I’d love to talk to you about something that has plagued my life for a long long time. Still does in fact.
I’ll admit that embarking on this journey of actually becoming a psychotherapist has taken me a long, long, loooong time. I’m not even talking about the schooling part of it. It took me a long time to take my licensing exam. Why? Because I was afraid to fail. It took me a long time to set up the website. Why? Because I was afraid to fail. It took me a long time to make the Psychology Today profile. Why? Because I was afraid to fail. I’ve struggled for a long time with fears of the unknown. I used to talk to my therapist a lot about this and he would ask me to tell him what I thought the probability was of whatever I was stressing about actually happening. Usually it wasn’t very high but sometimes I just didn’t know. My latest burning question of “Will I have a successful private practice,” really relies on so many outside variables that I just don’t know how to give that one a number. But should the fear of failing or the fear of not knowing stop me from even trying?
My father said to me one time that sane people don’t stare at a light bulb waiting for it to burn out. I looked at him and swear I thought he had channeled some ancient philosopher for a second. He’s a smart guy but that was the deepest thing he had said to me in…well….I think ever. I had never looked at life that way. I was allowing myself to become incapacitated by things that were outside of my control and it needed to stop.
When I took that licensing exam, I passed on the first try with only a week of studying. My fear was 100% irrational and in my head. It wasn’t helpful that prior to the exam I had joined a Facebook Group that was dedicated to people trying (and failing multiple times) to pass that test. I took on their anxieties and saw that everyone was dedicating months of their lives to studying for this one test only to have to do it over and over again. I just knew that would be my story. But it wasn’t.
I say that to say this – sometimes when we join groups that we think are going to help us, they do more harm than good. The support system model can work. It does work. Groups like AA, NA, OA have been around for a long time and have proven systems. The challenge comes in when we allow anxiety to take hold, then fear, then inaction. Sometimes that groupthink mindset just has us perseverating on the negatives and we can’t move forward in our own lives. That’s why it’s so important to build solid foundations for yourself. Foundations that include knowing your own strengths, acknowledging your weaknesses, acknowledging your fears and doing something about them.
Wow! That sounds so easy! (Gives side eye) I wish. I still take a bit longer to do things than other people because I still struggle with what’s usually an unfounded fear. A good friend of mine once told me to use the phrase, “that’s too much future,” when I find myself spiraling down the rabbit hole of life’s what if’s. When I find myself slowing down worrying about something out of my control, I think of my father’s light bulb analogy. I practice mindfulness techniques to keep my panic at bay and I still occasionally reach out to my old therapist who really changed my life and helped me find my own center.
Fear shouldn’t dictate your life. Neither should anxiety. Or stress. Or depression. But fear is a unique animal because it really opens the door to a lot of other unresolved emotions. It’s working through what’s at the heart of your fear that will really help you in the long run, and that takes time. Insert cheesy line of – You should reach out to yours truly to set up your first session today!
Don’t stop yourself from living your best life. Keep on keeping on!