How to Move Forward in the Face of Fear

by Alli Polin on October 29, 2013

How to Move Forward Even When Paralyzed by Fear

My husband said “don’t look out your window!” but it was too late – I already saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  My head immediately snapped to the window and I was looking face to face with an enormous huntsman spider.  If you’re wondering how big it was, think softball, not golf ball size. I screamed and a part of me likes to think the spider screamed too; I swear my scream scared him as he scurried around.  After much hyperventilating, squeaking and squealing on my part, not to mention driving at full speed down the road to shake him loose, he eventually disappeared from the window.  I bravely told my kids to get out of the car, the spider was gone.

Over reaction?  I didn’t think so!  That sucker was HUGE and scary.  He could have eaten my family for dinner…  ok, maybe not.  Turns out that the huntsman spider is harmless to humans. Can they bite?  Yup.  Can they kill me?  Nope.

Big and scary can unnecessarily stop you in your tracks. Don’t let it! (Click to Tweet)

How can you overcome paralysis when staring down your personal big scary spider, uh, I mean, moment?

For you, it might be a job interview, getting called into the bosses office, asking someone for a first date or getting a big performance review.  No matter what your spider-moment is, there is a way to tap into your most confident, competent and creative self instead of letting the moment runt the show.

Events don’t determine your experience, you do. (Click to Tweet)

Don’t stand frozen in fear, do this instead: 

Freak Out

It’s OK to be scared!  However, running to the rooftops and sobbing uncontrollably is probably a mistake.  Instead, simply allow yourself to feel the fear.  Go to the bathroom, take a walk, or call your best friend on the phone.  Talk about your emotion and how you’re feeling – even the most irrational bits.

Alli’s freak out:  The spider is going to sneak in my house tonight and I’m going to wake up with it on my face!  AAAAHHHH.  Crazy, right?  Freak out over.

Stop Screaming, Breathe

You’re not a loser if you feel the emotion of fear – you’re human.  Instead of covering it up, breathe, look at what it’s telling you.  Listen to your words and recognize when the irrational is covering a rational response.  Deep breathing also helps you slow down, lower your blood pressure, and get present.

Alli’s deep breath: I’m inside of the car, it’s on the outside.  It was an I’m OK, you’re OK moment.

Get Centered

Those deep breaths help you to welcome a state of mindfulness: Present, in the moment and able to accept and acknowledge your feelings without letting them overwhelm you.  When you embrace the yin and yang of the moment you can move with greater ease and purpose.  Centered.

“Yes ands” are available to each of us in the moment and we can cultivate our ability to “hold both.”

  • Fear and curiosity
  • Love and hate
  • Excitement and calm
  • Focus and a wider view of the world

Alli’s centered moment: I live here, they live here – neither one of us is moving out of the country.

Call Forth Courage

Centered, breathing, it’s time to envision your ideal outcome.  What does it feel like?  What are you doing?  Here’s the thing, having a vision for how you want things to go helps you keep your eye on the best possible outcome and not all the seemingly endless numbers of things that could go wrong. Courage starts with your faith, not in facts.  Now is the time to act, you can do this!

You are bigger than your fear when you choose to take action despite your fear.  (Click to Tweet)

Alli’s moment of courage:  I opened the door instead of giving into my desire to sleep in the car for the rest of the night.  Opening my door and stepping out with courage gave my children the confidence to do the same.

Your acts of courage inspire confidence in others. (Click to Tweet)

If you’re wondering, the next day the huntsman was back but this time on the driver’s side.  It still freaked me out but I screamed a little less and even pulled out my phone to take a picture.   I watched it climb behind the side view mirror and pictured it having a party with five of its friends.  Still, I got out of the car with more calm than the day before.  The following day I didn’t see the spider and mustered up courage and confidence when I encouraged my kids to get in to head to school.

Every day I still expect to see its ugly body make another creepy crawly appearance but I’m still moving forward, carrying on with my day, and heading where I need to go.  Do I love the huntsman spider?  NO.  Am I worried about it making an appearance?  NO.  I’ve got too many other things going on to worry about might-bes and could-happens.  What about you?

