I’m a big believer in the power of the written word. I’ve been helped time and time again by the words of wisdom left in written form over the years by many people and reading is one of the ways that I’ve been able to grow and learn in my life (of course, along with personal experience).
I’ve been thinking about the top books that helped me learn how to hug fear in my life and I came up with 9 books that made the most difference. If you’re in need of a good book to help you move through your fears, maybe one of these will be just what you were looking for! As a disclosure, the links to the books mentioned here are affiliate links, which means that if you follow the link and decide to buy, I will get a small commission on the sale (it’ll cost you nothing extra). I will only do this for books that I’ve read or from those read by people I trust and if you like this blog, it’s a nice way to support the mission.
I feel a bit like a broken record by mentioning this book again, but it really was the first book to start me on my journey of hugging the fear in my life. Dr. Jeffers’ 5 Fear Truths were paradigm shifting:
1. The fear will never go away as long as I continue to grow.
2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out…and do it.
3. The only way to feel better about myself is to go out…and do it.
4. Not only am I going to experience fear whenever I’m on unfamiliar territory, but so is everyone else.
5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness
Besides the fear truths, Dr. Jeffers also shares lots of helpful tips and exercises for pushing through fear in your life in all areas of your life.
Throughout my journey through fear, one of the things I had a hard time getting a handle on was the physical symptoms of fear. Often I would be so bothered by them that I would panic. Reading this book was an integral part of learning how to accept and understand what was going on in my own body which is really what hugging your fear is all about. It also helps that Dr. Weekes’ style of writing and explaining things is so comforting. If you struggle at all with the physical symptoms of fear and anxiety, this book is a must read.
One of the hopeful passages of the book about acceptance: “Provided you make up your mind to accept the strange feelings although still afraid of them, you will gradually lose your fear, because decision to accept releases a certain tension and so reduces the intensity of your symptoms. This brings a little hope, and you begin to gain confidence in recovery. Loss of fear eventually follows.”
The subtitle of this book is Rising Above Anxiety, Fear, and Shame to Be Your Best and Bravest Self and that perfectly explains what this book teaches. Like Dr. Weekes’ book, Dr. Lerner has a very kind and sympathetic style of writing and I felt very comforted while reading it.
One passage that I liked so much I put a big star next to it was, “The more you try to make fear go away (an impossible dream), rather than learning to function with it, the worse you will feel about yourself. You will let fear stop you from doing what you need to do. You will mistakenly see yourself as a weak and impaired individual, rather than a strong, competent person who happens to have an overactive fear response.” I love that! You aren’t weak or impaired if you struggle with fear, you are a strong and competent person who happens to struggle with fear.
This book isn’t about fear specifically, but I’ve turned to it time and again and I find that it can help with fear. The book presents cognitive therapy techniques to treat depression. Cognitive therapy deals with questioning the thoughts that might be in the way of you living an emotionally healthy life. The reason I’m mentioning this book is because Dr. Burns shares many exercises to help remove cognitive distortions and I find that people who struggle with fear, although they might not also struggle with depression, often struggle with cognitive distortions. Here are a couple of cognitive distortions and examples that relate to someone who is afraid to do something.
Emotional reasoning: When you believe that how you feel is representative of what is happening. Example: I feel afraid to write this book and that means that I can’t write it. Not true! “Feelings aren’t facts.”
The Fortune Teller Error: You believe that things won’t work out and think that your belief is fact. Example: I’m supposed to present my idea to these investors and I’m so nervous that I’m going to flub it and they’re just going to laugh in my face. Not true! You have no idea what the outcome will be or how you will do, just prepare as best as you can and let the investors react how they’ll react.
Disqualifying the Positive: You discount the positive as not counting. Example: Even though I was afraid to ask that sales person to correct a price and I still did it, it doesn’t really count because it wasn’t a big enough test. Not true! Every step counts, even little ones. Pat yourself on the back for overcoming that small fear and move onto something a little bit bigger next time.
Paul Jarvis’ main vocation is designing awesome websites, but I found him through his blog and his writing style is honest and straightforward. In Everything I Know, Paul shares some of the insights he gleaned working for himself and as you can imagine, he’s no stranger to fear.
