Fear, excitement, and the stories we tell ourselves

My mom once told me that she read an article on the concept of anxiety and excitement. The gist of the article was that the physiological symptoms of anxiety are the same as excitement. Your breathing increases, your heart rate increases, your palms get sweaty, and your pupils dilate. The significant difference is in how our brain interprets those signals. 

I remembered that this morning while I was sitting in front of my laptop at a total loss of what to write. Instead of being able to free flow write like I normally do, I've been staring at drafts of blogs that I've collected over the last few weeks and rejecting them, opening blank documents and closing them, and generally feeling frustrated with my inability to write this post. 

Which is ironic, especially in light of the conversation I had with a friend last night who wants to write a story that she's had inside her for awhile. My response to her was to just do it, just spend a little time each day writing, and stop doubting herself. I woke up this morning, looked at myself in the mirror, and said, "Alright, today's the day you finally put that next blog post out there!" Gotta follow my own advice, right?

So, what was holding me back? Well, I told myself it was fear. I was afraid I would fail, whatever that means. I can't define what I thought failure was in this context even though I spent time trying to figure it out. I was afraid I would get in over my head, and not have the time to write, or that what I would write would suck. I worried about hitting the magical 1500 to 1600 words for the ideal blog post length. You name it, I worried about it.

Most significantly, I got stuck in the tactics and logistics of it all. Since I am starting a coaching business tied to Zen Live Create, I worried about what I should write in my blog given that potential clients would see my posts. I told myself that as an executive and life transition coach, I needed to appear to have it all together.

This morning, I was smacked in the face with the realization that this is the antithesis of everything I believe about authenticity and the value of coaching and writing. I got stuck in the "I should" and "I need" instead of "I want" and "I believe". 

What does all this have to do with fear and excitement? I acknowledged this morning that my fear is actually mislabeled excitement. When I put that lens on all the physiological feelings I've been experiencing, it all became clear. I recognized that I feel an immense excitement with a strong sense of rightness about the path I'm taking, a passion for what I'm pursuing, and a joy in the journey. I am discovering myself and living into myself, each and every second of every day.

Sometimes that means I mislabel my excitement as fear, which allows for doubts to jump in. Sometimes I'm able to have complete peace as my day and week and life unfolds. And sometimes, I am so petrified by my own fear of failing that I freeze, especially when it comes to making decisions and writing. And most times? Most times, I push through, excited, brilliant, and resilient, making my own way in a path I light. Today is one of those days where I pushed through fear and doubts, allowed my imagination to run wild, and came out on the other side with this blog post, a whole lot of hope, and contentment with myself and my life. 

Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.
— Gloria Steinem

In my first post, I challenged you to ask yourself, "If I had no fear, what is one thing I would do tomorrow?" Take a second now to think about what you wrote down, or thought about, when you read that question. Allow yourself to feel the feelings you associate with holding back from doing that one thing. Is it fear? Or is it exhilaration, excitement, and energy that your body interprets as fear because that is the state of being you've lived in for so long? What happens when you tell yourself, "I am excited, I am energized, I am bold!"?

I've been coaching for awhile now in various forms, life transition, executive coaching, change leadership coaching, and chronic illness coaching. This past weekend, I started my official certification process to become a certified coach. (Bear with me, this will all make sense in a minute!) A key part of being a coach is understanding who you truly are and what you bring to the table in a coaching session. We did a powerful exercise that I wanted to paraphrase and share with you because it helped me uncover some core beliefs about myself that I didn't realize I had. Check it out below! 

Exercise: Defining your "I am" paraphrased from an exercise created by Raleigh Coaching Academy

  1. Write down beliefs about yourself that you would use to fill in the blank in the following sentence: "I am ______". These can be words that you identify with today but can also be aspects you would like to grow within yourself.
  2. Now pick one belief about yourself that you would like to let go of, and a max of five beliefs that you will live into more. 
  3. Out loud, say something like, "I release [belief that you want to let go of] to God (or the universe if that suits you better)." And then, each time you say which belief that you want to live out more, you say, "I am [insert belief]." 
  4. See where it takes you!

My experience with the exercise: When I did this exercise, I released the belief that I was scared/fearful. I spent the first three days after releasing that belief feeling euphoric, the next three days feeling overwhelmed by my boldness and the infinite possibilities, another day recognizing that the overwhelmed feeling was actually fear creeping back in, and today reaffirming my release of fear as part of my identify and replacing it with boldness. So the five parts of who I am that I will be leaning into are:

  • I am bold
  • I am intuitive
  • I am patient
  • I am loving
  • I am safe

I'll share more on how I'm living these out in future posts! Thank you all for joining me on this journey. 

With gratitude,


P.S. As a little PSA, if you are thinking about doing a coaching program that focuses on authenticity, and will help you get your International Coach Federation certification, check out Raleigh Coaching Academy. I am 1/3 of the way through the course right now and it is by far the best training I have ever been to. It is absolutely one of the most life-changing opportunities I have ever had and I'm so grateful for my fellow coaches going through the current cohort with me!