Modern Day Ghosts
Yesterday was Halloween, and even if you didn’t celebrate with candy corn and spooky costumes, we know that the general idea behind the scary holiday (at least for adults) is to make us hide behind the sofa or pee our pants in fright. All Hallows Eve actually began as a Celtic tradition of lighting bonfires to ward off evil ghosts as the nights became longer. They wanted to bring confidence into the darkness, and light was an excellent start.
This got me thinking – what are our modern-day ghosts and how do we ward them off? The truth is, the ghosts that strike fear in most of us these days don’t float around in white flowy sheets making scary noises. Instead they are more subtle and much more intimate – choosing to take up residence directly in our thoughts.
Do any of these sound spookily familiar?
I’m not enough.
I feel like a fake/phony.
I’m afraid of dying or being alone.
Or maybe they are disguised under some more situation-specific thoughts:
My family doesn’t appreciate me.
I will never find a someone who loves me as I am.
I feel like no one really knows who I am on the inside.
However these fears show up for you individually, they don’t have to hold you back from moving confidently in your life. Even if you’ve felt a pattern of helplessness under the weight of these thoughts, that is past. Avoidance of past fears breeds habituation – meaning that the more we avoid something, the more our minds cement the idea that it NEEDS to be avoided. So let’s see how we can approach them starting from the present moment.
In moving forward, there are three confidence steps you can take to un-mask fear and give it a swift kick out the door. Like most things, confidence is a muscle that must be worked out and flexed. If you’ve flexed the fear and anxiety muscle for a long time, it’s time to re-calibrate. 🙂
Ditching Fear for Confidence:
If you’re ready to face your fears, you’ve already won half the battle. We at Explore Truth call this the 51% Rule. This is when the scale tips and the pain of remaining in the current situation becomes greater than the pain of change. Your desire has just brought you over the halfway mark and into the transformation zone. Hell yes! This is the birthplace of change.
Now that you’re ready and open, there are three steps to explore:
As simple as this sounds, awareness of our fears is not always so easy. Sometimes they are ferocious and snarling, and other times they can be incredibly stealthy. Becoming conscious that fear is present is the first step.
One excellent technique is to pause, close your eyes, and take 5 deep breaths. Breathing is a short-circuit-override to prevent an Amygdala Hijack: the phenomenon where the ‘fight or flight’ response takes over and shuts down the logical part of your brain. (Stay tuned for more on this fascinating phenomenon!) Breathing helps brings your cognitive brain back online, and stops the runaway feeling. While you’re breathing, take inventory of your body and your mind: see how fear is showing up for you in this moment.
As crazy as it sounds, simply NOTICING that you are experiencing fear or anxiety is a huge leap!
Ok, you see the fear. Now what? The next thing to do is identify and label the thoughts behind the fear. The reason this is important is because fear thrives on avoidance and ambiguity. The more in a fog you are, the more power fear has over keeping you frozen in place.
The ‘why?’ test can be helpful here…and it’s super simple. Start with the question: Why am I feeling this way? For every answer you give after that, keep asking Why? until you can’t ask anymore. (*note: if there’s someone you trust, this exercise can also be done with a partner asking the questions.) This exercise will get you to the root thought that’s stirring up all the trouble.
The only way to go is THROUGH fear, and exposure is the best cure. You’ve now got that painful thought out in the light of day. No more lurking in the shadows – you’ve dragged him out into the spotlight. Now the inquisition really begins. Here are a few questions to ask:
Is it true? :
Can I really say that this is 100% true? This is where your inner-sceptic comes in handy. Our mind has convinced us that this thought is true, and it’s found all sorts of evidence to support it as fact. If you are truly sceptical, you will also look for evidence to disprove this thought. Gather all the evidence you can to get a wholistic view – and be sure to be as vigorous in your search for disproving the thought as you’ve been for finding evidence that it’s true. What do you want more, to have been right or to be free? (That’s a doozie, isn’t it?) (To dig deeper into Byron Katie’s work, click here)
What is the worst that can happen? :
Here’s another question that is super helpful when you have a concrete ‘fear of action’ scenario at hand. What’s really the worst thing that could happen as a consequence of taking the action of which you’re afraid? This is where ambiguity gets called out, because often when we compare the ‘worst case’ to the possible benefits of the action, it’s a no-brainer.
What would you do now if fear wasn’t an issue? :
This is an empowerment question. It can be a great piggy-back on the last question – flip the perspective and look at how amazing it could be to take control. Then, like Nike says, just do it. Suddenly you feel empowered! You’ve just conquered a giant that has been growing to massive proportions in your subconscious.
*Note: For the fears and triggers you see recurring again and again in your life – it can be helpful to explore these together with a coach if the process above seems overwhelming. These cycles tend to be more deeply ingrained with roots spreading into multiple areas of life. In these cases, it is beneficial to work methodically, explore the blind spots, and dismantle the fear with support in a safe environment.
Fearful of Fear…really?
It turns out that, more often than not, we’re actually afraid of fear itself, not the actual event our outcome. Crazy, right? Our brains can make the idea of fear so strong that we forget whats really in front of us, and just want to avoid that fearful and anxious feeling. This is one reason why these steps are so powerful, because they expose the reality behind our anxiety.
As the steps above become more natural, the masks that fear wears becomes more and more transparent. We see behind the thoughts that spring into our minds, and at some point we can actually laugh out loud when we see how silly some old fears of ours are. Anxiety takes a back seat as we see our fearful thoughts for exactly what they are…thoughts! And this is where confidence roots itself and grows strong – in lightness and clarity, and in removing the masks to see what is real and true.
I’m a confidence coach. This is what I’m most passionate about – helping people find their inner-alignment to stand boldly and confidently even in the midst of the craziest storms. If you have questions – reach out! If you need support – find it! Don’t sit another minute in thinking that it has to be this way. If I’m wrong, you can easily go back to feeling stuck. But if I’m right – oooooh the possibilities.