One of the tactics that Paul uses that inspired me was moving through his fears progressively. He says, “I start small at first, with small pushes. I know that being afraid and moving forward don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I work up to medium pushes. Fear still can’t do anything if I don’t give it any power. Then I push harder. Don’t worry; fear can take it, and fear can’t fight back.”
Again, it’s comforting and inspiring to see people you admire share that when they started out, they were afraid and they just took it one step at a time. This is another comforting read and if you’ve ever considered working for yourself, it’s an inspirational push too.
Wayne Dyer’s book is all about how to avoid being a victim in your life. If you’ve ever been afraid to be who you are and to stick up for yourself in your life and with others, this book is a good read.
Wayne shares lots of tips for developing freedom in your life. He says, “The freest people in the world are those who have senses of inner peace about themselves: They simply refuse to be swayed by the whims of others, and are quietly effective at the running of their own lives.” To run your own life in this way, you need to learn how to move through your fear and Wayne spends some time explaining that experience is an “antidote to fear.”
His tone in this book is a bit more authoritative than warm and fuzzy, but if you’ve ever felt like a pushover and been afraid to assert yourself in your life and with other people, this book might be a big eye-opener and help inspire you to take more self-respecting behavior.
This was such a beautiful book all about helping you move forward if you were stuck. As you can imagine, fear plays a huge role in keeping many of us stuck. It’s a part of a series of “If the Buddha…” books and you don’t have to be Buddhist to benefit from it.
I read it at a time when I was feeling stuck and it gave me such comfort and inspiration. I fully recommend it and will share a passage that has helped me move forward time and again: “In relation to getting unstuck, we need to explore how fear often stops forward motion or taking the next step. ‘Oh, I can’t do that, I’m afraid.’ That’s where we need to bring our concerns into current reality – is there really any serious danger of starving, dying, or being injured? – if not we need to take the next step, fear and all. To move with life is to penetrate these fears, observe them, and step through them. Usually nothing terrible happens no matter what the outcome.
Betsey Talbot is one half of the blog Married with Luggage and co-writer of the book Dream, Save, Do. Strip Off Your Fear is geared toward helping women who have been “good girls” – those who are afraid to be, do or have what they want – learn how to move through fear and become confident.
It’s a fun read, especially with the way that Betsey lays the book out with chapter titles and themes that move you through the process of getting undressed. For example, in the “Get a Leg Up” chapter, Betsey uses a woman’s legs to make a point about confidence. “Your confidence exists within you. It is just like your legs, ready to take you wherever you want to go, but waiting on you to give the direction. Your confidence is dying to run, leap and climb, to build her muscles through use and activity, and by adding physical use and actions to your emotional desires, you can teach yourself to expose a more confident you.”
This is another beautiful book. The subtitle of this book is Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are. One of the main fears we often come across is the fear of not being enough and Dr. Brown shares what she’s learned through her study on what she calls Wholehearted living which is all about living “from a place of worthiness.”
Dr. Brown describes it best here: “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Reading this book opened my eyes to how important this type of living is and also how much of fear comes from not believing that we are worthy exactly as we are.
Those are the 9 top books that have helped me learn how to hug fear in my life. Please share which books are in your top list. I’m always looking for suggestions!
Also, if you haven’t already signed up for my email list, I am now offering a free booklet as a gift for joining the community! Just submit your information in the blue box to the right (or down below if you’re on a mobile device) and I’ll send it to you right away!
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Have you ever struggled with being at peace with the “meantime?” You know that long length of time between when you decide to go for something (a goal, a new habit, a big change, etc). and when you actually reach the finish line? That’s the meantime.
Lately I’ve been asking myself how we can manage the feelings, fears and doubts that come up when we’re in the midst of the journey between idea and manifestation. Here are 7 ways that I’ve found to be helpful:
1. Remember why you decided to go for this goal in the first place. When you’re working things out and climbing over obstacles it’s easy to forget why you decided to set out on this journey. “Why am I doing this again?” is a common question in the meantime. That’s why it helps to write down your reason for taking this leap. What did you hope to get out of it? What was the motivation behind starting? Write it all down and put it in a place where you can see it and refer to it often.
