In the previous blog post within this series, I talked about the fear of being judged. When you are afraid of what others think, you’re more likely to make decisions based on what others want instead of what you truly want. The truth is, however, that what people think about you and how they will react are unknown. All we do know is what actually is, not the what if.
You Can’t Predict the Future
When you have to make a decision, do you try to imagine every possible outcome and imagined scenarios? Would you rather live exactly the way you have been which might feel stagnant or would you rather give yourself the potential to grow and live a better life of your choosing? If your life is just seemingly ok, that’s better than changing anything because it could get worse, right? Well, when you fear the unknown and don’t make change as a result, you actually deprive yourself the opportunity for positive growth and the potential for improvement.
Are you worried about the “what ifs”?
I hate my job, but if I get another job, I might hate it more.
What if I go to the doctor and they tell me something’s wrong with me?
My partner and I fight all the time, but if we break up, I might end up alone for the rest of my life.
What if we get married and the relationship changes?
My parents might get mad if I move away.
I’m worried if I start my own business, I’ll end up failing and become broke.
What if I go to this party and run into my ex?
You can’t predict the future or other people’s reactions. By not taking any action or making changes, you convince yourself that you are avoiding negative experiences, or even catastrophe. That catastrophe is not real. What is real is the present moment and your life as it is now. Is it what you want? Or is it what you’ve settled for?
There’s always a possibility that any changes you make won’t go as planned and the outcome won’t be the desired one. But when that happens, you can make more changes, adjust your plan, or figure out a different way to get what you want. There’s also a good chance that the change you make does lead to positive growth or improvements in your life, whether it’s what you hoped for or unexpected positive outcomes.
How Fear Turns into Anxiety
The unknown doesn’t necessarily mean undesirable, bad, or dangerous. It can include better, good, or neutral if you give it a chance. Disconnect the concept of the unknown from meaning bad. The unknown is not bad, it’s just different. When you think, “I have to know it’s going to be good/worth it/better” leads to becoming paralyzed. Let go of the idea that you can control the outcome because you’re afraid of the unknown or afraid of catastrophe. The unknown exists whether you want it to or not, so lean into it to reduce your anxiety and take a chance at something different, perhaps outside your comfort zone.
Change is Inevitable
The world is always changing – YOU are always changing, even if you don’t realize it. People often try to hold on to what they have not because they truly enjoy their life as it is, but because they are afraid of the unknown. That’s not living in the present. It’s living in a future that hasn’t happened yet or will never happen. Living in the present means accepting changes as they come, being aware of your own needs, values, and priorities (and how they might change over time), and doing things that align with them.
It’s not the unknown that hurts you. It’s trying to control the future that hurts you. Since the future hasn’t happened yet, it still remains unknown, and you can’t control what’s unknown. This increases anxiety because you’re living in the future, not being mindful in the present. When you fear the unknown, it feeds into a fear of loss of control. You try to control every aspect of your life, including how others behave, hoping you can control the future and outcome of all of your actions.
As part of this blog series, the next blog post will be about the fear of losing control where I will talk more about trying to hold onto control and how that feeds into anxiety.
Therapy to Reduce Anxiety
If you are struggling with anxiety and decision making, therapy can help you find that courage to make positive changes in your life. If you live in New York or Florida, Dr. Heather Violante offers online therapy so you can start to feel better and improve your life.