Overcome Moments of Fear with Simple Self-Coaching
Fear holds us back. It causes us to self-censor, push down our authenticity, hesitate to reach for opportunities, and more. The good news is that moments of fear are perfect opportunities to practice the power of self-coaching.
I define self-coaching as the practice of pre-selecting words of encouragement, affirmation, and guidance that you can tell yourself when the gremlin in your head wants you to hold back. Essentially, it’s a strategic way to give yourself the pep-talk you need when you need it most.
The great thing about self-coaching is that you don’t need to rely on anyone or anything else to support you—you have all the tools you need to help yourself. You can do it anywhere, anytime, and it’s easy to get good at it if you practice.
Start with Mindfulness
Like with many (if not all!) forms of self-work, mindfulness is essential to knowing when you need to self-coach. You can practice non-judgmental awareness of your thoughts using tools like meditation to get good at catching yourself in moments when you’re holding back because of fear. Without mindfulness, you may not even realize that you’re feeling fear.
Whether your fear is caused by a negative narrative you’ve internalized (“You’re not good enough”), a self-limiting belief that you hold about yourself (“I can’t do this”), or feeling pressure to behave like someone you’re not (“Don’t show your true feelings”)—self-coaching can help you to behave or speak in a way that will serve you better, and be more in accord with your authentic self.
When we experience moments of fear or panic, our nervous system is activated, and we experience fight, flight, or freeze (also called amygdala hijack). When we are in amygdala hijack, physical symptoms of stress impair aspects of our cognition and decision-making. But when we practice mindfulness, we can slow down, hear what’s happening in our mind, and be in greater control of how we speak and behave.
After practicing mindful awareness of your thoughts for a while, you’ll have a better idea of the kinds of situations in which you’re likely to experience negative narratives. It’s in those situations that you’ll want to have self-coaching on standby.
Use Mantras and Affirmations
A mantra or positive affirmation is a statement of reinforcement that you can use strategically to keep you grounded, rooted, and calm during moments of stress. You can choose something simple to practice and call upon when you need it. My mantra during meditation is, “I am love,” and during tough moments I use the mantra “I’m fine I’m fine I’m great I’m great.”
I can remember one experience where saying an encouraging mantra really helped me out. The first time I told my boyfriend I really liked him, I was terrified. This is a nerve-wracking moment for a lot of people—but one of my own negative narratives is a feeling of being unlovable, so this was especially terrifying for me.
When the moment arrived, and I knew I had to tell him, I called on the power of self-coaching to push through the nerves (even though my body was telling me to run far, far away!). Using my mantra “I am love, you can do this!” to encourage myself, I was able to push through and express my true feelings. And I can tell you, it was a rewarding feeling.
Challenge Negative Narratives with Evidence of Positive Truths
When it comes to challenging negative narratives, sometimes a positive statement isn’t enough. In these cases, it’s important to give yourself evidence of the positive truth you want to be thinking instead.
For example, if you suffer from impostor syndrome (like I occasionally do when I present to audiences), your negative narrative might sound something like “I can’t believe I’m up on a stage in front of 500 people right now. What if they think I’m stupid?” This negative narrative is hard to overcome with a simple “You go girl!”
But it can be powerful to take stock of your accomplishments and use them as evidence to unlearn your negative narratives and instead internalize a positive truth about yourself. In the example above, I would beef up a positive, encouraging thought by adding evidence of my worthiness: “I am qualified to be on this stage. I have presented over 800 times in my career. I know this gig better than most people. I’ve got this!”
Sometimes this kind of reality check is what we need to ground us and make us feel stronger—and the more often we do it, the more powerful and worthy we feel.
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Next time the gremlin in your head makes an appearance, how will you self-coach? What can you tell yourself about yourself that will encourage you instead of holding you back? Leave a comment below—I’d love to hear about how the power of self-coaching works for you!