Fear and self-doubt are often called negative emotions, but are they? I mean no disrespect to Brian Tracy, who has shared unique insights from stages worldwide. Still, his quote above, “Fear and self-doubt have always been the greatest enemies of human potential,” considers only a portion of human potential. Fear and self-doubt can and do add value.
Full disclosure, I don’t believe there is value in labeling emotions as positive or negative (but more about that in a future article.) I think any emotion can prevent, as readily as promote, an action, a thought, or another emotion. Fear and self-doubt, in some instances, protect us from danger and even stupidity. Fear rises in intensity with risks like driving too fast or walking along the top ledge of a 10-story building. (Some memories from college never fade. 😉 ) If we reframe our approach to fear and self-doubt, these emotions can create friendly warnings and provide guiding information to us.
Yet, I believe fear and self-doubt have stopped many of us from finding or achieving or creating significant value in our lives, careers, and businesses.
When we feel threatened, the brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Any emotion we deem as “negative” becomes unattractive and something to be avoided–an enemy to potential responses. I see myself as vulnerable and put up my defenses. I miss opportunities. I don’t use my strengths. I don’t move forward. Fear and self-doubt become my enemies because of my own doing–labeling an emotion that might not feel good as negative. I think this is often the exact opposite of what we want.
What if we don’t do battle with fear and self-doubt?
We have alternatives. Each of us can reframe our meanings around feelings. For instance, I used to feel a great deal of anxiety before speaking in front of an audience. Even one person could generate enough fear and self-doubt to prevent me from showing up in the way I wanted. Instead of trying to repress that anxiety, I learned to reframe it. I recognized that I was the one who was labeling the emotion. So, I realized that I could also re-label it.
Anxiety is just excitement without breath.
Using the example of anxiety… When you learn to reframe and then breathe through anxiety, you can actually get an adrenaline rush (feel excited). Think about a roller coaster. I used to avoid these rides like the plague.
Why? I would hold my breath through the ups and downs. By trying to avoid my fear, I made myself more vulnerable to it. Once in the car that whipped me through twisting, turning curves, I was in no place to fight or flee, so I was only left with freeze. I would hold my breath almost the entire ride. Do you use this trick? If you hold your breath during stress or for any length of time, you’re almost sure to feel your stomach churn. You can cause yourself to become nauseous and blame it on the ride.
But, if you breathe or scream, you allow oxygen to get to your brain, and then your muscles relax, which makes the ride so much more enjoyable. Reframing the emotional sensation that I labeled anxiety allowed me to adjust my response, turning fear and anxiety into excitement.
When we frame our emotions and label them as good or bad, we limit our responses to them. So, one label holds me back while another draws me in. And, I get to choose!!
Desire causes fear and self-doubt
So, how does this apply to fear and self-doubt?
In situations where fear and self-doubt keep us from danger, it adds value, yet those are usually few and far between. More often, fear and self-doubt diminish or destroy the value we are trying to create by keeping us from taking action that might bring us what we desire.
Think about it… when my heart is attracted to something or someone, energy wells up inside me. I see someone across the room that I’d really like to meet and emotions stir. My heart wants to move toward what I want (even if I feel fear and self-doubt.)
Now, think of a different situation. I see someone across the room and barely notice the person. There is no attraction or desire. I don’t feel interested, so I don’t feel the energy, right? My heart isn’t interested enough to energize my brain and cause me to be pulled in that direction. And, I also don’t feel any fear and self-doubt!
The desire for something or someone contributes to the energy created in you, and you feel something physiologically. You get to choose how you interpret that feeling. You get to choose if fear and self-doubt derail your desire and carry it off on an anxiety-filled rollercoaster ride or if you use it as a compass that points you in the direction of your dreams, goals, and ideals.
What would that look like?
So, when a goal causes you to be filled with self-doubt, fear, maybe a little trepidation, I want you to know that your heart is trying to tell you something. It’s telling you that what you want is just on the other side. It’s on the other side of those emotions (that aren’t positive or negative). Emotion is just Energy in motion within you. So rather than make a left or right and try to avoid it… rather than looking for ways to climb over it or burrow under it… let’s go through it… let’s feel it and move forward.
Let’s work our way through it because, well, do you know what the “IT” really is? It’s just a thought that caused an emotion, a feeling, and created some energy. You can use that emotion, that energy, to hold you back from your goal, or you can allow it to propel you toward it.
Stop using Fear & Self-Doubt as an Excuse to Procrastinate
Remember, what we resist persists. So, let’s stop resisting fear and self-doubt. Let’s stop letting it keep us stuck.
Let’s use fear and self-doubt for what it is… a beacon that is directing us TOWARD our heart’s desires. It just might be the way you can shrink that mountain of self-doubt and fear into the stepping stones that take you where you’ve always wanted to go… to that place where you make a difference and change a life… maybe even your own.