Growth in the Face of Uncertainty

I read Mel Robbins' The 5 Second Rule earlier this year after hearing about it on a podcast. I love finding podcasts and books where I can learn how other people make sense of challenges and successes and this adventurous life, in general! Anyway, there was a line in the book that really stood out to me, and I wrote it down so that I could come back to it.

"You can feel uncertain and be ready. You can be afraid and do it anyway. You can fear rejection and still go for it."

I have written in past posts about the significance of the emotional piece of our human experience; how understanding and being able to respond to emotions creates a bond between people and improves our understanding of our own self. But I have also found that our feelings can often be used as reasons to not move forward with a goal or change. We might draw conclusions from the experience of having a feeling that may or may not be true. Example: Walking into an exam, you may check-in with yourself and observe some mild (or moderate or intense) anxiety. Now, the presence of that anxiety is true- you are experiencing the feeling of being anxious. However, the conclusions that you draw from your experience of that feeling may or may not be true. “I'm feeling anxious; that must mean I'm not prepared for this exam at all and I'm going to fail.” or “I'm feeling anxious; I know that I have prepared for this exam and am ready to take it. This anxiety is reflecting how important the outcome of this exam is to me. I am ready, even though I am feeling anxious.” Now, I can't tell you what the outcome of this exam is going to be; but I am pretty confident that the first conclusion will serve only to make you more anxious.

Anytime you are trying something new, making yourself vulnerable, or taking steps to grow towards a goal, it is normal to feel some fear! You are stepping into a situation in which you do not know the outcome- it makes sense that there might be some general unease! Please be kind to yourself (more on this on another day). When you look around and see people accomplishing their goals and taking risks, they are likely experiencing some of that same fear and unease- maybe you don’t see that, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. Noticing that you feel afraid does not mean that you cannot do it. It does not mean that you must wait to take any step towards growth until that step seems easy, or is free from fear. Check-in with yourself. Is this fear coming from a place that says “I’ve never done this before, and that feels intimidating. I’ve prepared myself and at some moments feel ready, but at some moments still feel afraid.”? Or is it genuinely coming from a place that says “I am afraid and that is because this is actually a dangerous situation and could be harmful to myself or someone else if I move forward.”

Rejection. Oh, rejection. I am sure we all have our tales of rejection, in one facet of life or another. Fear of rejection often leaves us in a place where we refuse to take a step towards the place or person we want to be. We often tell ourselves that rejection would be the worst possible outcome and that we could never handle or move on from being rejected. But think about the alternative. There are very few things in life in which we are 100% safe from rejection; very few opportunities or experiences where the outcome can be guaranteed ahead of time. If we draw the conclusion that nothing could be worse that the possibility of facing rejection, that sounds like a lot of missed opportunities and experiences. Think of a time you experienced rejection. It probably hurt, yes? Probably isn’t up there on your list of favorite life experiences. But what happened afterwards? After the dust settled and you took inventory of the wounds? You’re still here, right? That is not to diminish the hurt or disappointment that can come from rejection, but to say that you are strong enough to make it through to the other side. The hurt begins to subside, the wounds begin to heal, and oftentimes we are able to reflect back on these times and recognize the growth that occurred because of it.

Things to Remember

1.     Your feeling does not have to dictate your action. You do not have to feel 100% ready to take a step forward. Examine the risk, examine the fear. Acknowledge and validate the presence of your emotional experience. And then decide how you will choose to move forward. Do not let the presence of an emotion dictate how you move forward.

2.     It is normal to hold seemingly conflicting experiences at once. Yes, it is entirely possible to feel anxious and be ready. As you take more actions and develop a sense of mastery and competency, you will likely feel less anxiety. But anxiety being present does not inherently mean you are not ready to take a first step.

3.     Assess the possible outcomes (and be honest)! We often can imagine in great detail what the worst possible outcome of a situation will be, which makes it pretty easy to talk ourselves out of it. Ask yourself what the best case scenario, worst case scenario, and most likely scenario would be. And then explore how you will cope, even and especially when the outcome is not ideal. Because chances are, you will make it through.

To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.

Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.