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Stop Scaring Yourself

What if fear is just a habit of scaring yourself?

Fear feels real. Like really, really real. I feel fear in the pit of my stomach before speaking in public. I often hold my breath while doom-scrolling through the daily news. My body freezes right before plunging down a steep, rocky section on my mountain bike.

photo from Unsplash by Rick Rogers

Up until very recently, I was convinced that I had a real fear of sharing. No, not like sharing my cute cardigan with a friend or a stick of butter with the neighbor. I had a fear of sharing my writing and my coaching work on social media. I got coached around my fear. I managed my fear. I thought about this particular fear, a lot.

Then, I had a moment a few weeks ago when I realized that I didn’t have a real thing called “FEAR OF SHARING”. I had simply developed a habit of scaring myself into the feeling of fear after I posted anything on social media.

Here is the moment I saw it:

I had written a blog article. I was in the flow, feeling inspired and lit up by the words that were flowing through me. I felt connected, sourced, and confident about my article. I edited and revised. Read it over a dozen times. Checked in with myself -- Yup, still no fear. Feeling good, feeling settled. I can do this!

I logged into my social media account, wrote a little witty something, and hit SHARE. Phew! I thought. OK, that wasn't so bad.

I stood from my desk and wandered to the kitchen to brew some Bengal Spice tea. Out of nowhere, the thought screamed into my awareness, Oh no, what will so-and-so think about my article? I felt a sharp sensation in my chest.

Another thought hurtled in right behind it, Hmmm, maybe I should have deleted that one God-bit?

And another: Uh oh, was that post too wooey-wooey?

Then, came the knock-out punch of a thought, Man, I suck at sharing.

I paused and noticed. I was doing it again. I was scaring myself.

I relaxed. And, simply stopped giving those thoughts my attention. Immediately, I felt the settled feeling return to my body. The sense of accomplishment from writing my weekly blog article had returned.

Intellectually, I knew that social media was not the cause of my fear. I knew that my fear was made of thought, but until that moment I had not realized that I was the one doing the scaring. Of course, I was not doing it on purpose. It was innocent.

We all do this. We believe in our scary thinking about an external circumstance. Then we blame the external circumstance. I hate Facebook! Instagram is such a time suck! I miss my flip phone!

Although it is fun to blame FB, it wasn't social media’s fault. It wasn’t the act of sharing my writing that was causing my fear.

It was me!

I had quietly and innocently cultivated a thing called "FEAR OF SHARING" from what really was just a tangled web of scary thoughts. I had been breathing life into these insecure and doubtful thoughts after I shared something publicly, believing that they were true.

Mostly, we express this terrified feeling as a "fear of" the object, situation, or circumstance. This is reflected in our language. We say we have a “fear of spiders”, a “fear of public speaking”, or a “fear of flowers” (this is a real thing! It's called Anthophobia). However, a more accurate way to describe the “fear of” something is more like, “I often scare myself around the topic of…”.

Fear looks like it is caused by the thing outside of us. But it is really us. Now, this might sound like bad news. This is actually excellent news!

When we see fear for what it really is -- a habitual pattern of frightening ourselves with thought -- we can begin to loosen the grip fear has on us. It is not an invitation for blaming ourselves. We are not creating this fear on purpose. It's simply through an innocent misunderstanding of how our experience is created. The more we can notice our self-involvement in the process, in a compassionate way, the more freedom we can have around our fear.

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