By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
Fear is my BFF. No really. This statement may feel confusing, but you totally can learn how to befriend fear. Many spend much of their lives trying to avoid fear and discomfort-which only causes to keep them ‘playing small’ and feeling trapped.
So why do we feel afraid? If someone was truly fearless it would actually be dangerous. They might walk in the middle of traffic or stick their hand onto a hot stovetop.
Fear shows up as an alarm signal-which actually is trying to protect us and it does protect us from certain things.
The challenge is when the fear signal goes off for things that aren’t actually dangerous (helllllo anxiety disorders, eating disorders etc) i.e. public speaking, food, or a social gathering. Even if your mind is telling you that what you are afraid of could be potentially dangerous (for example: flying on a plane) typically the level of fear is out of proportion to the actual risk involved.
When you struggle with an anxiety disorder or an eating disorder-your mind tends to catastrophize and go to the ‘worst case scenario.’ It does this in an effort to try to keep you stuck-but you don’t have to buy into it.
How to Befriend Fear
My life used to be really small. Growing up with generalized anxiety disorder (and eventually an eating disorder) there were periods where fear completely crippled me.
When Fear Dominated My Life
I had to learn how to befriend fear-to recognize that my thoughts were just thoughts (not facts!) but the biggest lesson was learning how to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway.’
I used to think that I’d have to wait until I felt less afraid in order to do the hard and scary things-but that day never came.
Instead, I learned how to gradually face the things that I was afraid of (starting with the lower level things on my anxiety hierarchy and then working my way up), with the support of a therapist and my entire life changed.
Things I Initially Felt Fear About Which I Did Anyway
**in chronological order but some of these are many years apart.
The thing is that the ‘doing it’ is what eventually took the fear away.
The girl who was petrified of doing an internship interview or asking a teacher for a recommendation letter-went on to pitch Arianna Huffington, open her own individual and then group therapy practice, and did a bunch of public speaking and media interviews on TV.
What could you do if you made friends with fear?
The Bottom Line
Instead of trying to push fear away-what if you mindfully welcomed it. What if instead of saying ‘I hate you’ and ‘I want to get rid of you’ you thanked your fear for trying to protect you-and decided to act in alignment with your true values anyway?
I’m not saying that it’s easy (some days it might feel impossible)-but like an unruly house guest who keeps coming back no matter what you do, trying to push fear way will not work. Instead, invite fear in. Get to know it. Sit down with it.
The aim is not to ‘be fearless’ it’s to gradually challenge yourself to do the things that you truly want to do-despite feeling afraid.
Some of the things I was initially terrified of-I did shaking or crying (i.e. eating certain fear foods, driving by myself for the first time after a year etc)-but each time I grew strength and confidence that I didn’t have before.
Now-I welcome fear as a signal that I’m growing.
Think of a fear that you know you need to face. What would be one small step you can take today towards befriending that fear. Now, go do it! You’ve got this.
Are you ready to find freedom?
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The Eating Disorder Center is a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center founded by Jennifer Rollin. We specialize in helping teens and adults struggling with anorexia, binge eating disorder, bulimia, OSFED, and body image issues. We provide eating disorder therapy in Rockville, MD, easily accessible to individuals in Potomac, North Potomac, Bethesda, Olney, Silver Spring, Germantown, and Washington D.C. We also offer eating disorder therapy virtually throughout California serving those in cities including Palo Alto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills, San Jose, and Beverly Hills. We provide eating disorder recovery coaching via Zoom to people worldwide. Connect with us through our website at www.theeatingdisordercenter.com
The Eating Disorder Center
We are a premier outpatient eating disorder therapy center in Rockville, Maryland.