Last week I was on the phone with my mom, a Ph.D. and a life-long learner. We were chatting about this and that when she gave me one of the biggest compliments I've ever received. She told me that reading my weekly e-mail helped her see that her procrastination is actually a behavior that covers up an underlying fear. Wow! I thought. What an amazing thing to realize.
These fears that are lurking about inside of us almost never show up as a tidy fear to overcome. They show up as procrastination, being "busy," anger, avoidance, and so many other behaviors that take us into that space where we're not our best or most powerful selves.
The same week I talked with another woman who realized that she walked through life letting jealousy rob her of her happiness. And what was hiding under that jealousy? Fear. Fear of being hurt. Fear of being discarded. Fear of being alone.
I think of fears like the butler in Mr. Deeds: Very Very Sneaky. They pop up over and over again, causing a protective reaction. If we procrastinate, we don't have to face the fear of not being good enough. If we are jealous, we don't have to be vulnerable to being hurt. If we are angry, we don't have to admit that we were wrong.
If we can shine the light on our fears and look them straight in the eye, we gain power over them. Fears do quite well controlling us when they sneakily lurk. But the moment you bring them into the daylight, they shrink and go running off like the squirmy little pests they are.
The key, of course, is to dig deep enough to find the real fear. When I had a fear of public speaking, for example, I worked like crazy to address the wrong fear. I wasn't actually afraid of looking out into a crowd and opening my mouth to talk. What I was truly afraid of was that people wouldn't like me. And for someone who put a lot of stock in "being liked," that was a threat to my very identity. Once I recognized the real fear, I could see that my value in the world wasn't tied to whether everyone liked me. Even more importantly, if I focused on that, I would undermine my real contribution.
How are your fears manifesting? If you're unsure, take a peek under the curtain when you find yourself putting off important tasks, flaring up with anger or distancing yourself from people/situations. Keep asking yourself what fear is hiding underneath the layers of emotion and undesirable behavior. Our fears are very very sneaky, but if we can put our finger on them we can free ourselves from their grasp.
Heading to Tacoma!
A big thank you to the National Military Spouse Network for the opportunity to share my Courage Formula with their members in San Antonio, Texas! This coming weekend, I'm heading to Tacoma, Washington, to bring the message to the West Coast. I'll also be interviewing people who have overcome fears that held them back from living their biggest, boldest, most authentic lives. If you have a great story, let me know. I'd love to share it to inspire others.