Let’s get real for a minute and talk about why we talk ourselves out of the things we want in life. The term self-sabotage seems to place the blame on us, but I suppose you could see this as a form of unconscious sabotage. In truth, our habits are formed as a way of keeping us safe. We are not always conscious of how our thoughts and actions keep us from being happy and feeling fulfilled.
But, I believe it’s fully possible to overcome this. I’ve become convinced over time that the number one thing that stops people from making the changes they want in their lives, is fear. Author Monica Berg says that “identifying the fear and understanding why it has arisen is the first step in eliminating it.”
Some of the more common fears include fear of failure, fear of loss, and fear of pain. The reality is that the danger we fear is only as real as our brain makes it seem. It can also become the source of most of our suffering when we let it stop us from taking action or making a change. All fears are imagined because the outcome has not happened yet. Let that sink in. What we fear feels real, but that feeling doesn’t change the outcome and has little positive impact on what will happen from now until the end result. If anything, anxiety can get in the way of our decision-making and actions.
Understandably, we make judgement calls based on our instincts and our past experiences. This often comes from a place of self-preservation and survival, which isn’t a bad thing. However, while the fear of getting eaten by a cheetah racing towards you is very real, the fear of disappointing someone or failing at something new isn’t based on fact or certainty. You can absolutely affect the outcome by how you approach the problem.
Philosopher Wayne Dyer said that to learn to experience authentic love means ‘abandoning the idea that you have much to fear and that you are in an unfriendly world’. While most fears come from wanting to protect ourselves, they don’t always serve us in a positive way. So, what does love have to do with it? It is through authentic living, self-love, self-compassion, and compassion and love for others that we can heal and let go of our fears.
How we see ourselves (self-love), how we treat others (compassion), and how we present ourselves to the world (authenticity), can have huge impacts on how we move through life. Authenticity and love are powerful ways of connecting to and engaging with others and our environment.
Twelve years ago, I was going through a serious depression and feeling like I had lost everything that mattered. It occured to me that the way I was living my life wasn’t working for me and it was time to consider another way.
I began to question my beliefs and consider the possibility that other outcomes were possible. I read and paid attention to some of the great philosophers who were writing books, and discovered authors like Wayne Dyer, Byron Katie, and Eckhart Tolle. They opened my eyes to the limits I had placed on myself, and to how my negative beliefs about myself and the world were affecting (negatively), how I saw and treated myself and others.
Today, I understand that while my fears are meant to protect me, there are not always real dangers, but projections of a good or bad future I imagine. Our reactions to things are often programmed reactions that come from past experiences. We tell ourselves something like this: “If this happened to me, then it must mean that everytime I try to do X, the same thing will happen.”
You create how you see and experience the world based on the beliefs and the thoughts you consistently have. Let me give you an example. Always saying ‘I’m a terrible driver’ will never inspire confidence. Instead, it will make you and your passengers feel anxious and unsafe, leading to feeling bad, making a mistake or being distracted. Instead, be compassionate with yourself, show care for others when you drive, and allow yourself to be imperfect.
The truth is that you can’t predict or control everything that happens to you, but you can decide to enjoy the process and be fully you. To diffuse your fears you must first accept that they are there, and understand where they are coming from. Questionning our thoughts when they arise, is the best way to figure out if the fear is likely or unlikely to happen.
Tony Robbins says that “to live fully, one must be free, but to be free one must give up security. Therefore, to live one must be ready to die.” I am not suggesting that you should put your life at risk. What this means is that you must teach your mind to fully accept the risk (your feared outcome), consider the possibility that there are other options (your new belief), and be willing to turn your attention away from the fear and towards what you truly want. That is what freedom truly is.
I’ve used Byron Katie’s The Work for many years, and I recommend it to anyone who’s struggling with anxiety, depression, and overthinking. I want to give full credit to Byron who herself conquered her fears and overcame severe depression, using four questions. These questions have become a weekly practice for me. When ever I’m faced with a negative or upsetting thought, I ask myself Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it’s true? How do I react when I believe that thought? Who would I be without the thought?
This habit has been so beneficial to me that I use it any time I feel stuck or indecisive. I’ve also learned to go beyond the questions, especially when overthinking or analysis paralysis creep in. Here is my process:
- Identify and question the thought, which is usually based on imagined fear.
- Replace it with a different possible outcome by creating a list of other possibilities.
- Walk through each of the options and feel the feeling of what it would be like to have success.
- Make a plan and take action.
Learning to shift negative thoughts towards positive empowering decisions and actions is key to moving towards change and manifesting amazing things in your life. That said, don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. These are just the stepping stones to creating your dream life. Use them as fuel to make things happen. When you know what you don’t want, you become clear on what you DO want.
We all want happiness for ourselves, and ultimately, we want to avoid pain and suffering, and feel good. It is only through self-work that we can truly have this freedom from our limiting beliefs. Becoming ‘fearless’ is possible, and once you do, you become unstoppable!
Don’t let fear paralize you. Instead, look it straight in the eyes, know it inside and out, and see it for what it really is: a thought that you can challenge and change.
If you want help learning how to shift your beliefs from limiting to limitless, click the link here and learn about my coaching program.
Copyright Michelle Thompson 2022.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
My name is Michelle. I have over twenty years of experience as a group facilitator, zen meditator, and public educator. I’ve helped thousands of people re-imagine their lives and create concrete plans for self-improvement. I’ve facilitated dozens of workshops and support groups on topics like stress management, mental health and wellness, goal setting, grief counselling, safety planning, and confidence building. I’m a former social worker and non-profit consultant, and after struggling for years with my own feelings of anxiety and uncertainty about who I was and what I wanted, I did the work and learned how to get out of my own way and create an authentic meaningful life for myself. Now I teach others to do the same. I created Authentic World Inc, to offer a supportive space for learning these important life skills.
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