OK, so we know from the research and statistics that all humans get scared and anxious sometimes. 100% of us. It’s a fact. Fear is just part of life (except for those who are in toxic massive denial, which is a recipe for life misery). Lots of us would rather pretend we are secure, confident and have it together. But at a deep level, we know that we do feel insecure and scared at times. So what do we do when we know we feel this, but we don’t want to know we feel this? Here are some solutions and tips for this:
Understand the disconnect.
There is a disconnect, or what are called incompatible realities. In the psychological world, we call this a “fear of the fear.” We are afraid of being afraid. But unfortunately, our brains crave reality. Reality, whether it is positive or negative, is good for our minds. So when we act like we are OK when we are scared, our brains go into overload: How do I function and make decisions, when a lot of my energy and bandwidth is being used to pretend I’m not anxious, when I actually am? That costs us a lot, and isn’t good for us.
Get to the “why.”
There is a reason you aren’t comfortable admitting you have anxiety in a situation. It can be about relationships, work, mistakes, challenges, your past or a number of things. But your “fear of fear” didn’t arrive in your head in a vacuum. Here are a few common “why’s”:
- Shame: When we feel that our behavior or feelings will cause us to be embarrassed, or that people might think less of us, we are vulnerable to the fear of the fear and we hide it all.
- Control: Fear and anxiety are, at their core, about not feeling in control. It might be that you have a relationship you can’t fix, or a job situation that’s out of your hands, or a health issue with no known solution.
- Isolation: We are more afraid when we are alone. Humans are social beings. We feel safer in a tribe of a few good people, and more afraid and vulnerable when we are without that.
Not doing anything will just increase the fear of the fear. But if you take a risk with a safe person and tell them that you are anxious about something, their warmth and compassion will reduce a large percentage of the feeling, and you will feel relief. Another great action step is to simply admit to yourself, and write down in a journal, that you had an anxious day. This is called normalization, and you won’t feel so strange. And finally, pick a few good friends who are comfortable saying when they become fearful and ask them how they do it. Healthy people aren’t afraid of being afraid.
It’s OK to say when you’re anxious. In fact, it’s just healthy.
John Townsend, Ph.D.