I was inspired to write today based on Dr. Amy Cuddy‘s TED Talk I posted 2 days ago. It was so inspiring and resonated with me on so many levels that I knew there were layers to the topic.
Dr. Cuddy’s main point was that our body language influences how we show up, how we look to others, and in turn, how that could affect how we are perceived (nice, mean, shy, etc.), which can in turn, affect whether we get the job, whether we get sued (see the talk for an explanation of this), whether ___________ happens.
What I felt lying underneath her talk was this sense of fear – fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, etc. Why else would we not show up as our full selves? If we knew that we would be hired or that we wouldn’t be made fun or that we wouldn’t get hurt by that snake, then why wouldn’t we show up as our full selves? This is what led to my blog title: “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” These words are even written up at Facebook Headquarters in the Silicon Valley (the posted picture is actually from inside Facebook HQ). When you think about fears, it could be anything really: heights, rats, spiders, rejection, social situations, being awkward, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is – we all have our own fears. I’m just asking you to pick one for the sake of this post and run with it (FYI: if you’re afraid of bridges and there isn’t a bridge within 2000 miles of you, then that’s probably not the fear to pick). Part of what therapy does, is that it helps manage your fears. Please note that I didn’t say conquer – it won’t always completely go away and it’s not a battle, but at least you can manage it.
To do this, we have to break out of our comfort zone. A lot of times in therapy, a clinician will ask clients to do things out of their comfort zone. If they are afraid of heights, they’ll ask the client to create a hierarchy of things that would put them closer to facing their fear. It might start with looking at a picture of someone on top of a building and end with the client walking across a bridge. It doesn’t matter what the fear is, but the point is that when we start to go through these steps of facing our fears, it feels uncomfortable. When we go for a new interview, there is a fear of rejection, a sense of uncertainty. When we decide to go back to school, we’re not sure if that’s the next best step. But as we get deeper and deeper into the fear and we walk across that metaphorical bridge, the easier it gets for us and the more we embody that change, recognizing how far we’ve made it.
But what kind of difference would it make if you went into those fearful situations with a sense of confidence or if you were able to fake it until you made it. What if you weren’t afraid? What if you knew you were going to get the job? What if you knew you weren’t going to get hurt by that shark? What if you knew ________ would happen? But let’s be clear, fear is normal!!! It’s natural. It’s there for a reason and it’s a sign post to let us know that we’re growing. It’s true that if you go shark diving without being in any safe container that would cause some fear and justifiably so. But how often do these fears come in ways that are not realistic? And even if they are more of a reality, is it that life threatening in everyday life? Probably not. Well then, what purpose does it serve you? In reality, not much besides showing you that you have work to do with the fear. So what do we do with this fear?
Start with where you are and identify what the fear is – and I mean whatever it is. Be your own advocate and think of ways you can slowly begin to let that fear loosen it’s reign on your consciousness. What is one small step that you could do to loosen that fear? As you start this process, it will feel uncomfortable. Welcome that feeling as a sense of “wow, i’m actually doing this! yay!” Also recognize that as you start to get further along in this process of continuously recognizing the next step to acknowledging the fear that it will begin to take less and less of your mental space. It will take less effort for you to fake it. It will be less uncomfortable for you to become this person who is no longer afraid. Soon enough, it will become a state of being that is just natural. I want to leave you with what Dr. Amy Cuddy said at the end of her TED talk:
“Don’t fake it until you make it, but fake it until you become it.”
Rubin Khoddam, Clinical Psychology PhD student at University of Southern California, founder of Psych Connection.
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