Growthful Fear and Anxiety – Feel the Fear And Know You’re on the Right Track

August 22, 2008

For some reason we think if we listen to the lecture, read the book, buy the product, or attend the workshop that we should be able to “just do it.” But the truth is that for athletes, artists, musicians, or anyone when they begin a new job – it’s the hands-on practice that really builds their knowing, ability, and confidence in a new area.

In other words, the feeling of successfully learning something new is experiential – we have to experience ourselves doing it well in order to know that we’ve got it. This requires that we practice our new knowledge – which includes feeling awkward, making mistakes, and seeing our skills improve over time.

Last week I was working with one of my students who is dedicated to getting the most out of our work together. It was clear how much she admired my success in weight loss – how to know what to eat considering all the possible options, how to get herself to do what she knew, how to finally have peace with food and weight. She works with me to acquire that knowledge and inner understanding for herself because she longs to feel confident, unburdened, healthy, and radiant.

So I asked my student if she knew how long it had taken me to feel and embody the qualities she desired. Can you guess how long it took me? Six months? One year? Three years? I worked long and hard – learning to be present, understanding and experimenting with food and movement, exploring my emotional connections to food, reading, and studying, practicing what I was learning, and getting as much time as I could with my teachers who advanced my development – for 8 years before I felt I really got it.

I’m not special or unique. In fact, people who know me well know I can be a tough case – stubborn, willful, and resistant. In other words, human. If I can do this, you can do it. Put in the time, make your inner world and authenticity a priority, invest in yourself, work with capable teachers, and practice, practice, practice and you will learn how to embody your optimal health, radiance, and prosperity.

If that’s true, then why do so many fail? Less than ½ of 1 percent of those who lose more than 100 pounds will keep it off for more than 5 years without surgery. And less than 5 percent of those who learn how to create wealth will become prosperous. If anyone can do it, why don’t we? Survey says…the number 1 answer is…FEAR! Fear comes in many clever disguises such as “I don’t have time”, “I’ll start next month”, “I don’t know how”, “I’m not ready”, “I need to learn more first”, “I have to do x, y, and z before I can do that”, “I don’t want to talk about it”, “I can’t”, and “Huh?” AKA “I forgot”. But basically they all are layers over the very normal, simple human experience called fear.

In the moment we choose to do something new, we step out of our comfort zone and put ourselves face to face with some very uncomfortable feelings. Feelings human beings will go to great lengths to avoid.

When we voluntarily step across the threshold of what we know, we want and can imagine success, but we can also imagine the worst possible outcomes. We might feel rejected, anxious, humiliated, stupid, ashamed, hurt, embarrassed, foolish, like a failure, vulnerable, insecure, and more. These are the kind of feelings we prefer to avoid so we’d rather stay with the activities we know, the ones that make us feel good in the moment or at least not worse.

The problem with feeling good in the comfort zone is that, if you really check it, it actually doesn’t feel that good. It feels like being asleep, or numb, or like you’re running away from something. In other words, it feels like there’s something to fear.

Inside our comfort zone looking out toward a new expression of ourselves in the world, we are at the edge of a great opportunity, but our anxiety seems to say, ‘This is the wrong way to go. If it were right I wouldn’t feel so anxious.’

Fear tells our minds that others who succeed had it easier or were special in some way. Or if we don’t get something perfect the first time or feel nervous or scared to do it we think that maybe its not for us. But the passion that moved you to learn about losing weight, becoming prosperous, or personal development in the first place came from somewhere. It came from the part of you that wants you to live to your full potential.

Our quick fix culture does us all a huge disservice here, encouraging us as it does to lives of mediocrity. We’re so programmed to get rid of any kind of discomfort – QUICK – that we run away from normal, positive indicators of our growth and development.

Did you know there are two kinds of anxiety? There’s ordinary anxiety, like the everyday anxiety of sitting in traffic or having too much to do in too little time. But there’s also its lesser known counterpart, growthful anxiety. Growthful anxiety is a clear physical indicator that we have the opportunity to grow in a new and more expansive way, to be more whole, and to embody more of our potential.

Think about anytime you have started a new job, even though you might have been excited, weren’t you also nervous? Didn’t you experience a learning curve where, little by little, you began to master the aspects of your position that were once new to you? Didn’t it feel uncomfortable and awkward in the beginning? Didn’t you start to feel good about yourself as you worked through the uncomfortable phase and overcame the challenge of learning something new?

Of course you did. Because growing feels great. Much better than the comfort zone. That’s the way human growth and development works. It’s a simple, natural process of feeling inspired, challenged, courageous, and competent, at which point things become easy and we’re once again ready for something new and the cycle begins again. The reason we love hero movies is because we each face the hero/heroine’s journey of inspiration, challenge, courage, and success – we are each human development in action on our own unique path.

So I’m giving you some tips to break free from society’s gravitational pull toward mediocrity, to harness the power of growthful anxiety (fear), and to step boldly forward on your heroic journey to weight loss, health, and/or financial success.

Breakthrough Practices for You

1. For the next 7 days, notice when you are in your comfort zone and when you are feeling the natural growth anxiety of challenging yourself with something new. Really FEEL both without criticizing yourself in any way. Whether you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV or eating something you think is unhealthy, or if you’re studying new material or practicing a new form of exercise, what do you feel? Numb? Afraid? Engaged? When you’re practicing something new, can you feel all the stages of inspiration, challenge, courage, and competence?

2. Become aware of the messages in your environment. Are they positive and supportive of your growth? Or are they negative and discouraging? Positive messages tell you have what it takes, that success is hard and uncomfortable sometimes but totally worth the effort, and that you’ll feel most alive when you are challenging yourself to live to your fullest potential. Negative messages tell you that you don’t have what it takes to be successful, that success is supposed to be fast and feel good, or that it’s better just to take it easy and not stress yourself out. Make a list of the sources of positive messages in your life and list of the sources of negative messages in your life. Where do they come from? TV, radio, family, friends, work, mentors, books, role models, church, school, or other environments?

3. When we’re children, most of us (sadly not all) have a huge amount of love and support for our smallest achievements like taking our first step, learning our name, and adding 1+1. As we get older, we have to work extra hard to find capable support and encouragement for our growth and development. Many adults are jaded themselves, have given up on their own growth, and are threatened by those with passion and an unwillingness to settle for mediocrity, so people in that camp aren’t going to be able to provide support for our goals. This week eliminate or lessen your contact with the negative influences you found in question 2 above and increase and strengthen your contact with the positive influences in your life.

4. Give yourself a chance to benefit from growthful anxiety by practicing new weight loss, personal development, or prosperity skills that are uncomfortable for you. Even 10 minutes a day for whole week will build your confidence and ability to a whole new level.

And now I invite you to advance your success today by getting your Free Inner Secrets Intro CD when you visit You’ll receive the tips you need to help you take the next step in facing any challenge to your success.

By Dr Rebecca Coleman