This New Year, as you consider what you’d like to change in your life, setting goals and making resolutions, you will likely soon remember that making changes requires taking risks and stepping outside your comfort zone. If you want to grow, then you must move beyond the status quo. Equilibrium has to shift, and this is causes challenges and not a little anxiety. How do we push through our fears to take the risk, stretch ourselves, and mature?
In this post, I will share how I have recently been dealing with my own fears and seeking to overcome some personal limitations.
My wife and I became members of a Crossfit gym in August. When we started, we took a month-long “foundations” class, and it was very fun being together and getting to know the people in our group, who were all newbies like us.
However, after the foundations class finished, everyone picked different times during the week to go do their workouts, effectively breaking up the relationships we’d started. Even my wife and I had to start going at different times due to work scheduling.
I’m an introvert, and I don’t tend to readily enjoy jumping into an already tight-knit group. The people in the early morning class I now attend have been together for a while and know each other. My struggle has been feeling that I’m not welcome. I am aware that this feeling stems from my imagination, rather than the people. Nevertheless, my imaginings have led to feelings of anxiety, embarrassment (e.g., when I ask a question I think everyone already knows the answer to), and sadness. If there was a belief underneath these imaginings it would be: “You are not wanted or welcome here.” This is what I call a “defeater belief,” that is, an idea people believe that effectively defeats their growth and keeps them stuck in the status quo.
To address defeater beliefs like this one, we need to take three steps.
1. Be Intentional
First, we need to get intentional about addressing our fears and defeater beliefs. For me, that means talking with my wife about it. She is a confidant who loves me and knows me well. I need her to give me an outside perspective with greater objectivity. She has comforted me and exhorted me to take the next step.
2. Take Action
Second, we need to act. For me, that means going to the gym even though I’m anxious about it. It means facing my fears and taking the initiative with people at the gym instead of waiting for them to do so with me. As the adage goes, “You have to be a friend to make a friend.” To have the strength to do this, I have had to take a third step.
Third, we need to access a deeper and greater power than our own. For me, as a Christian, that means going to Christ for help. I’ve done this by imagining Christ’s presence with me as I roll out of bed, drive to the gym, and step in. I imagine him standing with me, speaking to me: “You have a place here. I have you here and want you here. I love you and these people. Love them too.” A prayer that helps me remember this truth is one attributed to St. Patrick, which has the line, “Christ as a shield, overshadow me. Christ over me, Christ under me, Christ beside me, on my left and my right.” Remembering Christ’s presence with me has helped me most of all to enter into people’s lives instead of retreating and succumbing to feelings of worthlessness and rejection.
Moving beyond your status quo is possible, but it takes intentionality (thinking about what you want to change), action (actually doing the thing you’re scared of), and faith (admitting you are not sufficient in yourself and acting in faith).
What is one area of your life you’d like to change?