Personal Growth comes only when we stretch, explore and challenge our own personal status quo. Many of us do not realize how much time we spend AVOIDING options or choices to grow, as avoidance can become a habit as it is often the result backing down from fear, which in turn leads to a feeling of weakness and self-doubt, leading to more avoidance.
Some may just be lucky that they are either “wired” for success or grew up in an atmosphere that nurtured the idea of taking risks to grow and not be as vulnerable to the fears of failure, rejection, ridicule or embarrassment. But then, there ate others whose early years were so fraught with challenges that they used all their mental energy to escape being ever again so vulnerable to fear. Don’t we marvel at the person who, against all odds, comes through life so motivated to take on challenges and build empires ? In some ways, these individuals were forced by the dark side of life, and some of the darker people they came up against to see evidence that they could persevere, that they were witness to the fact that what they did to survive demonstrated an inner strength. That inner strength created a momentum that was hard to stop, as they were not ruled by fear.
Then there are the rest of us mere mortals, good people all in all, from loving families, maybe somewhat over-protected and under-challenged. We may not be Supermen or Wonder-Women but we CAN ACHIEVE GREAT THINGS if we can escape our fearful thoughts, which although often meant to protect, most frequently detour many of our efforts to grow outside what is comfortable, leaving us comfortably-uncomfortable.
So how do we achieve great things when up against our fearful thoughts, and the self-doubt ?
First, we might recognize that many of the anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors we experience might just be a reaction to feeling trapped in our so-called comfortable lives. When we give into our fears and avoid, we feel a sense of inner weakness, a feeling of not quite being in control of our lives. Could that feeling possibly trigger an anxiety reaction, which then in itself creates more of a sense of being out of control, just maybe ? But once truly recognized and with a carefully laid out plan, we can step by step, with a support team around us, begin to challenge our fears.
The following are comments from a client who has experienced significant anxiety in the form of Obsessive- Compulsive symptoms but has begun to seriously explore why he was having these anxiety symptoms that all but paralyzed him in his life. He asked that I share what he has experienced as he talks himself through his fearful and sabotaging thoughts :
” I hate this job ! I think this is a euphemism for I hate myself for being in this job.
Whoa, let’s look at reality ! I am disappointed that I am not doing more to change my situation, but that is no reason to hate myself. Besides, I am now taking steps. They might not seem like much, but they are steps. I am taking a class this Fall to give myself a bit of a challenge and get my feet wet. I am starting to read a Calculus textbook to refresh myself. I am making plans to contact a past college professor, to see if he has any suggestions on how I can achieve my new goal of teaching at the college level.
I am the one who is living my life. If I am not happy then I should do whatever I can to make myself happy. If others do not approve, are skeptical or negative about what I want to do to make myself happy, then I need to realize that while I am sorry they feel that way, it is my life, my happiness that I need to pursue, not theirs. So they can either help or get out of my way. If they cannot be supportive, I must go around them as they are symbols of the fears and negative thoughts that I have allowed to hold me back.
I am intelligent. I am capable. I care about people. I can do this !!! ”
It is hard work, but aren’t you worth the effort to do more of what you are capable of doing with your life ? The more you avoid, the more conflict you feel within yourself, the angrier or more frustrated you become. You need reasonable goals with reasonable steps, and then allow each step to motivate you to the next move.
Gene Benedetto, Psychologist
Benhaven Counseling, LLC