Fear, we all have it and it is a big part of our everyday lives whether we admit it or not. No matter what aspect, it is there. Whether it is right in front of us staring us straight in the face or in the subconscious crevices of our minds, fear seems to lurk it’s ugly head at any given moment.
I was asking my friend the other night for some personal advice. She responded simply, “Stop freaking out and just go for it. And don’t make excuses. Did you see the video I posted on my FB wall? If not, you need to watch it NOW” I hadn’t seen the video but after I did, I was a little more woke. On her FB wall was a video clip where Will Smith was speaking to the audience on the topic of fear.
It made me start thinking — Why do we spend more time thinking about what-ifs? Watching the video made me more aware of how many times I allowed fear to dominate moments in my life — frustrating myself about things that have not happened yet, thinking about the “what-ifs”. Why was I wasting my time worrying and overthinking things when I could happily be enjoying the present moment? I realized that this was a recurring pattern in my behavior that I needed to stop. One of my favorite lines of the clip was “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”.
For instance, I had always wanted to make a big move out of New York for years, but I only took action one year ago. I came back from a European trip in the spring of 2016 and realized my difference in mood and perspective as soon as I arrived back home immediately. My first dinner back I was with my brother and a close friend. Though I was physically there, I was in my own world as they spoke. During my moments of silent thought (or basically ignoring them), I had an “a-ha moment” and blurted out “Hey guys. Is it completely nuts if I just pick up and move to Europe?” Surprisingly, they didn’t shoot me down and were supportive of my random whim. My lease was up that August and even though I had already told my building I was renewing, I just couldn’t fathom another year of not trying something I had wanted to do for ages because I was scared of the unknown. I wanted and knew I was ready for a change. I felt a strong calling and yearning that I could no longer ignore. It took me a full weekend of agonizing and weighing the pros and cons, but by the end of the weekend, I knew I was doing it.
Although I had made my decision, the worrying didn’t stop there — some friends thought I was crazy, some friends didn’t believe me, and others thought it was just a phase. I started questioning my motivations and asked myself “Is it enough to move because I just feel happier there?” The answer I know now is yes, but at the time I let fear in and allowed worry to consume me. I was unable to enjoy the present moment.
Thankfully I had the chance to spend some time with a friend who always lives in the moment when I was really questioning my decision. She basically sat me down and told me, “Stop worrying. You worry too much and you always overthink things. I know you will be fine and you know in your heart you will be fine. You’re a survivor and worrying will get you nowhere. And worst case scenario and if you don’t like it there you can always come back to New York or we can move somewhere else together because I am over NY and I don’t like Paris!” We had a lot of great laughs, conversations and an overall fun time that day. It was after spending the day with her I felt more comfortable with my decision and felt the happiness I felt when I first made the decision a few weeks prior. Why the hell was I stressing myself out over what-ifs. I was missing out on enjoying the present moment and my last few weeks with friends and family in NY by living in this imagined “what-if” existence in my mind.
When I think about myself a year ago, I never would have thought I would be on the other side of the world living my dream. It is magical and I stand in awe everyday. This experience has really been eye opening for me, but not just eye opening, life changing. The way I approach life and decisions is completely different than it was a year ago. And now that I am more aware of how counterproductive fear is, I am better equipped to not let it infiltrate my life anymore.
When you are having a moment of fear, here are some things to remember.
Believe in yourself
Everyone needs to be a little more confident of themselves and that begins with being at peace with yourself. Ask yourself — “Am I happy with myself?” If the answer is no, ask yourself why and what you would like to change. Dealing with your own internal struggles is the first step in diminishing fear. The only opinion that matters at the end of the day is yours. There is no room for other people’s doubts, or yours. Just remember what other people think about you is their problem, not yours.
Life is about happiness
If it doesn’t make you happy, don’t do it. It is that simple. This goes for places, people, even work. I mean, if you don’t like your job, find something that you do like. You are spending at least 50% of your life at work (and that is a conservative number); invest in yourself and find something that you like doing. Why live another day somewhere you are unhappy? I see all these memes on instagram about how people are dreading Monday — if that is you, figure out how to make a change.
