If we want to keep growing or learning – which we MUST do if we want things to be in any way different to how they are for us currently – we need to learn how to handle the nerves and anxiousness that sometimes accompany new actions and behaviours. It’s entirely natural to feel this way to a certain extent when we’re faced with something unfamiliar.
Nerves and anxiousness are basically fear on a certain level. And underlying all fear (whether mild or severe) is the concern that we will be unable to handle whatever it is that we are afraid of when we consider doing something new.
Fear can be so debilitating that people often choose either consciously or unconsciously to stay stuck, rather than learning how to handle the fear. This of course then confirms their feelings of inadequacy as their inability to “step-up” becomes self-fulfilling.
Fear is a natural human instinct. It’s what’s kept us alive throughout our history as we’ve strived to keep ourselves safe. But now, whilst many of us face no tangible threats, we still feel its effects in our everyday life and allow it to limit our options. Yet how do some people manage to overcome fear to grow and expand while others don’t? Are they somehow better equipped or do they not feel fear as much?
Everyone feels fear, it’s universal. The difference is that some people choose to act in spite of it.
Here’s a simple and easy to apply strategy to use when you’re facing a situation that makes you feel nervous or anxious. It will enable you to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.
1/ Focus on the outcome – what do you want to achieve and why do you want to achieve it?
Rather than catastrophising about all that could possibly go wrong if you take a new action, think about the bigger picture of WHY you want to do this new thing. Think of all the POSITIVE reasons you are choosing to do the new or anxiousness-inducing behaviour. I’m not talking about what you’ll avoid by doing it (STICK) I’m talking about CARROT! Give yourself something positive to move towards and look forward to.
Think of all that you’ll gain by doing the new behaviour or action. Think of what this might mean for you now and if you build on it in the future.
For example, if you have a fear of public speaking, think about the positive reasons you have for making that speech. Is it that you have something you are empassioned to say? Or do you need to honour someone? If it’s a professional speech – what is your reason for giving it? … and is it a compelling enough one? If you give the speech, what opportunities might it create – both immediately and in the future?
2/ Tune into your empowering beliefs
This will help boost your confidence.
You might feel very nervous at the thought of going to a networking function. Many people do. Instead of dwelling on how nervous you are, you can better prepare yourself mentally by focusing on your belief that “when people meet me for the first time they usually seem to like me”. Or, “many people might feel similar to me (it’s really common to feel nervous in these situations) so we’re all in this together.” Or simply “Even though it’s hard, I can do this.”
Write a big list of empowering beliefs you have about yourself and your abilities and refer to them often. I’m not talking about affirmations (something you really want to be true, but you may not actually believe) I’m talking about something you already believe to be true.
3/ Talk to others to boost you…
…but choose wisely. Anyone you choose to be on your support crew must:
- have a positive intention for you and wants to see you succeed
- be able to say what needs to be said
- be supportive, caring and non-judgmental about the new behaviour or action
Important note: Bear in mind that any advice they offer will be from their own (potentially uninformed) perspective. As with all opinion, their perspective will be influenced by their way of perceiving the world – including their own fears and doubts, and therefore what they impart may or may not be useful or relevant to you or your current situation.
4/ Create order, do your preparation
Anxiousness thrives in chaos and overwhelm so create calm by being organised and prepared, being mindful of the big picture outcome you’re working towards.
An appropriate amount of preparation will depend on the situation. As a general rule:
- allocate time to prepare
- think about who you need to BE and what you need to DO to give yourself the best chance of creating your desired outcome
- dress and groom yourself appropriately to influence the outcome positively for you
- makes notes, prepare your speech, rehearse, jot down important points ahead of time – whatever is relevant for the situation in order to “Bring your A Game”.
5/ In the words of NIKE – Just Do It
Think about what it is that you’re facing, prepare adequately and then act decisively.
6/ Give yourself internal pep talks
Talk to yourself encouragingly and kindly, as you would a close friend. Reassure yourself and give yourself compliments.
7/ Be mindful that you can only do so much to influence the outcome
You can lead yourself toward the outcome but other variables might also influence your ability to achieve it. Get comfortable with this concept, it’s immensely liberating.