Fear Doesn’t Go Away Until You Talk To It

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by Shannon Cohen

In this season of my life, I am discovering anew what it means to show up for myself. I know how to show up for those I lead, love and serve, but investing that same energy in my own needs and well-being has historically been lackluster. For the past 30 days, I have been showing up for myself by allocating and protecting time in my day for exercise and physical activity. Most recently, I added a discovery component to the process by trying new cardio classes and activities. Today, I attended a Reformer Pilates class. As I drove to the studio, I could feel myself growing increasingly nervous and apprehensive. Fear-laced thoughts flooded my mind: “What if I am the only beginner in the class?” “What if I have the thickest thighs in the room?” “What if I can’t finish an exercise?” I could feel the fear mounting as I drove to the studio. After parking and turning off the car, I disrupted the thoughts by saying aloud: “Shan: You have birthed a child, businesses, and movements … you can do
tough things!”

Forty minutes later, I exited the class on an adrenaline high. I enjoyed it, held my own, had the thickest thighs in the room, but proved what I inherently knew all along: I am stronger than I think. The entire experience taught me a larger truth: Fear is a bully and doesn’t go away until you talk to it. Here are two #ToughSkinSoftHeart emotional health strategies that I am curating in my life to combat fear.

Show up for yourself. Showing up is half the battle. If unaddressed, fear will cause you to discount, disqualify, and discredit yourself. Have you ever let fear talk you out of something that you hadn’t even tried yet? We don’t even allow the children in our lives to call a food that they have never tried, “yucky.” I almost allowed fear to make me question my ability and lead me to erroneous conclusions about my physical strength. As women, we have to be mindful not to allow fear to short-circuit our willingness to try new things and to explore opportunities that stretch us. We can’t allow fear to paralyze us in our pursuits or to convince us that we can’t do something before we even try. 

Talk back to fear. The thoughts of fear did not recede until I opened my mouth and said something. I literally had to fight back by talking back to the self-defeating thoughts that were percolating in my mind. If fear has a language, confidence does too! I am learning to combat fear with the words I say. Fear is a trash talker. Fear doesn’t respond to tears, how nice you are, or silence. Fear demands an oral response. Our words of affirmation disrupt fear. Every day, fear manifests in some aspect of our life and leadership. Any area you are trying to grow in — anticipate fear to rear itself. That is why affirming self-talk is a daily habit we all must practice. Self-talk gives us the verbal ammunition we need in order to stand in our power, show up for ourselves, and diffuse fear in our lives.

Tough Skin, Soft Heart Truth
Tough Skin: Quit discounting, discrediting, and disqualifying yourself before you even try! 
Soft Heart: Fear is a bully, but my words are the solution. Through my internal self-talk and my oral pep-talks, I am reclaiming my power! I get my fight back by talking back to fear!

Shannon Cohen is author of the book, “Tough Skin, Soft Heart: A Leadership Book About Growing Stronger, Better, and Wiser” [2018, Splattered Ink Press] Available shannoncohen.com. Copyright © 2018 Shannon Cohen, Shannon Cohen Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Shannon is a self-described bicoastal Michigander with roots that began in her beloved Detroit, and an entrepreneur, wife and mother with a family.  Shannon is an award-winning strategist, motivational speaker, and community mobilizer. View more about Shannon and her work in community at: shannoncohen.com. 

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