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fear – false expectations appearing real

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Sarah Rodgers | Jul 31, 2018 | Photograph by: NordWood Themes

When I was in college I spent a summer interning at a non-profit.  One of the therapists, Lisa, soon became a mentor to me.  She met her clients where they were, even if it was dangerous.  Sometimes that was in a trap house.  Other times, she spoke with patients while they were out of their head on drugs.  She was seemingly fearless.

One morning I walked in to hear Lisa speaking with a client about his job interview.  Interestingly, he admitted how afraid he was.  He explained that he hadn’t worked in years, and he didn’t want to blow it.  I have never forgotten Lisa’s response.  “You know what fear is, don’t you?  It is False Expectations Appearing Real”.  As I quickly typed her sage words into my cell phone, I didn’t realise the weight of that statement.

In fact, it would be years before I fully understood that our biggest fears often never materialise.


Why do we feel fear?

Let’s break the concept down a little more.  Fear can be instinctive or learned.  Our negative anticipation of pain is an example of an instinctual fear.  This type of panic is hardwired in our brain, and is necessary to survival.  It isn’t usually what we refer to when we talk about our feelings of dread.

Learned fear, on the other hand, can be an extremely personal phenomenon.  When I was 4, my dad took me to a cemetery to sled.  There were tons of kids there, and I was afraid of looking stupid because it was my first time. That’s the last thing I remember, but something must have happened.  We never went sledding again, and the experience left me with an irrational fear of the activity.


What are we really scared of?

The tricky part is that I know I am not afraid of the act of sledding.  I am afraid of the result of the act.  We are not afraid of the act of going to an interview.  We are afraid of the pessimistic scenario we have been repeating in our minds.  We are afraid because we have an imagination.  Even some neuroscientists think we are the most fearful animals on Earth.


How can we move past it?

When I feel like I am losing control to fear, I tune into my breath.  It’s amazing that something so natural can be so effective at reducing panic.  The only rule of deep breathing is to keep the exhale longer than the inhale.  I like to do 4 counts in and 8 counts out.

As my brain calms down, I can think clearly about what is causing my dread.  If I find fearful scenarios playing in my head, I replace them with visualisations of a positive outcome.  This not only sets me up for success, but also distracts the emotional part of my brain that is responsible for fear.

Remember, 85% of our fears never come true.  That means only 15% of the time our worries play out the way we think they do.  If you are a gambler, you know those are some great odds for betting against our fears!


Are you letting fear get the better of you?  Miss Independent is passionate about transforming your mindset, allowing you to move from your corporate job to an entrepreneur life.  Fearful thoughts can be all-encompassing, especially when making those first big leaps towards launching your startup.  Miss Independent understands that. That’s why we have created a free guide outlining 8 ways to test if your business idea is worth pursuing to build your confidence.  Download the free guide or get in touch today to chat with us about how we can make your entrepreneurial dreams come true.




Natalie Hughes founded Miss Independent in 2017, to educate and mentor women and help them make their best career and business decisions. Natalie is an experienced business woman and non-executive company director focused on organisational design, strategy, growth and innovation. Her goal is to help you think differently, work differently and feel in control of your own destiny.

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