as brash, intimidating, and careless towards other people’s sensitivities.

Therefore, staying in your “safe spaces” can seem all too easily obvious. You don’t speak up; you tend not to disagree; maybe you don’t even get out much.

Ultimately, your low confidence can end up as a sort of trusted companion to you. Because not taking any risks can seem safe and secure.

And — you guessed it — here’s what’s wrong with that…:

Deep down and honestly, beyond all the fear, doubt and superficial comfort, we all know that we want more than that. Some of us might even know that we actually CAN DO better than that.

But taking action can be scary. Because often, we wouldn’t know where to start. Nobody told us. How would we know?

And what if we mess it all up beyond repair?? We could ruin our reputation, right?! And other people would maybe LAUGH at us!!

Here’s what we all need to realize:

The biggest risk is not taking any action at all.

Altogether now:

THE BIGGEST RISK IS NOT TAKING ANY ACTION AT ALL.

Only when we’ve made it fully clear to ourselves that our perceived comfort in low confidence is by far the bigger evil can we move towards action.

And the good part is that often, the biggest difference is not what action we take, rather than the fact that we take action in the first place.

See, if we truly wanna get confidence, we gotta start by getting used to taking action. And, popularly speaking, this means, get off your ass and deal with your circumstances.

But no, really: If you don’t take action on your own behalf, who do you expect will do it for you?

Nobody will! Your parents won’t be around forever. And your friends’ support, however generous, only goes so far. Their food budget isn’t yours, and you can’t stay on their couch forever. (Or, indeed, any couch.)

And of course, this only applies to those lucky enough to have parents and supportive friends. Not everyone is.

Whatever’s the case, it really is up to you to take action.

ACTION ITEM:

This week, stretch yourself. Challenge yourself in an area of your life where you have particularly low confidence. (And if that’s “all of them”, just pick one.)

If you’re anxious about approaching other people, do it. Ask a stranger for directions anywhere and exchange a few words in the process. If you feel like you could have done a lot better, do it again.

Getting our of our comfort zone is the true killer of low confidence.

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Forget about forgetting your insecurity — here’s what to do instead!

Only when we accept our insecurity will we get confidence to move on.Deep down, we’d all like to be able to simply forget — or delete — our insecurity.

Some people will claim that we’re better off having insecurity. Because it’s a natural, human trait that keeps us grounded and in touch with our humility.

But when someone with certain ambitions also has low confidence… They just wanna find that insecurity and simply press ‘delete’.

I know you’re out there, and I totally hear you.

However, here’s why we need to go about it a different way…:

Obviously there’s the fact that doing away with a considerable part of our mindset tends to be a time- and ressource-demanding process.

But there’s also the fact that when we want to get rid of something, first we need to accept it.

Those of you who struggle with stress and panic anxiety will know this. The more we fight it, the worse it tends to get. It doesn’t start to go away until we calmly and openly acknowledge and accept that it’s there.

It’s like that for all imaginable problems, really.

Hell, just imagine trying to walk on a broken leg because you won’t accept that it’s broken. Not exactly clever, yeah?

When we accept something, we grow a little. I’m all about personal growth, and this case is no exception.

Because, just like with stress and anxiety, when we embrace insecurity, its influence lessens because we allow ourselves to contain it.

When we’re big enough, we can contain anything. Including the things that have been opposing us. And if we simply absorb our obstacles, they’re no longer in our way.

Pretty cool philosophy, right?

Furthermore, if you’ve ever been insecure, you’ll always remember that feeling no matter how hard you try to forget it. So really, it’s no use. But the root of the matter is, it’s not about forgetting; it’s about learning to ignore it at the right moments.

And yes, I specifically use the word ‘ignore‘ here. Some might think me self-contradictory for talking about embracing insecurity first and  then simply ignore it. But really, this is how confident people do it.

Given the right set of circumstances, anyone can feel insecure about something. This is basic, primal neural functions at work. We’re hardwired to look for trouble. But that doesn’t mean there’s really anything to be insecure about. So we need to learn to distinguish between real and perceived threats. Then, we’ll be able to tell our insecurity to calm down when it’s not useful.

Which, in fact, it rarely is.

Now, apart from acknowledging your insecurity, there are several things you can do that will naturally diminish it.

If done right, meditation helps. Also, exercise is always a good thing. Eating healthy and getting enough sleep should go without saying. (And then, of course, there’s confidence coaching, which I most heartily recommend!)

Different things work for different people. But however you live your life, always remember this:

Everyone feels insecurity. Even confident people. It’s what we DO about it that shows our real character.

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