I’m sitting on the couch in my living room. The windows are open, the sun is streaming in, I can hear the city traffic go by and the birds chirping. I know it is a beautiful day out. “I could go for a run,” I think. “Or I could sit here, where it is safe.” I choose the latter and feel guilty until the sun goes down and it is dark.
This is the first time I’m admitting this fear… to myself and to everyone else. I don’t know when these feelings started creeping up in my life and I don’t know why. What I do know is that almost every time I think of going outside, a wave of anxiety hits me. Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is large. I hesitate and think of a variety of reasons not to go outside.
“You don’t know what’s out there.”
“It’s too much effort.”
“It’s safer in here.”
Agoraphobia is defined as “an anxiety disorder characterized by anxiety in situations where the sufferer perceives certain environments as dangerous or uncomfortable, often due to the environment’s vast openness or crowdedness” (Wikipedia). Maybe this is what I have. I’m not sure. Everyone feels anxious at certain points in their life. If you recognize that your anxiety has become more severe or has begun to impede certain actions, then it is time to speak with a doctor.
A lot of people I talk to speak about a fear of trying something new or “starting out.” It may be going to a new gym, starting a new activity, going to a new place… Because they are new, all of these possible actions bring up a variety of uncertainties. Seth Godin often talks about The Lizzard Brain or The Resistance – the cause of most irrational human behaviour and compromise. Seth says that “the resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise.” I take comfort in knowing that everyone has some form of fear to deal with; that I’m not the only one. The people who are out running races, climbing mountains, and embarking on new adventures all have their own fears too.
But how do they deal with theirs and how do I learn from them so I can deal with mine?
In her TED Talk, Karen Thompson Walker suggests I think about what my fear means to me. She says, “Our fears focus our attention on a question that is as important in life as it is in literature: What will happen next?” This actually sounds terrifying. I mean, isn’t thinking about the all possibilities exactly the idea that is weighing me down? But it may actually be my avoidance of these fears that prevents me from breaking them down. Many sports psychologists suggest athletes embrace fear and use it as a way to fuel their adrenaline. In the book Great By Choice, Jim Collins suggests using fears to develop a plan for “what if?”
Based on this, other readings, and my own experiences, I’ve come up with a plan for embracing and confronting my fear of going outside:
- Acknowledge my feelings without judgement. I use the mediation app Headspace to help me do this.
- Break it down in to steps and focus on the first step. So, if I’m going running, I focus on putting on my running clothes and nothing else.
- Put on a great, pump-up playlist… like this one.
- Follow some blogs filled with motivational photos, like Vega’s #BestLifeProject – I suggest you pick a number, like 5 motivation photos, and then get moving right after.
- Join a community of like-minded individuals. Matt recently wrote about joining a running crew.
- Focus on something you love. Tara Sophia Mohr states that love and fear cannot coexist.
- Work through the fear like a story, as Karen Thompson suggests.
Wow, I already feel better admitting this fear to myself and to you. Hopefully this posts helps motivate you in some way. I know it has motivated me. I also know that if my fears and anxiety become to overwhelming, I’ll reach out to a mental-health professional. If that is your case, help is out there. Here is a good list of helplines worldwide.
Let me know how you’re dealing with fear, watch Karen Thompson Walker’s TED Talk and Seth Godin’s speech about the Lizzard Brain below, then make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and never miss an update.