THE FEAR I am talking about today is that terror of getting something done in case you do something wrong, make a mistake, get into trouble… It’s paralysing, and can occupy your thoughts to the exclusion of all else.
THE FEAR can be very difficult to get a handle on, especially as an adult. I wondered why that might be. A friend of mine said that as children, our fears of getting things wrong and into trouble tend to be focussed on a person – for example, a parent or a teacher. However, as adults, those we can end up answerable to can seem a bit more faceless – HMRC, the police, government agencies.
I thought this was interesting, and it got me thinking about power dynamics. Something about a faceless threat can seem so much scarier, perhaps because we can’t plan for how to deal with it or because it can have so much more power to impact our lives. As children, losing our breaktime to a detention might feel devastating, but as adults we are more aware of how much bigger and scarier consequences and punishments can be. We are also far more aware of the consequences of our actions – knowing that we could make a mistake or choose a path that leads to harm to others or ourselves.
Those “what ifs” are what are so paralysing. “What if I get my tax return wrong?” “What if my documentation isn’t correct?” “What if they find an error when I’m audited?”
The trouble is, not facing and doing these things can also lead to bad consequences. For example, a fine for a late submission, or even hurrying and ending up making a mistake you otherwise might not have.
My top tips for facing THE FEAR:
- Plan ahead. Set aside a specific time to complete the task. Not too far in the future, but not in the next 5 minutes either.
- Divide the task into smaller steps, and complete them in an order which makes the most sense to you.
- Perhaps the most difficult – ask for help. It’s okay not to know or understand everything at once. That’s why we have lawyers, accountants, electricians, plumbers…! If money is an issue, check out free or low-cost sources of help such as ACAS (for work disputes), Shelter (for issues with housing, renting etc), MA (for money advice) or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (for all sorts of things).
- Plan a reward for yourself for afterwards, if you need extra motivation.
Getting the scary things done is an act of self care. Self care isn’t just bubble baths and scented candles. It is also completing the things we need to get done, rather than letting them hang over us and potentially causing worse problems.
As Susan Jeffers said, Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway!