Feel Your Fear, and Act Anyways
A concern I come across often as a coach is how to make certain “icky feelings” go away. It could be fear, jealousy, anxiety, worry, insecurity… any number of emotions that this society considers weak, or bad, or wrong.
- “How do I stop being so frustrated with my parents?”
- “How do I stop feeling so jealous?”
- “How do I stop feeling anxious whenever I’m making a presentation?”
Here’s the key: feelings happen. You don’t have control over when or how strongly they show up. On top of all this, any attempt to dismiss, deny, or suppress them will likely have the opposite effect: they will get stronger and more prominent.
It’s like putting the lid on the pressure cooker.
Your feelings are not mutually exclusive of each other. This means:
- You can be both happy and sad at the same time.
- You can be both angry and relieved at the same time.
- You can be both excited and worried at the same time.
- … etc…
And just as two emotions can happen simultaneously, so can emotions and actions. This shows up in situations like:
- I want to be supportive of my partner, but I’m feeling sad.
- I want to be excited for my friend’s new promotion, but I’m tired.
- I want to help my mom with her grief, but I’m excited about my new relationship.
- … etc…
Let me tell you something: You don’t have to negate one in order to do the other. You’re allowed to have things happening at the same time. It’s all part of the complex soup of emotions, actions, and reactions that makes up the life of a human being.
- You can be supportive of your partner and be sad at the same time.
- You can be excited for your friend and tired at the same time.
- You can help your mom grieve and be excited about your new relationship at the same time.
Metaphor of the Soldier
There’s a metaphor I use in my coaching quite often. It involves the idea of a soldier. It goes something like this:
Imagine there’s a WWII soldier (because that’s the last war where there were clear enemy lines) on the front lines facing the enemy. He looks to the left and sees a line of enemy tanks coming over the hill. He’s ordered to hold the line.
- Do you think he’s afraid? Hell yes.
- Do you think he’s still going to do his job? Absolutely.
- Does he need to first negate his fear in order to effectively do his job? Absolutely not.
The soldier feels his fear and takes action anyways. There’s no need to stop feeling afraid before he takes action. You can be afraid and still take action.
In fact, the soldier understands that fear is a useful emotion. It’s an instinct rooted in sensing danger. The wise soldier knows when and how to listen to it.
In my life, this has shown up so many different ways. Some of them are big, some of them are small.
It shows up when my girlfriend tells me she “wants to talk.” A pit enters my stomach, my mind starts making up all the worst possible scenarios. I get scared. But I remember what it is that I’m committed to, I remember that I’m here to be authentic and open-hearted. Yes, I’m afraid because something important to me is on the line: our relationship. But the fact of the matter is that I have no idea what she wants to talk about. I enter the conversation with all of my emotions: I’m authentic and open-hearted, and also scared.
Or if I’m on a date and I’m a little nervous, I just admit it. There was one time, just a few minutes into the first date with a woman I found totally gorgeous, I was sitting in awkward silence struggling with what to say.
I said, “I’m a little tongue tied because I think you’re extremely attractive.”
She said, “Thank you, I think you’re attractive too.” And the rest of the date (and subsequent few months) went really well.
When faced with feeling awkward and tongue-tied, combined with wanting to be authentically connected on our first date, I just came out and said what was going on with me. It started things off well with authenticity rather than posturing and posing… being rather than trying to be.
BONUS: This kind of authenticity on dates tends to be seen as endearing and heartwarming.
Where in your life do you find yourself wanting to suppress your emotions? Are there certain times you’d wish they would “just go away”?
Consider that trying to suppress or deny them only makes them stronger. Is there a way you can acknowledge them and allow yourself to feel them, while at the same time taking effective action to move your life in the direction you want?
Please tell me, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com
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