Befriend Your Fear

“I believe in making fear my friend,” Stacey Abrams told the women of Chief. “I take it out to lunch. We have a nice chat. I excavate it and figure out what’s going on.”

I’m with Stacey Abrams when it comes to fear (& in a lot of other ways, too). Stacey shared this message with the women of Chief, a think tank for executive women, and it has been filling my LinkedIn feed. It resonates in a way that I haven’t seen this message resonate previously.

Usually, what “sells” is the whole “Tell your fear to F off” idea. Despite the fact that we biologically need a certain amount of fear, that idea clearly lacks kindness and has never worked well for me or any of the people with whom I’ve worked.

Stacey’s message does work and it’s being embraced.

What does it look like to actually befriend your fear? The strategy I teach is the 3Ns: Notice, Name, Nurture.

Notice. How does fear show up for you? Maybe you feel queasy in your stomach, sweaty or your jaw clenches. Maybe the voice of the impostor complex starts telling you that you’re not good enough to do the big scary thing that’s in front of you. Fear shows up for everyone differently; so get to know the signs that it’s showing up for you.

Name. Once you’ve noticed that fear is present, name it. That can mean actually giving it a name so that you can separate it from yourself, or it can be as simple as naming that fear is present. “Oh, hi fear. I notice you’re here right now.”

Nurture. Think about a scared kid or loved one. You’d never tell them to suck it up or that they were stupid for feeling that way. Nurture yourself and your fear in the same way you’d nurture a scared kid or loved one. Sometimes that looks like taking a few deep breaths. Sometimes it means phoning a friend for support. Sometimes it means taking the fear out to a nice lunch and having a nice chat with it.

Biologically, this process of befriending your fear works because it calms the stress hormones; whereas fighting your fear creates more of them. <—- dramatic oversimplification alert!

Psychologically, most of us spend way too much of our lives being at war with ourselves. Trust me when I tell you that peace is a much better way to live.

Notice, name, nurture. Befriend your fear. Treat yourself with kindness. Then go out and be the bad-ass world changer that I know you are.

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