Are You Secretly Paralyzed by Your Fears?

Today I was listening to an old Oprah episode on XM radio in which people with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder were sent to “camp” in order to learn to overcome the disease and get their lives backs. 

The woman who feared vomit had to touch vomit and put it on her face and in her hair.  The woman who feared eating food that she didn’t prepare herself because she thought it would be poisionus and kill her, was forced to eat just that.  The man who had panic attacks over his fear of germs had to interact with and look at a disgusting garbage can full of rotten food and cat feces.

It might seem extreme to put these people through such traumatizing experiences when they’ve spent their whole lives paralyzed by their irrational thoughts and fears, but realizing that they could survive is what ultimately helped the participants find peace in their lives.

When the participants said they didn’t think they could complete the challenge, the doctor would ask what they loved more, their children or the disease?  Or what they’d rather have: germs for 5 minutes or the rest of their lives back?  They always answered these questions rationally: they loved their children more and they want their lives back.

Even those without OCD struggle with irrational thoughts and fears that can hold them back from living their best lives.  For example:

  • Are you afraid of losing your job to the point that it drives you crazy and dictates all of your decisions?
  • Do you always have excuses as to why you don’t go to the gym, why you don’t cut up your credit card, or why you don’t pursue something you love to do outside of work?
  • Have you wanted to re-connect with old friends but haven’t picked up the phone?
  • Are you afraid of commitment?
  • Does the idea of staying in alone on a Saturday night terrify you?
  • Have you wanted to try online dating but instead continue to fear it?
  • Are you struggling to pay your rent and buy groceries yet still working in the same job and not pursing part-time or freelance work?
  • Are you paralyzed by the fear of failure?

I’m sure we’ve all experienced a few of the fears on the above list and more.  Ask yourself if these fears are really worth giving up your long-term happiness and (financial, relationship or career) well-being for.

Write down the absolute worst case scenarios for the situations that scare you.  How bad are the outcomes?  What’s the worst that can happen? Did you die in any of the worst-case scenarios?  I bet not. 

In most cases the worst thing that can happen is that you will continue going down the road you are already on.

So this week, identify your own fears.  Then face the fear, “just do it” and get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Do something totally out of the ordinary: say hi to a stranger on the train, pick up a book you wouldn’t usually read, sign up for online dating, cut up your credit card or apply for a new job.  These baby steps will prove to you that your fears won’t kill you, that they aren’t real and that they are only holding you back.

As a young professional, what are your career, relationship and financial fears?

Have you wanted something different but stayed on the same path?

Nicole Emerick

Nicole Emerick founded Ms. Career Girl in 2008 to help other ambitious young professional women thrive in a career they love. Ironically, growing MsCareerGirl helped Nicole transition her own career from commercial banker to digital marketer. Today Nicole leads the social media team at a large advertising agency in Chicago. Nicole also served as an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she helped develop the careers of PR, Advertising and Communications students. Tweet with Nicole @_NicoleEmerick.