27 September 2023

Worry wart: Is fear sabotaging your happiness?

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Michelle Bakjac* says a simple worry can too easily grow into a stifling fear that paralyses the need to take action.

When we are young, we feel fearless. It feels like we are invincible, and nothing can ever touch us.

We climbed tall trees, we took risks, we jumped off the jetty at Henley Beach (don’t think my Mum ever found out).

The scratches and bruises we got on our knees from roller skating (in my day) were like battle scars we showed off to anyone and everyone.

Then at some point, we started to grow up.

We started to have responsibility, we needed to pay bills, we had other people relying on us and we had to start taking responsibility for our own actions.

With this ‘real adulthood’ came all the associated worries and self-doubt.

I now worry about getting sick, having enough work, are my kids happy and healthy, is my relationship ok, should I trust this person, will I fail if I try this?

Simple worries can metamorphosise into fears and we can easily self-sabotage, ruling out any positive outcomes of life-changing situations and foreseeing only troubles and disasters.

With all of this worry, we can also get into analysis paralysis and get bogged down with “what will I do” and “how can I fix this?”

Our fear of failure gets in the way of taking action.

At some point though, we have to recognise that fear is actually the real enemy.

We have to consider getting our fear on a leash.

So, in order to get started we have to understand some simple facts.

Fear is a normal reaction to change.

We can acknowledge it rather than waste time on trying to get rid of it.

After all, fear is not the main problem; it’s the subject of our fear that we have to consider.

Concentrate on not letting your own mind amplify fear.

We can get plagued with the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’.

Be your own lawyer and object every time one of these ‘what ifs’ tries to invade your thinking.

If you think “what if I lose my job”, you can consider “I will have a chance to find a better one”.

Don’t let society impose fear on you.

Terrible diseases, growing unemployment, crime, poverty, hunger, etc. all infect society and its social norms and expectations.

Life is not only these things — not everything is terrible.

We find what we look for, so try to look for goodness, happiness, joy.

How can you actually cultivate your positivity?

Surround yourself with positive and supportive people.

Reduce the time you spend with people who project their insecurities, negativity, and fears onto you.

Be a part of a group that can project a growth mindset.

Recognise that life is a zebra.

There will be bad and good times, white and black stripes.

We were gifted with an ability to experience a huge range of emotions.

It would seem a waste if we were didn’t have a chance to experience all of them.

So, we have a few black days — but after all a zebra is actually white with black stripes, so we can experience a mainly white forum and determine how many black stripes are on our zebra.

Remember a ship is safe in the harbour, but that’s not what ships are made for.

How can you get out of the harbour and see the big beautiful world? Even if sometimes it is stormy.

*Michelle Bakjac is an experienced Adelaide-based psychologist, organisational consultant, coach, speaker and facilitator and a Director of Bakjac Consulting. She can be contacted at [email protected].

This article first appeared on the Bakjac Consulting website.

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