How have you opened yourself to your fear to get over your fear?

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick October 29, 2013 at 5:45 am

Great post, lot of good tips for facing fear. Weirdly I dreamt about a huge spider last night, and I’m also trying to take action to start my business so maybe it was a sign ha. Either way great advice for helping me overcome my fears.

Cheers

Rick

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Alli Polin October 29, 2013 at 5:59 am

Thanks, Rick! Who knows, maybe spiders are a good sign for what’s ahead. Getting past the spider means you (and I) can conquer anything! At least that’s the story I’m going with 🙂 Many thanks for your comment and feedback too!

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Chery Gegelman October 29, 2013 at 6:43 am

LOL! (Literally!)

Fun, fun, fun, story that made me laugh out loud! Love the points you made and the joy and adventure you gave me as I lived in the moment with you!

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Alli Polin October 29, 2013 at 7:27 am

Wasn’t fun in the moment! I keep thinking I see something crawling near my foot!

Fear is a big and always important topic. Love your recent insights that you’ve shared on blog posts across multiple sites. Truly appreciate your feedback, friendship and connection!

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Lalita Raman October 29, 2013 at 7:33 am

Good point Alli. Sometimes it is best to conquer our inner fear and the only person who can do it is each of us to ourselves.

Loved your story. Made me laugh since I imagined myself in the same position 🙂

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Alli Polin October 29, 2013 at 7:40 am

Truly, Lalita, we are our greatest obstacle and greatest champion in the face of fear. We are absolutely the only ones that have the power to move or stay stuck in our fear.

Thanks so much, Lalita!

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Joy Guthrie October 29, 2013 at 8:33 am

Great story that really gets your point across. Fear can be immobilizing. Sometimes, you can even fear “fear.” (gasp) Great work and love your visual.

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Alli Polin October 29, 2013 at 8:54 am

Fear can literally and figuratively stop us in our tracks. Breathing helps a ton and when we do it consciously, suddenly we realize we’ve been holding our breath for far too long.

Fearing fear… so much in there and unfortunately, so true.

Thanks for commenting and sharing. Greatly appreciate you, Joy!

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Lolly Daskal October 29, 2013 at 9:46 am

When in FEAR just surrender. The moment you give into I AM AFRAID…. is the moment that the fright of FEAR dissolves.

…… fear comes in all sizes and shapes – how we deal with it is up to us. And Alli you have given us some great suggestions!

Great humors and insightful post!

Lolly
Lead From Within
Always lead with heart.

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:39 am

Surrender. What a beautiful way to put it. I’ve also found that when I accept my fear is the moment I can move past it instead of it blocking me like a wall that I can’t see or destroy.

Appreciate you very much and your insights too, Lolly!

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Cynthia Bazin October 29, 2013 at 10:00 am

Awesome post Alli! Totally made me laugh and what great tips you gave to face fear. Thanks!!

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:41 am

Helps me to laugh at how ridiculous my reaction was to the spider! Taking a step back and seeing our fear from 10,000 feet often puts it in a new perspective.

Thanks so much, Cynthia!

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Blair Glaser October 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

Perfect Halloween post! Thanks for the giggles and wisdom — to great tastes that go well together. I love how you give permission for the freak out – -that’s an important step to recollecting yourself and pulling yourself back from the edge.
It’s okay to be scared!!! It’s NOT okay to be scaring yourself.

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:43 am

It may be halloween but that spider better not cross my entry-way or I’m going to be mega unhappy (and so will the spider). Love the way you put that – OK to be scared but not to be scaring yourself! Horror movies are HUGE for a reason. Wonder if that’s good practice for all of the other things that make us leap in fear in our lives?

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Kaarina Dillabough October 29, 2013 at 10:28 am

It’s good that our “fright/flight” mechanism remains with us to this day. It’s not likely that we’ll be devoured by a sabre toothed tiger, but that “primitive” reaction to things that scare us is a good thing. It’s been said that it’s not the experience itself that creates the response: it’s our reaction to that experience. When danger or the unexpected strikes, I’m happy for that reaction, because it also equips us with experience…experience that we can use the next time (should there be a next time) it happens…much like your softball spider. Cheers! Kaarina

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:44 am

Yes! Something to be said for keeping ourselves safe, right? Luckily we can learn from each and every encounter and make our comfort zone slightly wider and the circle of fear shrink in turn.

