Fears & Underlying Beliefs, Limiting Beliefs, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

What are you afraid of?

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power. You are free.” ~ Jim Morrison

In the spirit of Halloween this week, it seemed fitting to explore our deepest fears.  And by fears, I’m not talking about your fear of spiders, snakes and ghosts.  I’m talking about those fears and underlying beliefs that are getting in your way of moving towards your full potential – those unconscious fears and beliefs you have about yourself that are holding you back.   When we become more aware of our deepest, darkest fears and expose them to the light, we can see that they actually aren’t real at all but simply false emotions appearing real (F.E.A.R.).   

Too many of us are not living our dreams or our potential because we are living our fears, even though those fears are simply a habit of mind and often the product of our subconscious thoughts.  Our fears reside in our lower emotional brain, the basal ganglia, which is the strongest part of the brain.  This part of our brain recognizes and repeats patterns until it’s told otherwise.  It’s also where we uncover the fears that stop us and the underlying beliefs that limit our thinking and get in the way of achieving our potential.  The good news is that our prefrontal cortex or upper logical brain, known as the “manager”, understands long-term benefits and consequences.  So, because of our brains plasticity, with awareness and practice, the prefrontal cortex can override the basal ganglia, and thus overcoming those fears. 

“Bravery is not the absence of fear.  Bravery is feeling the fear, the doubt, the insecurity, and deciding that something else is more important”. ~ Mark Manson

We can’t eliminate our fear and nor do we want to as it can also be a healthy thing.  Our brain is literally wired to feel fear and threats to our safety.  For example, maybe you should actually listen to your brain if you are tempted to feed that bear!  However, generally most of our fears really don’t serve us.  For example, let’s say you’re walking across the street and see a long slithering object – you automatically think it’s a snake so your sympathetic nervous system kicks in (fight or flight).  However, as you courageously move closer to it, you see that it’s just a hose.  Then your brain’s limbic system and parasympathetic system (rest and digest) kicks in and reduces your feelings of fear.  These fears do not serve us when they cause unnecessary paralysis or inaction, such as if you avoided walking across the street. 

Courage and Fear

Feeling fear is completely normal and we’re all going to be or feel scared at times.  For example, we can be scared of taking that job, making that speech, asking that person out, making a tough phone call, or applying to that school.  Being courageous means doing it anyway in spite of feeling fear, knowing that by taking that step, or by taking action, it will be all worth it. 

Learning how to overcome fear will help to diminish any anxiety and panic and will leave you feeling more empowered than ever.  Most of your healing journey will be about unlearning the patterns of self-protection that you once believed kept you safe.  We need to learn how to overcome false fears that are interfering with our major life areas such as work, relationships, health and fitness, finances, etc.  We also need to know what will help us when we do experience these feelings, so we can tackle them when they threaten our development process.  If our energy goes into avoiding people or situations that scare, intimidate, or make us uncomfortable, we will always live out of our self-protective system, missing out on who we can be and our potential.  While we all have many fears, you will discover that they usually relate back to your predominant need and therefore are easily triggered.

Predominant Fears for Each Striving Style

Leader – to feel weak, powerless or helpless

Intellectual – to feel interior, incompetent, irrelevant, or dominant

Performer – to feel shame, humiliated, worthless, or disappointed

Visionary – to feel attacked, ridiculed, or diminished.

Socializer – to feel abandoned, alone, or devalued

Artist – to feel rejected, invaded, or inferior

Adventure – to feel confined, restricted and imprisoned

Stabilizer – to feel insecure, useless, or uncertain.

Knowing the fears of your predominant style and facing them head on is critical step in discovering your best self. Each of us has a predominant need with a corresponding fear.  Can you identify your predominant fear from the list above?  In order to overcome our fears, we need to know what it is that we are ultimately afraid of.  We overcome our fear when we understand and talk about it. In doing so, we can minimize it into the nothingness that it always was – mostly brooding thoughts and false emotions appearing real. 

How you overcome your F.E.A.R.’s

  1. Discover the predominant fears associated with your Striving Style.  Most of our fears relate back to our predominant style.
  2. Realize that we are not our thoughts but simply the awareness of our thoughts.  Observe them for what they are.  For example, say to yourself “Oh, this is just fear I’m feeling” or “Yes shame, I see you” or “Oh hi there rejection”.
  3. Think about it, how is your fear healthy for you or how is your fear holding you back. 
  4. Write out what you are afraid of.  Ask yourself if it is real.  When we understand our fears, they aren’t so scary.
  5. Ask yourself what the worst thing that could actually happen if you do the thing, take action, etc. Write it beside the fear.
  6. Then consider what the best outcome will be if you do the thing, take action, etc. Then write it beside the fear.
  7. Write out one small action step that will push you through your fear and move you forward. When you can develop competence, you develop confidence. 
  8. Taking action is easier said than done. Watch Mel Robbins talk about the 5 Second Rule, or read her book for her advice on how you can take action. It is one of the most impactful books and concepts that I’ve read in the past few years.