In my case, it was my location. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy in New York — I just felt happier every time I came here and I also felt at peace with myself here. I still feel that same feeling today — I truly am happier here and can’t imagine living anywhere else. There is a certain “je ne sais quoi” quality that I still cannot explain. When people ask me why I moved here, my response is “It just feels like home. I feel like I belong here”. Paris has definitely brought out the joie de vivre in me.
Worrying is a waste of time
Truer words have never been spoken. Whether it is work, your personal life, your children, your love life — Worrying all the time about “what-ifs” is not healthy. All you are doing is thinking about things that may not even happen versus actually living in the present moment doing things and making things happen. When you worry, you ruin your day. You put yourself in this imaginary wasteland where nothing good can come out of it. Remember you have power of your mind, not outside events and time is the most desired currency these days — why waste it?
Negativity begets negativity
And positivity, begets positivity. At first, I thought this was holistic mumbo jumbo crap, but after trying it for awhile, I can tell you it is true. When you worry, you let negativity in. Why welcome in negativity, when you can be welcoming in hope, love and happiness. It is actually easier and less hokey than it sounds — seriously, if I can do it anyone can. I started meditating a few months ago (Thank You Deepak and Oprah) and it has made me change the way I interact with other people and the way I react to situations. I now try to approach each situation with positivity and an understanding of the other person. This also applies to your own thoughts as well. If you approach everything with a positive attitude instead of fear or apprehension, it really does return to you and your thinking is changing — your perception shifts and you become more focused on what is really important.
Today may be your last
Yes, I know this is a morbid one, but in this day and age it rings truer. We need to live in the present, not the past or the future. The past and future are only memories or thoughts. Life is about action and making those actions counts. That trip you have been meaning to take, take it. If you want to quit your job and find a new path, do it. If you are in a toxic relationship, get out of it. If you have been crushing on someone for awhile, ask them out! No one knows what tomorrow brings. You cannot control what has happened or what is going to happen, but you can control what you do today in the present moment and shape your destiny along the way.
Honesty is twofold — you need to be honest with yourself and with others. In regards to yourself, ask yourself what is truly important to you and what your ideal values are. You need to lead your life in a way that supports those values and gets you to your end game. If there are changes in your life you need to make to support this, make them NOW. There is no time like the present — going back to the previous point, tomorrow may not happen. Being honest with yourself and what you want makes you more self aware and ultimately less fearful because it commits you to your end game.
In regards to others, instead of worrying about things you are concerned about, vocalize and deal with your thoughts. Because that is just what they are — your thoughts, your perception. If there is something bothering you that involves another person, you need to let them know. Otherwise, you are just having an imaginary conversation with yourself. This was something I used to be guilty of — If I had a problem with someone I would have a certain perception of what they were thinking instead of knowing exactly what they were really thinking because I was too afraid to have the conversation. Now I just confront it head on so I’m not wasting my time worrying if I offended someone, worrying about what others thought of me, worrying if we were not on the same page in our relationship, etc. Being honest and vocal makes life so much easier and frees up your mind for things that actually matter. And it also helps you not waste time on things or people that aren’t worth it.
This I have to say is the most difficult and does take work. Even though we can be aware and can identify when we have a fear response, we are conditioned to worry and think of what-ifs. The next time this happens to you, snap yourself out of it. The first step is awareness — you need to be aware and catch yourself so you don’t slip! If we are aware of our actions and how we respond to certain situations, we can identify them and change our response, ultimately making better choices in our life. We will let hope in and open ourselves up to new adventures.
Remember, it’s all just a behavior shift. If you feel yourself worrying and succumbing to fear, stop yourself, take a deep breath and think about a different way to approach the situation or your current dilemma. Shut fear out and let life in.
Those are some of the things I have learned and know everyone will have their own story and journey. When having self doubt, always remember this — “On the other side of fear, are all the best things in life” and know that everything will work out in the end. You just need to believe in yourself.
Originally published at medium.com