Love the way you describe it, Kaarina! Many thanks!

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Audra October 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Alli, I loved your post. Jack Canfield says ‘Feel the fear and take action anyway’. You did just that, and provided a huge example to your kids. I’ve seen those damn things and yes, they ARE huge. I hate spiders too and could never sleep when I knew one was in the house. Thank goodness for long poles on vacuums!

Keep the blogs coming Alli – love them! xxoo

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 3:13 am

Great wisdom in what Jack says! Every time we take action anyway we make our fear go “poof!” It’s rarely as bad as we’ve made things out to be in our minds. I’ll never love spiders but I can learn to co-exist with them. Once I’m out of my head, the rational-me knows I really have no other choice. Yes, long pole vacuums are our friend!

Appreciate you, my friend!!

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LaRae Quy October 29, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Great post, Alli! You summed up most of our fears with this single sentence: “Can they bite? Yup. Can they kill me? Nope.”

That is the important thing to remember when we face our fear…most of them are self-limiting beliefs that keep us confined to a specific type of behavior.

I love your everyday leadership lessons…maybe there is a book in there 🙂

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:46 am

Seriously! We make up so much without really testing it against reality but instead choose to believe our stories. Mental toughness is key too – pushing us past our safety zone into new territory where the learning is abundant.

Thanks, LaRae!

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Terri Klass October 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm

What type of creatures are you dealing with in the Outback? I could visualize your fear with your great story, Alli.

I have the same response to bees, Alli and haven’t gotten much better about dealing with them through the years. I keep saying to myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? You get stung?”

I find that by getting to what the worst thing that can happen, puts my mind into a more functional state. Fear can grip us to the core; we need to peel it off of us in tiny steps.

Thanks for another great post, Alli about everyday leadership!

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:48 am

Makes you want to come and visit, huh?

What a great strategy to think about the worst thing that can happen. I like to think of the best outcome too. Both of those things get us to a place of moving – even if the steps are super tiny! Each one is meaningful!

By the way, I don’t like bees either. Pretty sure I’m allergic to them and my son is too. No irrational response there when I quickly head the other way!

Thanks so much, Terri!!

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Samantha October 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm

This cracked me up Alli! Loved it!

Reminds me of our conversation over spiders, legless lizards, and other creepy-crawly things. : )

One of my favorites from this post:

‘Alli’s centered moment: I live here, they live here – neither one of us is moving out of the country.’

Reminds me of the ‘peace treaty’ I made with the average sized house and garden spiders that I told you about! That was the pivoting moment in overcoming a bit of my own arachnophobia. It was coming to terms with the fact that I either need to learn how to get along with the idea that spiders also live on this planet, or I need to leave the planet.

Well…I’m still here so that leaves me with sharing space on this planet with 8 legged creepy critters.

For the most part, the subtle shifts in my internal dialog over spiders has been effective. Instead of feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack when I see one or need the smelling salts like Miss Pitty in Gone With the Wind… I now try to catch them and put them outside when I see them.

However, I dare say that the BIG ones do tend to still cause me to let out a squeal when I’m caught off guard! haha If they are so big they make sounds when they walk, I’ve reached my threshold for peaceful tolerance in such close proximity! (grins)

Thanks for sharing such a humorously delightful post on a big topic. FEAR.

~Samantha

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 7:08 am

My spider-loving-sister! Ha! Totally reminds me of our conversation! I’ve learned to co-exist with many of the creepy things that I’ve discovered since living here but it does not mean that I don’t still have lines.

Just this morning my kids saw a spider in the house when we left for school. I came home and went about my day and now it’s MIA. I’m OK with that (shocking!) Other days there has been a large insect that is still hanging around in the same general area at the end of the day? I’ll recruit a helper to get it out of the house. Just because we can co-exist does not mean it has to be on the inside of my little house!