2. When fears and emotions get the best of you, sometimes it’s helpful to just let yourself “have a meltdown.” I took this advice from my interview with Louise Watson. She said, “I think sometimes you need to have a bit of a meltdown before you can start to think straight. Just get it all out of your system and then get on with it.” It takes a lot of effort to hold your feelings in (I’ve always liked the visual of a dam holding back a body of water). Sometimes when things get too intense, it can be helpful to just let go and release those emotions and then move forward.
3. Keep a running list of what you’ve done. It’s easy to feel like you’re spinning your wheels or if you’re like me it’s also easy to convince yourself that you haven’t done anything. Having a list can help you remember and build up your confidence in yourself and your abilities. And it doesn’t have to be complex to work. I keep track in my daily planner and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten to the end of the week and felt like I didn’t get anything done and then take a moment to look back through my planner and realize I did way more than I thought I did. I almost immediately feel better when I reflect.
4. Find ways to make the meantime fun and/or enjoyable. Life is short and the journey is about 99% of life. That number is arbitrary, but it comes from my honest observation. Just think of someone running a marathon. How much time is spent crossing the finish line versus running the whole race? Probably 99%, right? Don’t save your enjoyment for when you reach the end of the line because you’ll spend most of your life being unhappy.
5. Be mindful of whether you have your worth tied up in the end goal. I used to do this and it definitely makes the journey unnecessarily stressful. The pressure! This is a subtle trick you can play on yourself and if you’re not sure one sign would be to ask yourself what would happen if you didn’t reach your end goal. If you answer something along the lines of “My life would be over!” “I would die!” “I would hate myself” then it’s likely you’re measuring your worth by what you do instead of it being an unconditional state of your being alive. The more your worth is tied up in what you achieve (or don’t), the more likely it is that you, and your journey, will be miserable.
6. Don’t recreate the wheel. Look to examples left by people who have done what you want to do. Do this for inspiration, but also for another perspective of what may happen during the journey. Yes, there are likely exceptions and people who didn’t have to wait long, but if you really look you’ll likely find that there are others who felt like you’re feeling and see how they handled it. You are never alone and there are so many great resources out there in books, blogs, and even just asking someone you admire to share some of their journey with you. Note: This does not include social media stalking. While people do show their journey on social media, a lot of times looking for inspiration here can do more harm than good and cause you to compare yourself to images that may be more of a positively spun story than day to day reality. If you can do it without comparing though, browse away.
7. Count the good things. Daily gratitude lists help to remind you of what’s good in your life. It can help to change your perspective and bring some contentment to your day. Yes, you may not have reached your goal yet, but there are definitely good things in your life, even if the only thing you can think of is something basic like being able to breathe unassisted or having clean drinking water. If you don’t implement anything else, this is the one I would suggest the most. Just writing 10 things you’re grateful for each day can transform your outlook and help you to enjoy the journey.
And if you have another practice you use to make the most of your meantime, please share it in the comments section!
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I have a secret. I’m a scientist. Ok, I’m just kidding, but I’ve been using a somewhat scientific method in my personal life that’s really been helping me understand myself and create better habits. I call it “Observe, Don’t Judge.” Essentially, I’ve been observing my behavior as if I am two people: the one who sees what I’m doing and the one who actually does the work.
Here’s an example: I was becoming frustrated at getting to the end of the day and realizing that I hadn’t done what I had planned to do to further my goals. I would get home, it would be dark soon after dinner and I would just plop down on the couch and do much of nothing until it was time for bed. As usual, once I got into bed, I would mentally chastise myself for being lazy and slacking off, but one night another thought pushed to the forefront and it said,
I got out my journal and expanded on the idea and began to look around for clues as to why I had such low energy on most evenings. No judgments or name calling, just an honest look at what was not working. In a few minutes, I came up with a few answers:
1. I tend to work better in the morning and afternoon and yet I saved the bulk of my tasks for the evening.
2. I had been getting to bed later than usual the last couple of weeks leaving me very tired the next day.
3. I hadn’t been taking enough time during the day and during the weekend to renew my energy in quiet and solitude which I’m learning is a major energy drain for me as an introvert.
