Fear, "frauds," and friends

A young friend recently told me he felt like a fraud because he was being strong for the people around him when he felt terrified inside. I assured him that he was not a fraud. In fact, what he’s experiencing is LIFE. There’s a reason that one of the bestselling self-help books out there is called, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” A big part of life is experiencing intense emotions, acknowledging those emotions, and choosing to move forward… in spite of what you’re feeling.

In my opinion, you need to take a balanced approach, though. That can make the difference between simply going through the motions of life day after day after day… which can ultimately be dangerous… or using your current horrible situation as a springboard to another level. An emotional breakthrough, of sorts.

I’ll get to that in a moment. But first, I want to talk about something that dawned on me as I was trying to reassure my friend.

I realized that those of us who’ve come to this conclusion are not doing younger people any favors by keeping this type of knowledge to ourselves. I remember when I was around his age, I thought I was truly crazy for feeling sad, angry, and depressed about certain things. Everyone else seemed to have his/her act together— what in the world was wrong with me? I was able to keep the panic at bay for the most part— but there were a couple of times when I headed into work and had to stay in my car for a half-hour before walking in the door. I later realized I was having panic attacks (to the point where I would be hyperventilating). I managed to compose myself enough to get through the door and start working… but the whole time, I felt like a fraud. What in the world was I doing trying to “fake” my way through the day? Why was I even there?

(Meanwhile, it didn’t ever occur to me to think that everyone else around me thought that *I* was the one who had my act together.)

It wasn’t until later I realized I was not in the minority when it came to putting on that smile even though I felt more like fleeing. And that was a liberating experience for me. So I was glad that I could share this with my young friend.

At some point in all of our lives, we have intense emotions that threaten to overwhelm us. Going back to one of my other tenets of life: what happens next is up to us.

Some people let the emotions eat them up and do nothing.

Others acknowledge those emotions and do whatever they can to work through it. Part of that involves taking the action of moving forward even when we don’t feel like moving forward. And IMO, taking that step is quite courageous. I believe that by taking that step— even if it feels “fake”— you are starting the process of conquering whatever that emotion is. Moving forward is a sign you are refusing to let it get the best of you.

But— IMO— you can’t leave it at that.

If you continue to move forward pretending that nothing is wrong, and keep putting on a brave face without taking any actual steps to work through those emotions, they will eventually eat you up. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away… and in many cases it even makes things worse, because it continues to simmer below the surface until it reaches a boil.

This is where the balance part comes in.

It only makes sense that if you feel off-kilter, you should look for support to help you regain your balance. Thinking of it in a literal sense, people who break a leg find a cane or some other outside source of support to help them stay steady while their leg heals. Turning to outside support to help you stay steady while trying to heal an emotional hurt is no different.

No one is an island. In my experience it is ESSENTIAL that you confide in someone as you go through a really tough time. Whether it be a very close friend or relative, a mentor, a therapist… etc. You should never try to face intense emotions alone. At the very least, you will most likely find someone who has experienced the same thing before and will let you know that you are not alone.

And in some instances, turning to someone with a different perspective might lead to something you didn’t really think of before… or introduce a way to heal that you hadn’t considered.

Going back to my work situation all those years ago, a couple of my mentors knew what was going on. And they are the ones who kept me sane during the process. One of them really caused me to see the root of my issue, which helped me eventually determine that I needed to move away from a certain workplace. It was a tough (and risky) decision at the time, but— it was definitely the RIGHT decision (I can’t stress just how much it was the right decision— perhaps I’ll write about it in a later post).

Another thing that happened — I had an incredible boost in self-confidence. A result of realizing that I had the power to continue on with my life while facing my fears. I didn’t let it paralyze me. But I didn’t let it fester either. And I’m convinced I never would have been able to do so without support.

An important final note: if it’s something that’s really overwhelming you, consider seeking professional guidance. Some people have placed a stigma on seeking professional counseling… but I know so many people who have benefited from it. The right counselor will not only help you get through a tough time— he/she can help you eventually thrive.

Another important note: In the interest of making sure I don’t set myself up as an authority on this issue, please recognize that I have NO professional training whatsoever when it comes guiding other people. This (and every other blog entry for that matter) is solely my opinion. This is what I’ve determined works for me— after YEARS of trial and error.

 

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