The same holds true for other fears – about work, family, the future. I can live with some uncertainty because it’s only when I put aside that fear that I can take decisive action to create the future that I most want. If I waited to act until I had 100% clarity I’d either have a crystal ball or be stuck in place forever.

I will NEVER be a fan of spiders, or snakes or a myriad of other creatures but I promise to stay out of their way if they stay out of mine. 🙂

You rock! Thank YOU for the smile today!

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Karen Jolly October 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm

This is one of my worst fears when driving Alli! Of all things to be afraid of, when my mind gets running down fear-lane, I imagine what I would do if I saw a big spider in the car. Crazy right?? Oh fear…what a funny web you weave! 🙂

I loved the analogy as it struck all my fear triggers – and had me laughing at the same time. All fear seems to spark the same result – freezing up. I really enjoyed your steps to quickly free ourselves from the grip that fear can create within. Our reaction is in our control – and that deep breathing sure helps! xo

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:50 am

Huge yikes!!

Yes, fear does create a big time freeze and often our rational thoughts are frozen in time too. Need to thaw them out to have the fear let go of the control it has over us. WE choose our response and a little reframing can go a long way.

I’m with you on the deep breaths too! My kids thought I was nuts in the car!

Thanks, Karen!

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richmiraclefiles October 30, 2013 at 12:39 am

Hi Alli
So right you are about allowing ourselves to acknowledge our fears,since we are only humans.Acknowledgement of the feeling is the first step to mitigating the adverse effects of any negative emotion.And negative energies are usually not healed by shoving them under the carpet.Pure detached witnessing of the negative emotion(fear in this case) is pretty good at resolving the issue.Problem is few of us know how to do that,and fewer still find it interesting enough.
The second important point you make is “taking a larger view of the world”.Absolutely wonderful
Thanks for the insight
Mona

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 4:30 am

Mona,

Many thanks for sharing your insights here! Fear can be overwhelming and you’re right, many people don’t know even some really basic steps to let go of the fear (or still feel it!) and move forward. So interesting that in your experience few people are really interested in learning how to detach from the emotion to release the negative energy that comes with it. I’ve also gotten feedback that fear is also a motivator for others (not the way I like to be motivated personally!). So much going on with respect to fear that it’s a constant unfolding of what really works for each individual. A sincere thanks for your comment!

~ Alli

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Kent Julian October 30, 2013 at 9:04 am

Great advice on how to “live it forward.” And what makes it so memorable is how creative and connected to real-life it is. Nice!

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Alli Polin October 30, 2013 at 9:09 am

Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Kent! Just visited your site and love your creative approach as well.

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Chrysta Bairre October 30, 2013 at 10:49 am

Thanks for sharing these great tips on facing fear, Alli!

I find my fears are often unrealistic and whatever I’m afraid of isn’t actually likely to happen. And in my experience, even when my greatest fears come true (job loss, divorce, etc.) I am much more capable of handling the situation than I give myself credit for. In fact, my fear about the worst happening is worse than the worst actually happening!

When I feel fear I like to remind myself that a positive outcome is just as likely as a negative one, and whatever happens, I’ve got great skills and a wonderful support system to get me through.

Have a grateful day!

Chrysta

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Alli Polin October 31, 2013 at 9:56 am

Chrysta –

What a great point that’s missing here!! Even when the worst case happens – we manage to survive, get through it, and thrive once more. Yes, we may be afraid but it does not mean we can’t handle it .

Many thanks for your insight and sharing here.

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Erika Awakening November 1, 2013 at 2:30 am

What a vivid image. Recently I have been facing some fears I was avoiding and wow does that “fight or flight” adrenaline kick in even though there is no immediate physical threat. It’s almost overwhelming at times. Yet what else are we going to do? When we adjust to our fear, our life just keeps getting smaller. Thanks for the article 🙂

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Alli Polin November 1, 2013 at 4:55 am

Many thanks, Erika! I’ve been there too. I also make up stories about why flight is totally the right thing to do. Clearly, there is another choice rather than buying into our stories that we create to keep us safe. Safety exists on the other side of the fear too and sometimes the only way there is through it.

A sincere thanks for your comment and insights, Erika!

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