4. I hadn’t been drinking as much water as I used to and remembered a time before when drinking less water made me feel less energized.
As I looked over my list, the things I wrote felt much better than calling myself names. I also realized that by stopping and observing in this way I could separate my fear and self-sabotage from bad habits that don’t take my natural tendencies and needs into account. Sometimes what we think is fear or weakness, is really us just fighting against our natural tendencies or those behaviors that make us feel the best. If we would just notice what these are and act with them, we might have an easier time.
I didn’t stop there though. I realized that I could do something about each of those observations and I could start right away.
1. I could schedule some of the tasks I saved for the evening for the morning before work and at my lunch break instead.
2. I could get to bed earlier that night.
3. I could set a water drinking goal for the next day.
4. I could schedule at least 15 minutes of quiet and solitude in my schedule for the next day and cut back on my social calendar for the next week.
To help me keep track of the possible solutions I discovered, I created a worksheet (which you can download for free here). It’s basically a nicer looking version of what I initially wrote out on a piece of paper that night. If you’ve resonated so far with this exercise, perhaps you can make use of the worksheet too.
The first page is for observing what’s going right and what’s not going right. Although I didn’t mention it until now, I think it’s very important to observe what’s working because it helps you to realize that all is not lost.
I added the “What’s working?” question on a later trial of the worksheet and it really helped me to be grateful for the good things and keep doing those things that made my life feel better.
Even acknowledging basic things that you might take for granted (like being able to cook a meal every day or getting to an appointment on time) can make a big positive difference in how you feel about life and yourself.
You can also use what’s working to help you improve what’s not working. Maybe you get to work late, but you get to your doctor’s appointments on time. What can you learn from those situations when you are on time that can help you be on time for work?
The second and third page is where you detail what you can do in the next 24 hours to make what’s not working work at least a little bit better. I think it’s important to take action on what you discover as soon as possible. When I did it, it helped me feel empowered and it lifted my spirits since there was something I was doing to help myself sooner rather than later.
I limited the worksheet to contain up to four things that aren’t working as it got a bit overwhelming to think about changing any more than that. If you feel you can handle more than four, go for it.
And no scientific experiment would be complete without a report so I made sure to check in after a few days and see what worked or what needed to be tweaked. I mostly did this in my journal, but it can also be done by doing the first observation part again to see what is or isn’t working where you are now. The sheet can be used for a specific area or issue, but also as a general barometer of your life overall.
So let me know if you choose to try this experiment in your life. I’d love to hear if it worked (or didn’t) for you and if you have another method of self-observation that you use in your life, please share!
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Hug Your Fear and Try New Things March 2014 Challenge
Hi Everyone! I’m back! Did you miss me? Did you even realize I was gone? After I completed the Try New Things challenge in March, I decided to take a little break in April to reconnect with myself and decide whether I wanted to continue with this blog.
I wish I could say that I spent the whole month in deep introspection, focused intently on this decision, but I really didn’t think about answering the question until the last week of the month. In that one week, it became very clear that I wanted to continue, I wanted to write more, explore more and connect more so here I am.
Today I want to share some thoughts about one big thing that happened during my month long blogging break. My grandfather died.
He had been sick for a while and in March his health just got worse and worse. This was the closest family member death for me, so it was a whole new experience. What also made it interesting was that this was my father’s father and up until two years ago, my father was not actively in my life.
I debated on whether to share this much here, but it could be helpful for someone so here goes something. My father was not in my life for most of my 30 years of existence. When I was a baby, he struggled with addiction and my mother had the good sense to physically separate from him for our well being. Once he got sober, I saw him a few times here and there, but a relationship never formed. During my childhood/teenage years, I experienced many emotions/feelings about his absence: anger, numbness, rejection, confusion.
I saw more of his parents throughout my childhood. I would spend a weekend here or there at their house. They would send holiday presents. As I became an adult, I often let my feelings about my father’s absence shadow over my relationship with his parents. It just felt weird to be close to them without remembering how we were connected – my father – and having that big pink elephant hanging out in the corner every time we talked.
