You can shine even when you're afraid
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman
You've probably heard the saying: Feel the fear and do it anyway. Can you think of a time when you were afraid to do something, but you did it anyway? And it turned out better than you expected. And you felt a little (or a lot) more confident after you did that thing. That is how you build courage. The courage comes after the doing.
You may be surprised what you can do even if you feel terrified. That’s how you feel at first. But if you keep doing that thing, the fear gradually lessens over time.
If you have ever been in a low or dark place in your life and felt afraid to step out of your comfort zone, you’re not alone. When you step out of your comfort zone, you are growing as a person.
I remember a low time in my career when I had no idea which way to turn. I always refer to this as my “previous life” – when I was working as a secretary after I finished high school. I did that for 15+ years!
In my last secretarial job, I was working for a very intimidating doctor. He had trouble keeping staff. One day he blew up at me for something very minor (in my opinion) and that was the last straw for me. I knew I couldn’t continue working for him. As a side note, I did stand up for myself and speak to his superior about his bad behavior and he apologized to me. It didn't matter, I was already making my exit plan.
In reality, I had no idea what I would do next...no clue!
I was in my mid-30’s and I had a high school education. Now what...
So, I found a weekend course at Grant MacEwan called “Identifying and Changing Careers.” After completing some interest inventories, I had a huge “aha moment.” I knew immediately that I wanted to help others and study psychology. Oh wait, that meant I had to go to University and stop working full-time. Gulp! I knew this is what I wanted to do – my gut told me so. So I took the leap of faith…
In my first class, I opened up my Psychology 104 textbook, and the dedication said: “Beth, this one's for you.” It still gives me goosebumps when I think about that. It was a clear sign.
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” - Mark Twain
So I quit my full-time job with benefits and never looked back. Some people didn’t understand why I would give up my job security but I felt confident in what I was doing. I knew I was on my right path. I didn’t need anyone else’s approval.
“Believe and act as if it were impossible to fail.” - Charles Kettering
I had a lot of anxiety and uncertainty along this path. I didn’t always know where I was going or where I was going to end up. I felt overwhelmed by the workload and the unknowns. My motto became – one day at a time. Can I accomplish this much today? Yes, then that is what I did. If I looked at the whole picture, it was overwhelming. So to keep things in perspective, it was one day at a time.
“You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” - John Maxwell
So, yes, there was a lot of anxiety – but I was growing every day. I was stepping out of my comfort zone almost every day. But I knew I was on the right path and I was going in the right direction.
So the first goal was the Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. Then working at various jobs in that field. Then a few years later I wanted another challenge, so it was on to Graduate school for the Master’s Degree.
Even at this point, there was uncertainty. In one of my first classes in Graduate School, my Ethics professor asked the class who was going to go on to become a Registered Psychologist. I reluctantly raised my hand – I wasn’t sure if I could do it. It was too far down the road to know. But I just kept doing the things you needed to do to move in that direction.
The path slowly unfolded. One day at a time. Step by step by step.
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” - Robert Collier
After I completed the Master’s degree, I decided to move on to the final step of registering as a Psychologist. Another huge step out of my comfort zone – 1,600 hours of supervised counselling experience. Let’s go… more learning, more uncertainty, more growth.
“Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” - Frederick Wilcox
When it came time to take my last exam – the dreaded Ethics Exam in front of a panel of seasoned psychologists – I prepared myself by practicing positive affirmations. It takes 3 weeks to learn a new habit, so I started with the affirmation: I will pass the Ethics Exam (inner voice said: yeah right, how do you know?). Then the second week, I changed it to: I, Beth Matthews, will pass the Ethics Exam (inner voice said: maybe, maybe not). Lastly, on the third week it was: I, Beth Matthews, will pass the Ethics Exam with flying colors (inner voice said: let’s do this). So the affirmation process boosted my courage. And yes, I passed and that was over a decade ago.
"The mind is everything. What you think, you become." - Buddha
It was an amazing journey. That scary and dark place led me to where I am today. I had to go through that to get here. It was empowering! I can now thank that cranky doctor for propelling me out the door.
My 2 year old granddaughter reminded me the other day of what it takes to be bold and fearless. I was spending the day with her and she wanted to go to her usual world of make believe - the monsters, ghosts, and dinosaurs are coming. The thought of these things are very scary to her but she wants to visit this place all the time. She confidently told me: "I am a BRAVE girl." She is drawn to face what she is afraid of and seems to thrive in that place.
So what makes you come alive? It’s time to shine…be brave…be fearless…
“It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined.” - Henry James
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Beth Matthews is a Registered Psychologist who is driven to help people feel better about themselves. She can help you if you are struggling in your life. You can learn easy-to-use strategies to help you cope with anything that comes your way.