Whatever we encounter for the first time, we can be sure that our old fears will rear their ugly head and try to stop us from trying, and succeeding at something new…

New challenges come in many forms, and one of these is starting a new job — which is particularly daunting when you’ve been out of the workplace for a few years.

I recall working with Julie and her fear of starting the job she’d been accepted for. She’d been at home looking after her two babies for five years, and only applied for the job to show her husband that she was making an effort to help bring more money into the home.

She thought landing the job after her ‘awkward’ interview must have been a mistake — and that as soon as they realised that she wasn’t up to it they’d sack her, and this would knock her confidence even more. She had created a vicious circle — and the word ‘create’ was the real source of the problem for her.

What we needed to do was create a different template with different expectations and intended outcomes. One that saw her as calm and confident, able to handle the new learning and social interactions, and to put aside her ungrounded fears and self-doubt.

The starting point is to expose our fears, and then question their validity in the light of any supporting evidence. If any do hold up under scrutiny then we need to change our thinking, feeling and behaviour to gain a better perspective and to bring us new consequences and outcomes.

What did Julie fear most about starting her new job?

  • Making a stupid mistake and looking like a fool — the fear of ridicule.
  • Not fitting in with the others and being disliked or ignored — the fear of rejection.
  • Not being up to the job and being left to struggle on alone — the fear of being abandoned.
  • Not being able to speak up or to have anything interesting to say — the fear of insignificance.

These are fears that we all share — in one scenario or another.

Just naming and normalising them helps to shrink them in size.

Ultimately we all fear feeling ashamed, isolated and alone — and the more we focus on those fears the more likely it is that we’ll behave in ways that attract those outcomes to us.

We are all the more susceptible to our familiar fears — especially those which had a hold over us in childhood.

The present day challenge can then feel as overwhelming and scary as being summoned to the headmasters office or being publicly punished and humiliated in class, or of having the playground bullies chasing us, or being ignored by our classmates!

Painful memories and feelings stay with us and we fear them being repeated. What we sub-consciously do is to transfer them onto the present day situations, instead of leaving them in the past where they belong.

If we recreate how we felt as a small child in those old scenarios and transfer those feelings onto the present day, we then block our more adult self from being able to confidently and competently handle the current challenge, and to assert our rights and boundaries.

It’s important to remember that our brains can’t tell the difference between what is ‘real’ and what is vividly imagined (along with the associated feelings).

This can work both for or against us.

We fear what we think might happen and our body responds as if it were a real threat to our well-being…when it was only a thought that had become more powerful with feeling and repetition.

We can use this to our advantage!

  • We can choose to repeatedly create a clear visual image of a scenario — a first date, a work presentation, a first day at work, or whatever else we want to go smoothly for us.
  • Next we place ourselves in that imaginary scenario — speaking and acting as we would ideally like to be.
  • We include the positive responses and conversations with other people (who may not be known yet – but we can still ‘imagine’ them)

We have to expect and accept that some people aren’t going to like us — no matter how nice we are!

It’s not about us — it’s more to do with their past and perhaps someone we remind them of. They then relate to us ‘as if’ we were that other person.

This is tricky to work around and only worth the effort if you need that other person in your life in some way. Then you can help them to unpick what is related to ‘you and now’, and what is ‘someone else and back then’.

Some people may feel envious, jealous or resentful towards you — again, that’s not your stuff it’s theirs. Just note it but don’t allow it to sink in and influence your mood or behaviour.

The take away from all of this is that there will always be new challenges — that’s just an unavoidable part of life. You can now choose to see these as an opportunity for learning and growth .

The new perspective comes from your own intention, imagination and new ways of keeping your scared inner child feeling safely held and protected by you, and not allowing the past to overlay and distort the present.

After all every new challenge will soon become an old one.

You can choose to create your own ways of handling each one — when you release your fears and re-frame them as an opportunity and a gift.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR

www.maxineharley.com Where you’ll find some FREE RESOURCES to help you to separate the past from the present and enable you to face new challenges free from your past conditioning.

www.maxineharleymentoring.com — Helping professional, executive and business women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours. I help you to FEEL better, so you can BE, DO and HAVE better!

Originally published at medium.com