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How to get fear and mental exhaustion to finally take a backseat.

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

My oldest son had his first Volleyball practice last night. Yes, you heard me. My boy is playing volleyball. He brought the registration paper home to me a couple weeks ago, and I asked if he was interested in playing. He said he told his friends it didn’t sound fun because he didn’t want to be made fun of, but he was actually really interested in trying it out. (I’m so dang proud of him for trying something even with the fear of being made fun of! But that’s a story for another day.)

As I watched the practice unfold, I could clearly see the coach needed help. She was on a volunteer basis, and only said yes because she wanted the league to move forward so her kids could play. My mind was swirling as I sat on the side-lines. “Do I help her? She looks like she needs help. But, I don’t want to overstep. Maybe she totally has it under control in her mind, and I’ll look like the helicopter-jerk parent who has to always jump in. I could go work with those kids while she figures this thing out, but maybe she’d think I was too impatient. Should I just go ask if she wants help? No, I’m sure it will be fine. But if it was me, I know I would feel relieved if another parent volunteered to help me! No no, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I should stay back.”

This dialogue went on for quite a while. It can be exhausting sometimes, am I right? When you’re so stuck in your head that you’re exhausted, afraid, or discouraged before you even speak up or try to do the thing you’re thinking of. So then out of default and mental exhaustion, you just don’t do it at all. Or you overthink it so much and play out so many scenarios, you talk yourself out of it before you’ve even had a chance to try it.

Do you know why you do this? Because if you’re afraid, you won’t try something new. And if you don’t try something new, you won’t risk yourself getting hurt. And if you don’t risk yourself getting hurt, your brain knows you’ll stay alive. (Which is it’s main job, keeping you ALIVE. And it’s dang good at it.) Whether it’s the pain from other people thinking something bad about you or judging you (“she’s not even that good at volleyball, why’d she step up to help?”) the pain of your own emotional discouragement when you mess up or get it wrong (“oh my gosh I can’t believe I did that, I feel so stupid”), or from actual physical pain from getting hurt at a sport or activity. Your brain does this as a protection measure— protection from mental and emotional pain, and physical pain that could lead to death. It’s quite amazing the lengths your mind will take you in the name of “protecting you.” The problem is, in its attempts at protecting you, it’s keeping you from amazing opportunities, growth, friendships, creating bonds and connections, and creating confidence with yourself and others.

So what do you do when this happens? How do you side-step this exhausting mental dialogue, or talking yourself out of something that might be an amazing opportunity for you? How do you work through the fear and discouragement this voice might create for you, so you can step up to something you might actually really enjoy?

You have to talk back. I know, it sounds a little coo-coo. But seriously, you have to talk back to yourself. (Internally, or out-loud. You may get a few strange looks, but who cares!) And especially in the beginning, talking to yourself more than you listen to yourself.

First, acknowledge what’s going on. ”Here’s my brain trying to talk myself out of it, because it’s afraid.” “Oh here’s my dialogue again…” “My brain is working to protect me, I see what you’re trying to do here…” Awareness is key! Just notice when it starts happening.

Then, ask yourself some questions. What sounds fun to me? What do I want; I mean really REALLY want? What am I afraid will happen if I speak up/do the thing? What’s the best case scenario here? How can I have my own back here? So what if people think I’m overstepping, what’s the worst that would happen? Am I willing to let people be wrong about me? What are my reasons for doing this, and do I like them?What if I totally can do this? What if this is exactly what I need?

And lastly, be willing to be uncomfortable. As you push yourself forward, it’s going to be uncomfortable. When you put yourself out there, when you do new things, when you go against what you normally do to stay safe and secure in your comfort zone, it’s going to feel a little bit hard. It doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong, it means you’re growing out of your safety net. You just get to remind yourself that your comfort net can be widened. Take a breath in, and lean into that discomfort. Imagine yourself opening up to that feeling of uncomfortableness, fear, and “what if” as you move forward to what it is you actually want.

I can tell you, volleyball was one of my favorite sports as a kid. And as a boy mom, I don’t get a lot of opportunities to teach it or play it with my boys. I KNEW it would be something I would really enjoy, and something that could help connect me more with my community and with my kids as I helped them practice and worked with the coach to make it a great experience for our children. So guess what? As hard as it felt to open my mouth and speak up, I did it. I was afraid, but I reminded myself how much I would love it on the other side of that fear. And guess what, she was SO APPRECIATIVE. She told me how she felt way in over her head, and was close to calling the district to tell them she quit. And you know what? Other parents stepped up too. And you know what? I think this will be one of the best experiences I’ve had as a parent, and I am so freaking excited!

Whether it’s with something like coaching your kid’s sports team, or deciding whether to have the hard conversation with your spouse, or talking to your superior about a co-working sexually harassing you, or having/not having another baby… fear can be with you, and you can do it anyway. Don’t think of it as trudging through fear with fear pulling you back, think of it as allowing fear to walk beside you without it being a problem. It’s just fear, it can’t actually hurt you. It’s just your brain trying to protect you. Thank your brain for it’s dedication to keeping you safe, but what feels fun to you, what’s important to you, what you need, what stretches you, what feels scary and exciting at the same time, isn’t going to hurt you. It’s on the other side of allowing that fear and move froward anyway that you feel more fulfilled, safe, taken-care of, excited, confidence, and connected.

Go for it.

You got this, mama!

**I help women every day to kick fear to the backseat, and work through their mental exhaustion so they can feel more joy and peace in their life, and have fun with their family. Click below to schedule a FREE mini-session.

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