Facing Fear: Engaging in Self-Care

This post is about a light bulb moment.

I wrote earlier this week about the wrestling match that many of us engage in: knowing that we need self-care and struggling to implement self-care.  I promised in that post that we were just beginning a discussion.   And the response in the comments seems to reflect that this is a discussion people want to have. Well, moments after I hit post, I had a conversation with a client.  And we began exploring the issue of fear–how often fear was stopping my client from trying some things that may help them.

That’s when the light bulb flashed on.

The big question posed in my earlier post was from blogger and patient advocate, Liza Bernstein, who asked, “Why do we have such a hard time doing the things that we know are good for us?  I explored a few of the reasons I saw for that struggle, and began to look at some ways to stop wrestling and start acting.

But my conversation with my client reminded me that I had missed a huge piece of the picture in my first post.

Because I didn’t talk about fear.

What does fear have to to with self-care?  Actually, I think fear has a lot to do with self care.  Here are a few examples.

  • When you are hurting or overwhelmed, you can be afraid that you just can’t handle one more thing to focus on.
  • If you have tried self-care in the past and gotten busy, overwhelmed, sick, or distracted, you may be afraid that reconnecting will simply lead to another failure.
  • If you have been struggling to have any sense of your future, simply the hope of committing to self-care may carry the fear of disappointment.

When I started thinking about it, I realized that fear is a huge component in the wrestling match that we have between what we know and what we do in terms of our self-care.

So We’re Afraid–So Then What?

Fear and self-care will both be part of upcoming posts–these are big topics and I try to keep these posts short and readable (short in my world, anyway).  But here are a few thoughts to get us started.

Once you can see fear in the puzzle of self-care and why we do and don’t act, things begin to seem clearer.  Naming the pieces of the puzzle is a huge step toward understanding the puzzle and navigating toward a solution.  So, when we can set aside the self-blame and shame and call it out–that we are afraid of trying and failing, that hoping is scary–then we can begin to move.

And we can begin to meet fear with compassion.  We can re-define the bar of “success.”  We can remind ourselves that we don’t have to be perfect to deserve self-care.  We can choose to meet fear with action instead of with paralysis.  Because hiding from our fear only makes it stronger.

I’m committing to being braver and more self-caring.  How about you?


Image Credit: Light Bulb amid Dark Bulbs via Sundigo.com via Creative Commons License

5 thoughts on “Facing Fear: Engaging in Self-Care

  1. Hi Ann,

    Nice light bulb moment!

    Another way that fear interferes with self-care is that habits like overeating and endless TV watching and internet surfing are ways of numbing ourselves to avoid feared emotions. So the desire to improve self-care often conflicts with the fear and resulting avoidance of emotional pain. Then, even after we face the feared emotions, the habits are so deeply ingrained that they are hard to overcome.

    All the best,

    1. Thanks Andrea,

      Yes, you make an important point about those feared emotions, and the control they can have when we try so hard to avoid them. And it is crucial to be really kind with ourselves as we go through the challenge of trying to build new habits.


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