I talked to a friend last week who told me he was concerned about what people thought of him. More specifically, his level of competence. I asked him if he feared that people didn’t think he was competent, or if he had any proof that colleagues felt he wasn’t competent. After thinking a moment, he said it was fear. I was able to “talk him off the ledge” and help him become more centered about his feelings. I was able to help him because I have to go through this process with myself all the time. I call this tactic “facts vs. fear”.
As someone with anxiety I can always conjure up worst case scenarios. I’m a master at that. I can envision all that can happen and “what if” myself into a mental frenzy. I can dive head first into the sea of irrational fear and nearly drown in my own waves of panic. But living like this is draining, so I learned to calm myself down by asking myself some questions:
- Is this true?
- If so, how do I know this is true?
- If this is true, can I do anything about it?
- If this is true and I can’t do anything about it, how do I let it go?
And sometimes I ask myself other questions but the point is to discern the facts from the fear. I do a gut check and ask myself, “Is this what I feel will happen, or is this what I fear will happen?” That process usually allows me to parse through my emotions well enough to think more clearly and take appropriate action if needed. This takes practice.
We generally aren’t taught how to effectively handle our negative mental chatter, so talking ourselves off the ledge isn’t necessarily second nature. But with some awareness of our thoughts and tools at our disposal, we can develop this skill and learn to address our fears practically and achieve more calm and clarity.
They say 99% of what we fear never happens. Though that statistic may not be completely accurate, a lot of what we’re afraid of may be attributed to our skewed perceptions. So let’s slow down and give ourselves space to consider the facts before we allow fear to take control.
Wishing you a clear mind and strong spirit.