Fear is a necessary part of life, but if it becomes too intense or frequent, it can hinder your ability to live a normal life. Learning to recognize fear and use it as a catalyst to propel you forward instead of holding you back is important. I sat down with transition coach Brooke Hersh to discuss fear and how to use it as fuel.
Brooke talks about growth by using the example of a lobster in its shell. The lobster is an animal with a hard shell, and as a baby, its small body fits inside a small hard shell. As the lobster grows, its shell starts to get confining and uncomfortable, forcing it to go under a rock, find a safe place, shed its old shell, and grow into a new one. It’s a process that happens over and over during the lobster’s life, and humans go through a similar experience with milestones.
As humans, we learn and grow—and sometimes (if not all the time), that growth can get uncomfortable. It can be scary, and people often experience a lot of fear associated with milestones, decisions, circumstances, and life in general. However, apprehension is crucial to our growth. We have to be put in uncomfortable situations to learn and reach new heights. Brooke states, “If we use fear productively, it can actually fuel growth.”
How to Use Fear to Your Advantage
Brooke outlines a few key steps when learning to use fear to your advantage. While every person’s journey looks a little different, you can take these steps and adapt them to work with your personal life.
Step 1: Awareness
The first thing you’ll do when you feel some type of fear or discomfort is to make yourself aware that something is going on internally. You don’t have to figure out what the feeling is or where it’s coming from immediately—just recognize that it’s there.
Step 2: Pause, Observe, and Describe
Once you know something is going on, pause what you’re doing, observe the feeling, and do your best to describe it. You’ll recognize that you’re having an experience, then name the thoughts and feelings as they come in. Maybe you’re feeling butterflies, adrenaline, anxiety, or discomfort. Being able to describe and feel the emotion can help you work through it more effectively. This takes a lot of practice and awareness, but it is an important factor in whether you will grow through the experience.
Step 3: Accept
The next step is to accept the feelings as they come, just as they are. The feelings you’re having are not necessarily bad—they might be unfamiliar and uncomfortable, but it’s important to accept them as they are.
Step 4: Determine How to Proceed
As mentioned earlier, fear does play an important role in keeping you out of danger. In this final step, you can determine whether you are in actual danger or if your body is reacting to an uncomfortable situation. Are you about to go through a challenge, or are you about to jump off a cliff? Your body will have a reaction to protect itself, but then your mind will tell you whether you are in actual danger and how to proceed.
Helping Kids and Teens Work Through Fear
If your child or teenager struggles with fear, it’s important to validate their feelings and let them know fear is normal. Kids and teenagers might struggle more because their brains are still developing and building pathways. They have to sort through so much information as is, so helping them learn how to work through feelings of fear can benefit them in the long run.
So how is it done? Brooke suggests a few ways to help your child or teen work through feelings of fear.
The first thing you’ll want to do is validate their feelings. Let them know it’s okay and remind them to be kind to themselves, slow down, take a break, and breathe.
Rewrite the Script
Kids and teenagers tend to worry about what others think, get overwhelmed, and are afraid of failing. Help them learn to rewrite the script—they don’t have to do everything all at once. They don’t have to have everyone’s approval. And what if they succeed? This will help them work through their fears and come out stronger on the other side.
Build Self Trust
There’s no way to predict every little thing that will happen in your teen’s life, but helping them learn how to trust themselves has many long-term benefits. When you build up that trust and confidence, your teen can make decisions that will benefit and strengthen them.
Joy is on the Other Side of Challenge
Ultimately, it’s important to remember that happiness doesn’t come from being happy at all times. If we didn’t experience fear, discomfort, or sadness, we wouldn’t be able to feel joy either. Challenges can be difficult, but working through them provides a sense of accomplishment, a way to learn new things, and overall growth.
If you would like to hear more about this topic, listen to the episode: “Using Your Fear as Fuel” on the Not By Chance Podcast found on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.