Welcome to week five of a five-week series on fear. It’s the last week! We talked about safety and regret in episode 56 and then the following week, I explained how I used three tools to help me get out of my comfort zone. Then we learned about different types of fear and how to respond to them. Last week, we covered the first part of the process I use to deal with ego fear.
Today, we’re going to finish talking about a process to deal with what we call ego fear. As a refresher, ego fear is a type of fear that is trying to keep your ego safe from things like shame or embarrassment. Fears of failure, success, or people who are different from you in some way all fall into this category. This kind of fear needs to be addressed and dismantled so that it doesn’t drive away with your life.
Last week, we did step one and two in the process. We acknowledged the fear, and talked about why that matters, even though it seems lame. And we did a brain dump and named all the reasons we’re afraid of something.
Remember early on in this series when I mentioned that fear is a reaction to a perceived danger and that danger might be a real threat or not a real threat…but that our bodies react the same regardless? This is the point that we can begin to see the difference between real and not real threats.
So, pull out the list that you made last week. We’re going to take each fear on that list and process it three different ways. By Facts, Feelings and Fundamental Truths. You’re going to look at a statement you’ve written and respond with facts. Then with feelings. And then, after looking at the facts and feelings, decide what the fundamental truth is that you’re dealing with. I’ll show you how I did that with one of the fears I have about the job shift that’s causing me some anxiety, but first, I should mention that you may have some things written down, that in your head seemed like a big deal, but when written down, seem rather ridiculous.
For example, I had written down that I’m afraid that the team I apply with will find out that I’m really a fraud and that I can’t do anything well and then everyone will know that I’m not who they think I am. This is imposter syndrome speaking. Also, I have written, “I’m afraid that they’ll find out that I can’t do everything perfectly and I’ll be exposed for being lame, either in the application or interview process or if hired.” This is perfectionism speaking.
So, did you hear that? I’m afraid that I can’t do anything right and I’m afraid that I can’t do everything right. Both are real from an emotional standpoint and I do need to deal with both of those problems: imposter syndrome and perfectionism. But, when written in ink on paper. Or, when I say them out loud to you…they sound fairly ridiculous. They are lies. The fact is that I can do some things well. And no one can realistically expect perfection. So, I was able to write those facts next to these statements and move on. I didn’t need to dig into feelings and truth. The facts are the truth. These are lies. So, some fears may not require as much processing as others.
Fact, Feeling, Fundamental Truth Filter
But, what about fears that appear legitimate? Real threats? I have written, “I’m afraid that if I work for someone else full time, I’ll be a worse parent to my son.” This isn’t a value judgment about working outside the home vs. working from home. It’s a fear that I don’t feel like I’m the best parent I can be right now and with less time and less flexibility, surely I’ll be a worse parent. So, let’s run this one through the Fact-Feeling-Truth process and see what happens.
Fact: I will never be a perfect parent and I might be thinking unreasonably about this. Fact: My son’s a middle schooler and I’m looking at missing about 2 hours a day if I was working a normal work day. Those two hours, I’m typically working and making dinner and he’s playing with friends, so this isn’t time we’re spending together now. Fact: I’d have less flexibility for in-school activities. But, the days of class parties and in-school things are mostly in the past. There are going to be far fewer of those things now anyway. Do you see how I’m thinking through this issue with facts rather than the fear?
Now, to deal with feelings. Feeling: I’m sad about him getting older and our relationship changing. He needs me less and that makes me sad. Feeling: I’m feeling guilty in that I believe he is my foremost responsibility in life right now and I don’t want to shortchange that responsibility.
Before I move on to the truth portion, I will add that I asked him about this. I was concerned here how I felt about it, but I wondered how he would feel about it. What would he say the most important part of parenting him is? This is a gifted kid…but he’s home with a nasty virus and running a 102-degree fever. It’s a good time to ask, right? His answer to the most important thing I do parenting him? “Well, I suppose it’s that you take care of me.” Beyond being brilliantly insightful. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. So, I told him what I was thinking about and asked how he felt about it. He concluded with, “Well if you’re making that decision responsibly, for money reasons and it provides for us…I have no problem with that. We can deal with any issues that come up.” Interesting.
But, let’s get back to the process and move on to the Fundamental Truth or Truths. Remember, the fear is that I’m not going to be able to be as good a parent. But, after processing those facts and feelings and asking him, I’ve come to the understanding that my truth about this fear is that the differences in the jobs wouldn’t have to affect the quality of my parenting.
Here’s what we’ve done so far: Consciously admitted being afraid, Identified the fears. And put them through the Fact-Feeling-Fundamental Truth filter. I took the two fears that I felt were legit on my list and ran them through that process.
What Do You Want?
The next step is to identify the underlying want beneath the fear. We’re typically afraid because there’s something we want. What’s the Want? In this case, by the time I’d worked through the three-part filter, I’d realized that what I really want, my fundamental desire, is to be a good parent.
If I really want to be a good parent, then that gives me something to focus on. The next step is making an action plan to get what I want. What can I do in this situation to be a good parent? Can I block out Saturday afternoon as sacred time with him? Or, dinner on Friday night? Can we have 30 minutes together each night of intentional activities or relationship time? Or, should I figure out his love language and be intentional about using it. There are a thousand different steps I could take to directly address the want…that in turn helps eliminate the fear.
So, to review, the five-step plan is this;
- Acknowledge the fear by consciously admitting what you’re feeling. “I am afraid.”
- Identify all the perceived dangers. Write down all the fears. Cross off duplicates.
- Run all the fears through the Fact-Feelings-Fundamental Truth filter.
- Find the underlying Want which is generating the fears.
- Create an action plan to get what you want.
When I finished this process, I felt crazy better. I’m sure that fear will crop up again and I didn’t eliminate all of it. But, I felt peace and the freedom to make a decision based on things other than fear.
If you want a worksheet with this process outlined that you could print and use whenever you need it, click the button below.
Putting this series together has given me some tools and perspective that I didn’t have before, so I hope it has been helpful to you. If it did help you, I’d love to hear how. Click the voicemail link on this page, or email me. I look forward to hearing from you!
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