New beginnings are scary. The feelings of anxiety and uneasiness can be overwhelming. "What if my coworkers don’t like me?" "What if I have no idea how to do something?" Endless scenarios of what could happen and feelings of doubt start lurking in our minds. The unknown of what is to come out of a situation can make a person stay in their comfort zone. After all, it is really comfortable there!
For me, it was nerve-wracking to make the decision to go back to graduate school. I started with Chesterfield Counseling Associates in February, and even with a few months of experience under my belt, I think about the "what-ifs" and worry about my level of performance. However, it is important to take a step back and try to reframe feelings of fear into positive reinforcement and use them as a strong motivator. How do you do this? Well, it is not a one-size-fits-all process. Talking through this process with a therapist can be extremely beneficial in learning how to transform these feelings.
Here are two ways I try to change my mindset around fear:
Self-Reflection and Preparation
Author of ‘Fear is a Good Thing’ by Katie Kuehner-Hebert states “anxiety is a natural reaction to stress and uncertainty. Anxiety means we care; anxiety means we have skin in the game. Don’t demonize the feeling.” Anxiety can be debilitating, and we often associate it with only bad or negative feelings. When I feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts, I focus on taking deep breaths and ask myself - "Why am I so nervous?" I remind myself it is because a situation is new and uncomfortable. As Katie mentions, anxiety means we care. An example of a scenario could be a job interview. We feel anxious because we want the job and care about how the employer views us. To combat the fear of an interview, you can take steps to prepare, which could include researching the company, writing out questions ahead of time, having an outfit picked out the night before, and printing out extra copies of your resume.
When I have an important paper due or I am about to meet with a client for the first time, I like to think ahead of what good could come out of the situation. I will feel accomplished when I get an "A" on the paper, or if a client wants to rebook a session with me. However, in order to get to that point, I must overcome the fear of starting. In Hebert’s article, she writes, “Taking action is the ultimate form of stepping forward with strength into the void, into the uncertainty that is guarded by fear. If you’ve decided that the fear is toxic, say to yourself, 'I can do this.' And then do it. And reward yourself for your courage!” This resonated with me. I encourage anyone to reward themselves once they take that first big step - no matter how big or small it may be. That could include taking yourself out to dinner, carving out time for yourself in the evening to do something you really enjoy, or buying that new pair of shoes you’ve had your eyes on for a while. I want to note that it’s important to not make purchasing items the reward every time, but it could be for bigger milestones accomplished.
Fear is a normal human emotion. It can discourage us from chasing our goals, and cause feelings of discomfort and anxiousness that make us want to stay in our comfort zone. However, working through these feelings with a therapist can help navigate how to overcome fear and you can talk through steps that work for you to get through life’s challenging obstacles.