Be willing to step into your fear and make small moves forward.  Fear is very powerful emotion and it will paralyze you if you let it.  Everything always seems scarier in the dark, so turn the light on your fears so you can see them for what they are. Remember, nothing changes until your relationship with fear changes. So get out there, be courageous and face your fears!

Mel Robbins – 5 Second Rule

Now, it’s your turn.

What are you afraid of?  What is the one thing that you really want but are afraid to do? What is the worst thing that will happen if you do it?  What is the best thing that could happen if you are courageous enough to actually do it?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by Artie Siegel from Pexels

Personality, Self Actualized System, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Self-Confidence, Striving Styles, Who are you meant to be?

How do you shine?

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Do you know who you are? What your unique gifts are? Each of us are born perfectly unique. We can see this unique beauty in babies and children who are happy and free within their own skin. Then, over time and as we grow up, social and cultural conditioning, the need to fit in, to get along, and to be liked by others, slowly erodes our uniqueness, and in many ways, encourages us to be who we think we should be rather than who we actually are. This experience of being removed from our true self can leave us unsure of ourselves and lacking in confidence, energy and motivation. It can also rob us of the peace that comes from being ourselves and being comfortable in our own skin.

Knowing who you are meant to be starts with knowing what you are born as. Too often people try to figure out what they are meant to do without having any idea about who they really are. This disconnect causes them to look outside of themselves for answers to questions that can only be answered from within. It also causes us to strive to be what others expect of us and to give up on ourselves and instead try to live up to an ideal, to be the person that we think we should be, rather than based on who we authentically are.

We’re are all driven by powerful, instinctual needs that we’ve had since birth – our predominant style or Striving Style. These needs are the source of our motivation for our behaviour, social interaction, and influence how we behave and how we feel about ourselves. When our predominant need is met, we are poised for growth and development.

However, when our predominant needs are not being met, we will feel threatened, frightened or anxious, leading to self-protective or survival behaviours. Fear and anxiety override rational thought which will profoundly influence our behaviour, often without our awareness, thus undermining our success and effectiveness.

Have you ever got to the end of the day and felt like somehow your day was hijacked? Or maybe you’ve spent to much time reacting, caught up in some drama or just consumed with a sense of busyness. Do you ever feel uneasy, or have a quiet of rumbling deep inside that something isn’t right. This means you are living out of your self-protective systems. When I have a day like this I’ll reflect on the predominant needs of my striving style and make a plan on how I need to shift out of my self-protective system. If you’re unaware of your predominant needs you will be at the mercy of your unconscious impulses, emotions and negative habits of mind, leading to reactive, non-productive behaviour, increased emotionality, and an inability to focus on your goals.

The Striving Styles (SSPS) gets to the heart of the human experience and helps you identify what you need to feel secure and psychologically stable so you can grow and develop. As well, it provides you with insight into the consequences when you don’t get your predominant needs met. The SSPS doesn’t provide a laundry list of strengths and weaknesses but rather, it takes into account the complexity of your brain’s functioning and its impact on your personality.

Coming to understand yourself, recognizing and expressing your uniqueness and who you really are will make you feel more creative, confident, energized and inspired. Your personality, your unique history and story is like no one else’s. Living a life with authenticity, meaning and purpose is ultimately what a happy and fulfilled life looks like.

I love this beautiful (and fitting) song that I have currently playing on repeat. Enjoy!

Astral Plane by Valerie June

Now, it’s your turn.

Think about a time recently that you felt really happy and content, like in that moment you had everything you needed. Who was there? What were you doing? How did you feel when you were in this moment of happiness?

How about a time that you felt inspired motivated or purposeful. When you felt you were focused, in the zone. How did it feel to be inspired in this way?

What about a time when you felt moved by something more- a beautiful sunset, a night sky, the ocean an overwhelming experience of love or compassion.

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels

Emotional Intelligence, Negative Habits of Mind, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Ever take things too personally?

