When new coaching clients sign up for a discovery session with me, one of the three words they use most often is confidence. If you asked them what they mean by confidence, you’d hear several different definitions. They might tell you that they want to:

  1. Trust themselves to do their best to create a work-life they love, no matter what obstacles life throws their way;
  2. Appreciate their gifts, strengths, skills, and abilities;
  3. Be certain they’re choosing the right path; and/or
  4. Get rid of their fear and doubt.

Perhaps you find yourself longing for this sense of confidence, too.

I’ve found that numbers one and two are attainable—you can absolutely learn how to build self-trust, resiliency, and self-appreciation. However, numbers three and four are trickier.

When you’re facing a big decision with big implications, you are apt to feel afraid, no matter what you do.

Even if you do everything possible to prepare for what’s next and all signs point to go, you still cannot be certain of what awaits you on the other side of the gate. It is impossible to know if you’re choosing the right path (as if there was one path in the first place).

Not knowing what comes next is scary. It just is.

When you’re standing at a gate, it is normal to fear any (or all) of the following:

  1. Not being able to pay the bills
  2. Losing the security of your current work
  3. Not having time for your family or yourself if you are successful in your work
  4. No longer feeling like you belong in a community that is important to you
  5. Being an imposter, a fraud, not knowing enough
  6. Giving your all and failing publicly
  7. Repeating the mistakes your parents made
  8. Regretting choosing one path and not another
  9. Closing doors that you may never be able to open again
  10. Letting go of something important to you
  11. Disappointing people you care about
  12. Having to make other painful changes to pursue the work-life you long for

Again, sound familiar?

If so, I have good news for you:

Fear itself is not the problem.

Fear is a normal physiological response to the unknown, a sign that you’re on the edge of something new. When you have a calling, fear does not mean you’re on the wrong path. Rather, fear is often a sign that you’re moving in the right direction.

A calling to journey into the unknown will ask you to let go of your attachments to strategies and stories that no longer serve you, reclaim parts of you who’ve been in the shadows, and become more authentically yourself than you’ve ever been before. That can be quite scary.

Unfortunately, in Western culture, we’re socialized with the myth that the only thing to fear is fear itself. The myth that somehow, we should be “fearless.”

The problem arises when we react to fear in ways that do not serve us.

These include (but certainly are not limited to):

  1. Fighting against the fear – rejecting the parts of you who are afraid, telling them they’re weak or not brave enough. Or fighting other people, railing against life itself, or getting mired in complaints.
  2. Running away from fear – trying to convince the scared parts of yourself that there’s nothing to worry about. Ignoring your fear. Refusing the call and, instead, cleaning the house, watching a movie, drinking a glass of wine, or engaging in any number of other avoidance behaviors to take your mind off of what’s scary.
  3. Being consumed by fear – wasting precious time and energy going around in your mind about what’s in the past, what’s in the future, what could be, what isn’t yet. Your thoughts create a constant buzz of background anxiety, but you stay frozen in inaction.

If you see yourself in any of these, please don’t let your inner Spiritual Judge harangue you. Fight, flight, and freeze are normal physiological responses to scary situations.

Instead, I invite you to consider the fourth response—to tend and befriend the parts of us who are scared.

From now on, rather than thinking that your fear is a problem or even trying to fix it, I invite you to turn toward the part of you who feels afraid. Sit down beside it. Invite it to a cup of tea. Listen to how it feels and what it needs. Invite it to take a comfy seat in the back of your car.

You don’t have to let your fear take the wheel, but when you stop trying to kick it out of the car, you may discover that it can rest. And you can move forward on your journey.

Please click here to share your thoughts in the comments section on my blog.

Much love,

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