Pursue What Matters
Episode 225: Thrive by Facing Fears
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
You want to thrive, right? While most of us do, and I’ve got some good advice for you, if you want to thrive, you must face your fears. So I know this is totally paradoxical, but it’s true. Join me to learn more.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:16
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So we are learning all about curiosity this summer, it is such an important part of leadership. So I hope you’ve been following along, I hope you have found some tidbits that can be helpful for you. So in recent weeks, we have been talking about what I call the secure foundation. Okay, so what is the secure foundation, it’s really, you know, the components that you need for both self awareness and self leadership, which is really the foundation of curiosity, and of thriving in life. And so, in recent weeks, we’ve been talking about secure, and when it comes to secure foundation, you know, I like acronyms if you follow the podcast at all. And so secure foundation is an acronym. And recently we’ve been talking about the components of secure. So as a reminder, these are when we talk about secure, these are those non negotiables. So these are the basic things that you really need in place in order to be self aware, and to take good care of yourself. So these are non negotiables, they’re really required. And as a quick reminder, the acronym for secure so the components include spirituality, exercise, or balanced movement, creativity, unplugging, regularly, renewal, and then eating mindfully. And those are really the components of secure. And so now moving forward with starting with this episode. And then, of course, in the next several episodes, we’re going to be talking about the second part of that secure foundation, which is the acronym Foundation. And so when we think about foundation, I want you to think about these activities in terms of self reflection and self leadership. And so when you think about self leadership, it is all about the personal accountability that’s required to lead powerfully. So most of us know leaders who get in their own way, right, their personal issues, or, you know, their concerns that they’re not willing to address, really undermine their effectiveness. So they have this incredible potential, but their lack of self leadership really hampers their effectiveness. And of course, we don’t want this for you. And so when we think about this secure foundation, secure, again, is all about the self care activities. And then foundation is really geared towards self reflection, and self leadership. It’s hard to be aware of yourself if you never reflect or get curious about what’s happening. And so the key to keep in mind with this secure foundation is that you know, what is ultimately required is a willingness to do your own work. Boy, that is everything when it comes to life. But specifically for our purposes, when it comes to effective leadership, we undermine ourselves and our teams in such big ways. When we avoid our own work, when we avoid self awareness, I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard of leaders who who this happens to all the time and it doesn’t happen, it’s you know their choices. But we don’t want that to happen to you. And so it’s really important to to take ownership of your personal behavior and really driving driving yourself towards a purpose that is meaningful. And so I will start by sharing the components of a foundation which again, these are the components that really help you with self reflection and self leadership. So the first one is F which is face your fears. We’re going to talk about that one specifically today. Next we have oh which is own your story. That’s a really important one. Next is you which is to understand purpose, and is nurture relationships. Of course that’s really important to thriving. And then D is develop your strengths. That’s such an important Part of effective leadership in life. And then next we have a, which is to accept and appreciate help, right? Like no one, no one goes anywhere meaningfully on their own. And that’s a really important thing to keep in mind. And then next we have t, which is to trust yourself, we want you to develop trust in yourself, it’s so important when you’re under stress, or when you’re making big decisions, to know that you can rely on yourself. Next is AI, which is invest in growth, that that ensures that we are moving towards fulfilling potential. And then oh, is operate from abundance. So this is another really big area where I see so many leaders who operate from a scarcity mindset instead of an abundance mindset. And really, when we think about a scarcity mindset, it is fear, it is shrinking, it is hiding, it is avoiding. So of course, that’s going to impair our ability to succeed and to lead a successful organization, or team. And then the last component of foundation is n, which is to never give up. And boy, when it comes to life and facing challenges and leading, whether you’re an entrepreneur, or otherwise, persistence is so important. So this message to never give up is really so critical. And so today, you know, we’re going to really focus in on this first component of foundation, which is to face your fears. As a reminder, every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters, by strengthening your confidence to lead. We do that in three areas. So helping you to lead with clarity, helping you to lead with curiosity, and helping you to lead and build teams. And everything that we’re talking about in this series is really focused on helping you to lead with curiosity. So again, it’s all about self awareness, and self leadership, so that you get out of your own way. And really, that is often the biggest, the biggest obstacle for for many of us, and here’s what’s true, you may have other obstacles.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:19