“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”~ Don Miquel Ruiz

Why are we so quick to take things personally? Do we actually believe that everything is always about us? In fact, research suggests that we significantly overestimate how much we are singled out and judged by others. When someone says something negative or nasty about you, it actually says more about them. Right now, you can make a decision to no longer emotionally react to other people’s issues (see previous post respond rather than react). It takes practice and patience to stop taking things personally but once you accomplish it, your life will become completely transformed.

“You don’t have to control your thoughts, you just have to stop letting them control you.” Dan Millman.

Taking things personally is an automatic negative habit of mind where you make everything about you. It’s like you’re the center of everything that happens and where you believe that all situations have something to do with you, which in reality isn’t true. When you believe you are the cause or the object of negative events, then you are personalizing. Here are a few examples of personalizing:

  • If a friend seems distant, if a boss is angry about something, if your sister doesn’t call, you see yourself as the cause of their emotions and behaviour.   
  • If your co-worker doesn’t greet you like they normally do, you start thinking about what you might have done wrong to upset them, when really it has nothing to do with you. Maybe they had a fight with their spouse before coming to work. 

How to stop taking things personally

  1. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Give the benefit of the doubt to the other person and remember to listen to their entire story, then ask questions to clarify their viewpoint. Don’t jump to conclusions too quickly when you are being confronted. Don’t make assumptions about judgment or criticism seemingly directed at you. Maybe it’s not about you at all, but about them and their own projected perceptions. In fact, it’s almost always about them, their issues, their needs.
  2. Make decisions on your self-worth and not on what others say or think about you. Eleanor Roosevelt said “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission” so don’t give them your permission. Realize that your self worth depends on you and not what others say about you. Of course, relationships will always play a prominent role in our life. But the more you know about yourself, the less you will need others to tell you about yourself.
  3. Take a different perspective. Ask yourself how an unbiased outsider might view this situation. Ask yourself what might be impacting that persons behaviour such as, they’re having a bad day, their personality type, etc. If they were rude to you, it’s almost never about you but a reflection of their own issues.
  4. Understand your predominant personality type or Striving Style. Each of the eight striving styles have a dominant and/or preferred communication style. Learning about your predominant needs and fears, as well as that of others, will offer a deeper insight into how you respond and what might trigger you. Learn more.
  5. Consider the big picture. Instead of taking someone else’s comments personally, take a moment or two and think about the bigger picture. What do the people who know you best think about you? Doesn’t their opinion matter more than this person?
  6. Give up your judgement. Most of us have preconceived notions about people and situations. It’s just the way we are. That being said, no one likes to be judged. When we let that judgement go, it frees us up to see the person and situation in a whole new way. By giving up the judgement, we might actually find out what the real issue is.
  7. Practice being strong. Strong in who you are and what you believe. When we have confidence in ourselves, it’s much easier to stay neutral and avoid buying into somebody else’s baggage or their issues.
  8. Be aware of your triggers. If you are a sensitive person you likely have radar that constantly catches negative comments that hurt you. Know what makes you feel vulnerable. When you are aware of your sensitive spots, the things that trigger your emotions and reactions, you can prepare yourself if an interaction arises that attempts to draw you in. When we take something personally it’s often related to rejection in some way. Something has happened in the past that triggers our limbic brain, the emotional center of our brain. Do you know what triggers your emotional responses? If you do, that’s great. Recognizing the triggers is the first step in disengaging. When we take something personally we do not stand in our own power but buy into others weaknesses.
  9. Think about comments or criticism as a growth opportunity. When faced with critical comments, take them in a constructive way. Ask yourself if there is any truth to it and what you can learn. Ask yourself how you can grow and let the rest of it go.
  10. Create a space between yourself and your reactions. Your initial response might be to react emotionally. If possible, don’t follow that knee-jerk reaction. Take the time to rein in your emotions and assess what’s really happening before you respond (refer to my post on respond rather than react). In general, it’s a good idea to create a healthy personal space around yourself. When you create some space or buffer between yourself and another person, personal boundaries have less chance of being crossed or blurred.
  11. Let go of the need to please. Realize that you can’t please everyone. Work to reduce the impossible demand that you need to be perfect.
  12. Listen carefully to gain clarification. Hopefully, your emotions will take a back seat while you ask this individual to fully explain what’s on their mind and what they want from you. Listen carefully before you respond so you can discern what makes sense and what doesn’t (Refer to my post Are you listening?).
  13. Enlist some support. Seek counseling or enlist the help of a trusted friend to help shift your perspective on yourself and others.

If you practice these techniques over and over you will re-wire your brain and find yourself becoming more neutral and less affected by someone else’s negativity. As you develop these techniques you will stand in your own power and confidence.

