If you find yourself stuck in some area of your life – job, relationship, creativity, growth – you can bet there’s an element of fear at play. Even if it looks like something else on the surface. We can tell ourselves a lot of excuses to avoid looking fear in the face.
That’s by design. Fear is meant to protect us.
Fear saves us from taking risks. The problem is, this fear evolved in our brains when we were running for our lives, chased by lions. When every move could be our last.
Survival on the savannah does not look like survival in the studio.
Yet we’re left with these vestiges of self-preservation, programmed to sit on our hands so they don’t get bitten off.
In order to move forward and take control of your world, you need to find the fear. The little scraps of Frightened You hiding in the corners.
We’re not even talking life-or-death level fear, which makes it more insidious. Sometimes it’s just self-protection masquerading as harmless entertainment, rationalization or procrastination.
“I’ll just scroll endlessly through Instagram instead of having that conversation I need to have.”
“I’ll binge watch Netflix instead of submitting that proposal. Responding to that job posting. Engaging with that person. Making that thing.”
Let’s find the fear
Where in your life are you not making the progress you’d like to? Where do you feel stuck? Maybe it’s a project, hobby, or job. A relationship, community, or new skill you’d like to learn.
Write that stuck place at the top of your journal page.
Now start listing out answers to the following prompt:
- What am I really afraid of?
And make sure you get the underscored part of the prompt, because that’s where the fear-slaying magic lives.
- What am I REALLY afraid of?
Each time you list out an item, acknowledge it and immediately ask yourself, “Ok, but what am I really afraid of?” Because fear is a master of deception that thrives on ambiguity. And the REAL fear is going to throw everything else under the bus to keep itself hidden.
Keep listing until you start getting to the deep places. Until one answer resonates loudly with you. Makes you a little uncomfortable. Maybe even the one that gives you shivers.
So, what are you afraid of?
Here’s a quick example to illustrate the process. Say I want to take this new class at the community college that lights me up. Now I ask myself:
- What am I afraid of?
- Ok, but what am I really afraid of?
- But what am I REALLY afraid of?
That I don’t have enough time for homework.
That I won’t be able to balance my household responsibilities with school.
That I can’t ask for help at home so I can make this happen.
WOAH. That’s a little different than, “I’m afraid I don’t have time.”
But you know what? Getting really specific about where the fear lives makes it solvable.
Once you understand the fear, you can learn how to ask for help. You can devise a plan to solve that problem. You can look at how to have that important conversation, and how to ask for what you want. Or you can acknowledge that you are already fabulous and worth every ounce of backup so you can pursue your dream.
Then you won’t waste the entire semester telling yourself you don’t have time for homework when that’s not the real problem at all.
Take that, fear!
More journal prompts to de-scarify yourself
Here are two more posts with journal prompts that can help you work with fear in your journal.
- Are you afraid of flat foxes? Are there any roadblocks that may actually just be a decoy?
- What if you couldn’t fail? Are you afraid of failure? Aren’t we all! But – what if you couldn’t fail?
Read more about how journaling helps us navigate fear in Night Terrors and Skeletons in the Closet.