A couple of years ago, I was invited to a banquet celebrating my paternal grandfather’s retirement from his decades long service as a Christian minister. It had been about 7 years since I’d seen my father, a few less years since I’d spent time with my grandparents and a year or so since I started of a period of talk therapy and healing work.
Knowing that I would see my father at this banquet, and having done this previous work in myself, I felt the need to say something to him. After some deep thought and bouts of terror at the idea of confronting him verbally, I decided to write a letter.
In that letter I bared my heart and shared all of the feelings I had about him not being in my life and not putting in the effort that I thought I was worth. I wrote a few drafts, sealed it and off we went. I gave him the letter very shortly after saying hello just to get it over with. I was so nervous before and after giving him the letter that I couldn’t even eat during the banquet.
A week or two after I got home, I got my father’s reply to my letter. I read his answers to my questions and I cried like a baby. But it was all worth it, nervous tummy and all.
Although we are still getting to know each other (and there are still moments of doubt, awkwardness and trial and error), I am happy to say that I am building a relationship with my father for the first time in 30 years. And watching him deal with the death of his father has brought me further knowledge, understanding and healing.
I don’t just share this to pat myself on the back. Being estranged from a family member is more common than I wish it was. Maybe you had someone in mind from your life when you read my story and are dealing with fear (and a whole bunch of other murky emotions) in regards to reconciling with them and/or healing.
I can share a few things from my limited perspective of experience that helped me get through this so far:
• Decide if you want to reconcile or not. For a long time I didn’t want to. If you decide that you don’t want to reconcile, take note of whether you still carry feelings about being estranged from this person. If so, you can still take steps to work on healing that do not involve the other person at all.
• Focus on your part, not the outcome. If I had focused on what my father’s response would be, I would not have written or given him my letter. I found that the only way I could move forward was to make the end result giving him the letter. You have no control over someone’s response to your truth. I’d also heard lots of stories about people reaching out to their family member and being rejected so I just focused on the letter and nothing else.
• Allow the feelings that come. I tried my best to let myself feel whatever feelings came up during the whole process. I cried when I felt like it. When I got nervous before and after giving the letter, I just let myself. It also might help to have practices in place to turn to when the feelings come: journaling, deep breathing, exercise, meditation, petting a cat, etc.
• Get help for dealing with your feelings. There is no shame in being supported. Situations like these can bring with them lots of scary feelings and it helps to have someone there to share them with. That person can be a friend, a therapist, a spouse or anyone willing to listen without judgement.
• Don’t expect too much after you’ve reconciled. It takes time to grow a relationship, even if this person is someone from your past. Don’t give up if things are weird or difficult in the beginning. Just take it slow.
• And finally, don’t consider yourself a failure if the other person chooses not to reconcile with you. Remember, you are only responsible for your actions and it’s best for your peace of mind and wellbeing to consider yourself a success for trying.
With that said, a synchronistic surprise happened the night after my grandfather’s funeral. My grandfather was a voracious reader and although I wasn’t very close to him, in that way we were a lot alike. As I was browsing through one of his bookshelves (there are walls of them!), a title caught my eye: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Dr. Susan Jeffers! Remember that book?
If you read my About page, you’ll remember that I originally found this book on the shelf at my grandparent’s house and here it was years later and months after I started Hug Your Fear (which was very much inspired by Dr. Jeffers’ book).
I took the book off the shelf, opened it up and was comforted to see my grandfather’s underlines and notes. I just felt so happy and grateful as I reflected on how I got to this place where I could feel happy and grateful in terms of my father and his side of the family. And it was just freakishly cool to see this book here given that I never mentioned it to my grandfather before he died and seeing his notes means I get to read the book with him.
So, if you’re seeking to reconcile with someone from your past and you’re willing to hug your fear and move through whatever comes up, I encourage you to do it. You can do it. One step at a time and with support as needed.
As Dr. Jeffers says, “At the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring to you.” So when in doubt about reconciling with someone or moving through any fear you have, just repeat this handy Dr. Jeffers mantra to yourself:
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