When you find yourself thinking that someone else’s behaviour was caused by you or their feelings about you, think about other options or reasons why they might be behaving the way they are.  Or, consider why they might be behaving the way they are if you weren’t in the picture.  Notice how your emotional reactions change when you recognize that their behaviour is not about you.

Don Miguel Ruiz talks to Oprah about Agreement #2: How to Not Take Things Personally

Now, your turn:

Reflect on recent situations in which you have taken things personally. How did you make it about you, (What did you tell yourself? How did you interpret their actions?), and how did it affect your behaviour? Now think about other possible interpretations of the situation that don’t attribute the cause to you. Share in the comments.

Photo by Madison Inouye from Pexels

Negative Habits of Mind, Self Protective System, Self-Awareness, Striving Styles

Do you Catastrophize?

 “I’ve suffered a great many catastrophes in my life.  Most of them never happened.” ~ Mark Twain

When we’re stressed our brain can get stuck in a loop of negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours such as excessive worrying, difficulty focusing, or dwelling on negative experiences. Our brains can get stuck catastrophizing.

So what does it mean to catastrophize?  It’s a common habit of thinking about something and making if far worse than it actually is, creating a worst-case scenario, causing fear and anxiety.  Some call it magnifying which is a good way to think of it, because it emphasizes how we can magnify things way out of proportion, dreaming up scary scenarios, going far beyond simple exaggeration, linking one imagined event to another until we’re paralyzed with fear, going from one scary thought to the next. It magnifies or exaggerates something small or minor into a much bigger, graver situation. It’s when you make small errors but treat them like big ones – “I made a mistake, I’m such an idiot, I’ll probably get fired”. Catastrophic thinking is a whole other level of negativity (refer to my previous post negativity bias). When you imagine the worst case scenario, the what if’s, you will get scared or become angry.   

Catastrophic thinking is a habitual response to challenges or shortcomings such as how you think about failing or how you respond to challenges.  It starts with the belief that something terrible will happen, or that you can’t recover.   People with anxiety imagine losing control of themselves, for example, they think they’ll have a panic attack if they go to the mall and imagine it’ll be a catastrophic, rather than just simply uncomfortable.  Expecting the worse case is an excellent way to make yourself anxious, depressed, unmotivated and completely ruin your life. 

So how does catastrophizing mess us up?  We’ve all experienced some type of tragedies in our life, including painful rejection or failure.  We believe that if we trick ourselves into believing that if we expect the worst, we can prevent it from happening. But in reality, the exact opposite happens.  Seeing the worst often leads to the worst, because we not only cut ourselves off from opportunities, we actually end up inviting the exact problems we are hoping to avoid.  If we go into a conversation expecting the other person will be defensive, we come in ready to attack and lead off more harsh, thus inviting the other person to be defensive.  Catastrophizing invites depression as the future is seen as dreary, hopeless, leading to a cycle of withdrawing from life, a lack of motivation, and a pattern of depression.  It invites anxiety by forcing our brain to see threats and failures everywhere and our brain responds to perceived threats as very real fear response – flight, fight, freeze response. This contributes to social anxiety and leads to paralysis.

“Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?” “Supposing it didn’t, said Pooh. After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.

Winnie the Pooh (A.A. Milne)

Examples of catastrophic thoughts, and how you can think differently

If or when you catch yourself catastrophizing, think of what might help you.   What could you consciously and mindfully say to yourself when you think these thoughts?  Ask yourself if it’s real or imagined. Here are a few examples:

Catastrophic thought: Oh no, I’m such an idiot, I made a mistake on the report,  I’m never going to finish it,  or even if I do finish it, it will be so bad, it won’t be any good anyway.  I’m going to get fired no matter what.

Replace with: Ok wait, that’s not true.  Everyone makes mistakes, I’m only human, I’ll fix this problem, or mistake, and if I need to ask for help I can but I’ll keep working hard and try to be more careful in the future.  Nobody is going to fire me for making a mistake in a report.

Catastrophic thought: I can’t believe I said that to my boyfriend.  He’s going to leave me for sure this time. 

Replace with: I shouldn’t have said that to my boyfriend. I need to learn to talk more kindly even when I’m upset.  I’m going to try and apologized, and try and make it right.  Hopefully he’ll understand  and accept my apology and we’ll both learn from this.

Catastrophic thought: My husband is late coming home from work. I’m sure he’s been in a car accident or something terrible has happened. I’ll probably get a call from the police or the hospital.