But unless you’ve built a secure foundation for yourself, don’t even try to tackle those other obstacles, because you’ll be less effective with them. And so, you know, we’re the command is always to do your own work first, first, and always so, so when it comes to facing fears, this is what’s true. Your willingness to face your fears, will determine in large measure your success in life. I want to repeat that, again, it’s so important, your willingness to face fears, will determine in large measure your success in life. And so you can maybe just reflect on your own experience. And the times when you were scared, which, if you’re like most of us, that happens a fair amount. What did you do in the face of fear? Did you move forward? Or did you retreat? Okay, so we all have those crossroads when we’re scared when we don’t have the skills that we need, or we don’t know if our decision is correct. But the real difference between those who succeed and really develop their potential versus those who don’t, is that willingness to face fear. So what do you do at those crossroads of life. And so it’s really important to keep in mind that those who are successful, are not necessarily smarter, more gifted, or lucky. But they do have one common factor. And that is they’re willing to face their fears. That’s really important to keep in mind. Because when we’re sitting on the sidelines, it’s easy for us to tell ourselves stories, that the one we’re watching play the game, right, if we’re going with that metaphor, that they’re smarter, they’re more gifted, they’ve had more breaks. Now listen, all of those things may be true. But those aren’t the determining factors of success. It’s that willingness to face your fears. Plus, when you when you tell yourself stories like that, just consider how that leaves you feeling energetically, right? It certainly isn’t motivating for getting up off the sidelines and taking a chance at life. It keeps you stuck. It keeps you small, it keeps you scared. And so you know, it’s really important to remember that fear is a given in the world we live in. It’s not like fear is something that we tackle at a point in life. And then you know, it’s smooth sailing from there. Fear Fear will always be a part of life, to agree greater or lesser degree. And so life is full of uncertainty. And challenges will always be a part of how we live. And so if you construct your life, such that you’re trying to avoid anything that would make you uncomfortable, any sort of uncertainty, any sort of challenge, first of all, you’ll be unsuccessful, because fear uncertainty challenges will find you regardless of where you’re hiding, regardless of what you’re doing. But also, if you spend your time and energy on that, right, that it’s a recipe for mere survival rather than thriving. It’s a recipe for depression. It’s a recipe for anxiety, and we want you to be the actor in your life and not an observer. And so a big part of that, of course, is facing fears. So one of my favorite quotes, this will tell you a lot about me. But when I came across this quote, I was just like a man, I loved it so much. It has such application to this topic today. So it comes to us from Winston Churchill, who I really have a great deal of respect for. And he had a lot of words to say, right? Like he had a lot of eloquence. This might not be considered one of his most eloquent quotes, but boy, I think it’s one that we can absolutely relate to, which is, he said, Life is one damn thing after another. And isn’t that true? Sometimes I think Truer words have never been spoken. So the point here is that the sooner we can make peace with this reality, right, that life is just one damn thing after another like, it’s challenging, there will be stressors, you will be asked to face uncertainty, then the sooner we can get on to the work of life. So we stop ruminating about why are we in this situation? And why? Why do I have to face these challenges, and we just get to work. And of course, Winston Churchill was an amazing example of this he faced. And, of course, the people of Great Britain faced incredible challenges under his leadership, and it did them no good to just sit and whine about it. Too many of us spend our time and energy trying to avoid those things we fear, rather than learning to face our challenges head on.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:31
So my recommendation to you is to learn to take life and your fears head on, because that is the process for growing confidence. That’s the process for growing skills. And that is the process for growing a belief in your ability to do hard things. The only way passed is through right there aren’t any shortcuts. When it comes to learning and growth, and developing resilience. And trust in your capabilities. There really are no shortcuts. And really, the best way to do that is by facing those fears head on. And so, you know, the goal is not to rid ourselves of challenges or fears as if right, that’s not even possible. But it is important for you to, you know, my invitation for you now is to just self reflect, to get curious. And to ask yourself this question. How do you respond in the face of fear? You know, I think we have maybe we all have experiences where we can look at different times in our lives. And we can say, You know what, like, I’m really proud of myself and the way that I face that fear. And we probably all have examples of times when we kind of feel squeamish in looking at our response that gosh, like I hid I shrunk, I pretended and so you know, no shame in that. That’s it’s a learning process for all of us. But I want you to consider how your belief about your ability to face fears will make a huge difference in your success in life. So do you believe you are capable? Or do you believe you’re not capable of doing hard things? Those who trend toward anxiety tend to panic in the face of fear. They might believe that they’re incapable of doing hard things that they can’t cope. That’s a big one if you struggle with anxiety, and that they can’t face the challenges before them that it’s just too hard. Now this can happen if you’ve been coddled, this can happen if you’ve had parents that have bulldoze the way for you. Or it can happen if in the face of failure. You were shamed for that whether by others or by yourself. But just because you know, you, you had an experience that was maybe shaming or, or critical from others or yourself, doesn’t mean it’s true, it doesn’t mean that you’re not capable, it doesn’t mean that you can’t face fears, it just means that that shame, and that criticism wasn’t helpful. And of course, when it comes to an anxious temperament, when we avoid those things that, that, that create fear for us, this can result in incapacitating anxiety, and panic attacks. So what we avoid strengthens, it gets bigger. And so we want to be really, really careful about that. It’s one of the concerns I have with the way we have coddling of children these days is that, you know, there’s well intentioned parents who want to protect their kiddos, but they end up coddling them and protecting them from the very experiences that will help them to develop competence and capability and resilience. And that’s because by avoiding things that are challenging, we shrink in our capabilities. So the act of avoiding fear or avoiding challenges, that trigger fear actually serves to reinforce, reinforce or increase the anxiety that we’re experiencing. And it is a it is a guarantee that the next time you face the same, or a similar challenge, your anxiety will be even more intense than it was the first time.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:36
