In my ever-evolving journey to grow as a therapist, I have started challenging myself more and more. It only seems right that if I’m going to push my clients to explore the boundaries of their comfort zones, then I should do the same for myself. To put it simply: nothing changes if nothing changes, and it is up to you to make the change. No one else can do it for you.
So, what is it that keeps us stuck? Why is it so hard to venture outside of what we are used to? For many the answer is one of the most hated, avoided, and despised words imaginable…fear. There, I said it. You can too. Go ahead and try it. Admit that you are afraid of the unknown, and I promise you’ll still be standing after you do.
Our culture treats fear in such a paradoxical way. Going to see a horror film about a demented clown -well naturally you’d pay for those nightmares. Screaming your head off at a haunted house – what a fun thing to do with friends and family. Admitting to your partner that you’re afraid that one day they’ll get tired of you – whoa, hold the phone…there’s nothing enjoyable about that conversation. Avoid, avoid, avoid.
It seems that irrational fears fueled by social acceptance are easy to share/post/blog about/whatever, but our here and now fears that are grounded in reality are more apt to be ignored/avoided/misunderstood because they can lead us to question ourselves. We like being scared of things that are safely outside of our control, but when it comes to something that speaks of our own self-worth, value, or character – no thank you!
Am I good enough? Can I really do this? What if I fail? What if people don’t like me? The “what if” rabbit hole is an incredibly hard place to get out of. So, here’s a “what if” that might help shift your thinking in a more positive direction: what if you were able to replace fear of the unknown with curiosity? Instead of fearing that your partner will bore of you, now you’re curious about ways to maintain excitement in your relationship. You could even collaborate together and brainstorm about it. This alteration in your mindset could be the difference between growing closer rather than drifting apart. In one scenario you allow fear to threaten your sense of self in the relationship, and in the other you actually reach out and deepen your connection. When I’m afraid, I feel stuck. When I’m curious, I make space for creativity and free-flowing thought.
Truth be told I was terrified to go it alone and start my own practice. It was always this thought floating around in the back of my head, but being the risk averse person I am I would ruminate over all of the infinite ways it could go wrong, which meant in the end I would do nothing. Later I told myself, I’ll do it later. Then one day an opportunity came my way from a colleague that I just couldn’t ignore. I felt like later was knocking on my door and trying to break me out of my safety net. So I took a deep breath, and I did it.
I left behind the security of working for an agency I loved. I started with zero clients and minimal knowledge as to how to run my own business. Marketing was an incredibly daunting task in which I had to find the confidence to advocate for myself and branch out. This journey is far from over, as I’m only a few months in. In the end though, when I am able to be curious and open to learning from the process, I realize that facing my own fears has been one of the best ways for me to help clients face theirs. I’m afraid that old comfort zone is going to have to make way for some fresh ideas. I’m way too curious to let fear get in my way.