Replace with: I know he’s been really busy at work and I’m sure he’s just got caught up in a meeting and forgot to call. I’ll let him know that I worry when I don’t hear from him, and ask him to message me next time he thinks he’ll be late.

Catastrophic thought: I haven’t heard from my friend for over a week. She must not like me or want to be my friend anymore.

Replace with: I haven’t heard from my friend for over a week. She must be incredibly busy. I’ll give her a call to see how she’s doing and let her know I’m thinking about her.

Catastrophic thought: I heard rumors that my company is having financial troubles, and I just know I’m going to lose my job, my home, and end up penniless on the street.

Replace with: I’m curious if these rumors are true and maybe I’ll go talk to my manager. And even if it’s true, the worse case scenario is I lose my job. I’ll know I’ll be fine and get another job, maybe even a better one.

Why do we catastrophize?

Catastrophizing essentially serves two dysfunctional functions:   

1) Preparing for the worse is a coping strategy preventing us to feel risk or uncertainty.  If I expect myself to fail I won’t be disappointed if I do.  If I reject myself first, I don’t have to worry that someone will do it to me.  Catastrophizing is a way to avoid feeling and to protect ourselves from feeling sadness or worry. Yet paradoxically, when we try not to feel we often end up becoming depressed and anxious.  Expecting the worst also justifies not even trying and attempts to excuse our failure before we put in an effort. No wonder it feels more safe and comfortable than putting your heart out there.  While it’s comfortable in the short term it’ll crush the joy out of your life in the long run.  You’re not risking failure but you can’t have success either.  You’re not getting rejected, but you’re still alone on the weekend. 

2) The belief that fear is the best motivation. Motivating ourselves to study, go to work, etc. by using fear and predicting doom and gloom, like, we’ll end up working in a dead-end job, living on the streets, or be all alone, works briefly as a motivator but over the long term causes us to become anxious, depressed, overwhelmed and less functional.   It’s not a sustainable source of motivation.   

How you can feel better?

  • Get more sleep. Getting a good night sleep will give you a greater ability to face challenges bravely; when we are sleep deprived we are hyper sensitive to threats and lack resilience when facing challenges. 
  • Stick with the facts. Focus on the specifics to keep your mindset clear and focused on the only thing you can control – your reaction. You are not your thoughts or feelings.  The difference between a thought that sticks in your brain and one that floats on by is what we choose to make of it.
  • Set positive goals. Motivate yourself by what you do want in life, what you value,and hope for instead of using fear. For example, instead of saying I need to go to school so I don’t end up on the streets, you say, I want to go school because I want to be a teacher, doctor, (you fill in the blank).  Choose what you do want in life, break it down in to small goals, and bravely work towards those little by little.
  • Stay present and engaged even if a risk of not going perfecting involves vulnerability. Risking failure or hurt to have success and joy involves staying engaged even if things don’t go perfectly.  The only alternative is to guarantee failure by cutting yourself off before you even try.
  • Accept uncertainty as a natural and acceptable part of living a wholehearted life. This is fundamental life skill that can be developed and practiced.  It involves changing how you think about anxiety.  Instead of labeling a situation as bad or harmful or you can’t handle it, you can say, this is uncomfortable, but it won’t injure me and I can do hard things. Embrace acceptable risk and the anxiety that comes with it as natural normal and helpful.  Build up your emotional muscles so you can experience uncomfortable emotions by practicing mindfulness, meditation, or doing something that scares you every day.

Practice mindfulness

  1. Start by noticing when you are catastrophizing. What are the words or exaggerations you use to make things worse than they are, such as never, always, terrible, failure, horrible, rejected, awkward.  Notice the situations that you tend to catastrophize about. Write down what it looks like when you do it.  Ask a friend or family member to point it out when you do. 
  2. Challenge those thoughts – just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true.  Learn to notice and gently question your thoughts.  You don’t have to believe everything you think but don’t beat yourself up for your thoughts – it’s not very helpful.  Notice your thoughts, then let them pass. 
  3. Replace thoughts with something more honest and helpful.  Once you start to notice this type of thinking, begin to combat with more honest, more rational thoughts.  Consider other possible outcomes. Even if something bad did happen, you could learn from it it wouldn’t be the end of the world. 
  4. When you find yourself starting to imagine the worst-case scenario, grab a sheet of paper and write down what you’re telling yourself.  Then for each statement, ask yourself, “Is it real?” and then cross off everything on your list that is not real

Now, it’s your turn:

When was the last time you catastrophized? What was the situation? How did it affect your behaviour? What might you say to yourself when you find your imagination creating a worst-case scenario? Share your examples in the comments.