Okay, this is not a good equation. We don’t, we don’t want this, we definitely don’t want to sign up for more anxiety. And so there is a lovely self help book that came out several years ago, I’m just really enamored with the title of it, because it’s such helpful advice, which is fill the fear and do it anyway. And this really is the best advice when it comes to fear and anxiety. So what you avoid gets bigger. So if you have a fear and you avoid it, you’re setting yourself up for a bigger monster, and intensification of that fear over time. And so it’s always important to acknowledge your fear, to comfort yourself to you know, get support, but then you must face it, you must do the thing you dread in order to shrink that anxiety. So, of course, a perfect example of this, maybe you’re familiar with it, maybe you’re not. But in the world of therapy is a treatment approach known as exposure therapy. So this is part of behavioral therapy, sometimes you’ll see this as part of cognitive behavioral therapy. But with exposure therapy, you are exposing yourself to the feared stimulus. So maybe it’s spiders, maybe it’s elevators, you don’t you don’t avoid those things. In fact, you set up, you set up interventions, where you’re facing them, and you learn that you can cope, even in the face of that fear. And it’s not that the fear goes away initially, especially it doesn’t, you can have a big fear response. But one of the there are many things that you can learn with facing your fears, and specifically exposure therapy is you learn that the fear doesn’t have to take you down, that you can still breathe through that fear you can get through that feared experience. And that helps to shrink the fear. So the next time you can say, Okay, I didn’t like that that wasn’t pleasant, but I know I can do it. And so it is in the process of facing your fears, that you develop the skills and the strength to overcome that fear. So we grow by facing our fears, there’s no other way. It’s like exercising a muscle, the muscle becomes stronger through the breakdown of the muscle tissue. It isn’t always a pleasant process. And yet it is the process of growth and development. So with this, you learn that you are capable and that you are stronger than the fear and that you are more resilient than your anxiety or your panic if you never face your fear. You never learn this essential truth. So in a very real way we grow confidence and resilience as a function of facing our fears. So the next time you find yourself trying to decide whether you’re going to face your fear or shrink, I want you to tell yourself, remind yourself that if I face this fear, I can be assured that I’m going to be more confident and resilient on the other side. So again, the only way passed is through the alternative to facing our fears is too costly. So again, of course our anxiety increases when reality is avoided. Are anxiety continues to intensify over time such that it continues to intrude on more aspects of daily functioning. It’s also important to note that whether you respond to fear with an anxious response, or a depressive response, so think in terms of externalizing, or internalizing responses, we covered this several weeks ago on the podcast. But the constant in both of these responses is emotional avoidance, or numbing. So this is not a good path, and it only leads to more suffering. So you don’t have to face your fears alone, you were never designed to do it alone. This is this is one of the magical things about humans, we are built, right? Literally, we’re built for connection. And so while it’s so important to face your fears, no one says you have to face those alone. In fact, we don’t want you to, it’s essential to have great support in facing your fears. And, you know, we want you to have the self-awareness to see clearly what is happening and where you may be avoiding your reality. And so this is one of the gifts of self-awareness is you develop a bird’s eye view of your life, you develop some perspective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 21:13
So rather than just like continuing to hit up against your fear and your avoidance, you start to see the patterns you start to see, okay, what are what are the types of things that really kick up my fear and leave me, you know, running for cover. And that can help you to skill up to be proactive, so that you can manage, manage that fear and that avoidance response, without giving in. So of course, we want you to reach out for support. And depending on the nature of your fears, this is where an excellent therapist or leadership coach can be really invaluable in helping you not only identify your patterns but also help you to really tackle that fear head-on. Again, you don’t need to do it alone, we don’t want you to do that alone. And so head on over to my website to check out the show notes with the resources for this episode. That’s at www.dr Melissa smith.com, forward slash, two to five dash facing fears. And again, we talked about today, the secure foundation, we’re moving into Foundation, which is all about self-awareness and self-leadership. We also talked about the fact that the presence of fear is not what matters, right? That’s a given in life. But your response to fear really means everything it makes all the difference. And again, we also talked about how your willingness to face fears will determine in large measure your success in life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:54
And so I hope this podcast has been helpful for you. If it has, I’d love for you to give me a review on five star review on Apple or Spotify. It helps more people find the podcast. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram at Dr. Dot Melissa Smith. I always have more resources tied to the podcast there every single day. So in the meantime, again, check out the show notes at www.drmelissasmith.com/225-facingfears. I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care
Transcribed by https://otter.ai