All fear stems from the same cause — our mind is trying to protect us from danger. But today, that mental relic is rearing its head even when we are not in any real physical danger. When we’re afraid of disappointing people, it tends to come from some experience in our past that left an indelible mark on our psyche. Someone at some time hurt us, made us feel worthless, and made us feel like a failure.
Often that experience is so traumatic that it fundamentally changes how we interact with the world. We may become less ambitious so as to not feel the embarrassment of disappointment. We may become timid and shy, afraid to speak up and be brave. And, our bodies may start to be in a permanent state of stress, which can lead to physical disorders like heart disease and chronic pain.
But, there are three very simple things we can all do to overcome our fears and worries of disappointing others. These tactics can even help us overcome other types of fear and stress we all face.
- The first thing we must do is become mindful. We have to spend some time observing our mind, as we do in meditation or in quiet reflection. (In case you are wondering whether to do mantra meditation or breath meditation, here is my answer.) As we start to witness our fearful thoughts and emotions, we can begin to see what triggers those thoughts and emotions. The more mindful we become of our triggers, the more we can stay mindful in the moment and not lose ourselves to the fear. We can instead witness it, accept it, make peace with it, and even make friends with it.
- Once we become aware of that mental story of fear, we can start to create a new script in our mind. In meditation or in a moment of downtime, visualize the triggers that cause you to get worried and scared. Visualize how you will respond to those triggers with new, positive, conscious and intentional thoughts. Now, when the trigger happens, your mind will be ready to create this new habit of courage and confidence. The quicker we catch ourselves in a negative mental story, the quicker we can get out of it. Soon, we will no longer think even that first fearful thought.
- Third, take a few minutes to relax by visualizing the absolute best case scenario. See yourself being confident and relaxed. See how much people love you and your work. Because we all tend to unconsciously imagine the worst possible thing happening, by consciously imagining everything going well we are able to build a new habit of positive conscious thinking. Over time, the mind becomes our best friend, supporting us, encouraging us, and showing ourselves the attention we deserve. This is mindfulness — giving ourselves the greatest gift we have to give, our attention.
Although we live in a world that praises hard work, we must remember the immense value in pausing, taking a step back, and gaining some perspective and wisdom. The space we create in our lives and in our minds is the space where ideas can enter, insights can be made, and understanding can be developed.
Sometimes we get so consumed by our work or by details that we fail to see the big picture. We can get so fixated on each step of a process that we lose our direction. We can get attached to our successes that we lose sight of who we really are, but each of us is so much more than our accomplishments. This is why it’s so important to find the middle path, where hard work meets reflection.
As the trees burst forth with green leaves, and as the northern hemisphere springs back to life, let’s remember to live our own lives fully as well. Let’s stare fear in the face and choose life. Just one moment of presence is more profound than a hundred years of fear and stress. It’s not the length of our life that matters, it’s the quality. Life happens all around us, effortlessly and at peace. If we are trying too hard, worrying too much, clinging or fighting too strongly, we’re doing life wrong. We can work without worry, try without tiring, and strive without stress. We just have to embrace the whole of life. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The purpose of the rose is to be the rose. Your purpose is to be yourself.”
PS – We can let go of our fear responses. We can create new ways of coping with stress. We can trust in the universe’s plan and we can love every uncertain and chaotic moment of it. But most importantly, we must quiet the mind so that the subtle yet profound healing power of oneness that underlies all things can be sensed. In my video, I share how to do exactly that.
Guided Meditation for Inner Peace
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