” The First Steps are the hardest, but once you take them, the path will magically appear.” -paraphrase of some lady on the internet, I don’t know personally.
Whether it be the first steps out of bed; into a new job, the gym, an AA meeting, or outside our own front door; first steps can be really, really fucking hard for some people. Usually first steps mean walking into an unknown future. It can bring about anxiety or fear.
Did you know that your body produces the same physical reactions during excitement and fear? Both are nervous reactions managed by the Limbic system, and stress reactions controlled by the Hypothalamus gland.
“studies have shown that if you learn to anticipate fearful situations then you actually activate the nucleus accumbens, which is the reward center of the limbic system (Klucken 2009). Thus knowing you’re about to be scared is actually somewhat enjoyable. But if the fear is unpredictable then it doesn’t activate the nucleus accumbens. So fear activates the hypothalamus in the same way as excitement, and when it’s predictable it activates the brain’s reward center as well. And that really gets at the heart of the matter. We don’t like fear per se, we like predictable fear. It gets the limbic system fired up, making us feel more alive, but we don’t have to worry about actually dying.”
There is a technique used to over-ride anxiety, tricking yourself into excitement, and actually it is pretty easy.
Imagine the “WORST CASE SCENARIO”. I mean, THE WORST. At first you may think “worst case scenario is no one likes me”, or ” people act like I am invisible.”
I say, go further. “Worst case scenario is every one hates you, and is actively taking measures to try and kill you in some gory and painful way.”
Now, ask yourself, “How likely is that to happen?” You will most likely respond to yourself, “That isn’t even logical. So it isn’t likely to happen at all.”
Now compare the unlikely worst case scenario to what ever you were fearing about walking out the door. How likely is it, that those fears will be reality, and even if they are, is it going to kill you?
Fear and anxiety are biological reactions toward self preservation in their most basic form, however when acknowledged with our conscious mind, they can serve as amazing warnings that trouble or duress may be afoot.
Have you ever met someone who immediately made your guard go up? You may have even felt like removing yourself from this persons presence as soon as possible. And you may say to yourself, “I don’t know this person. Why do I feel such an aversion? ” You let it go, and basically take no effort to build a relationship with this individual. You may even avoid situations or events where you know this person will be there. You silently decide, “you just don’t like their vibe.” Years later you may find out that this person was abusive in their relations to people, and it’s like your internal guidance systems knew something your conscious mind was unaware of.
All of those same chemicals were working, but having some self awareness as to why your body is responding with those chemicals in a seemingly ordinary situation, helps us to observe what is an actual threat to our survival, and what is our fearful imagination running in over drive.
The more we are able to calm ourselves in stressful situations, the easier it is to differentiate fact from fiction.
So, when we go back to the idea, that first steps are the hardest, it’s best to take a retrospective and see how many first steps we had to take to make it to today.
We were all babies once, and I am sure we all fell down often when we were beginning to walk. We had to fall down, and get back up, in order to build the muscles necessary to hold ourselves up for long periods of time. We had to strengthen those muscles in order to walk long distances. We had to strengthen them even more to run.
We’ve all had to walk into a room full of strangers at some point; unknowing if any of those faces would be our friends.
Life is uncertain without our participation.
If we shy away from first steps, we will never know where those paths lead. If we allow fear to dictate our decisions, we will stay frozen in one place. It is our personal responsibility to build a friendship with the Unknown. To step into what we do know, which is that “nothing changes for the better, if we never venture out into the unknown” and “you never know until you try.”
Life begs our participation, and to participate you must over ride fear and step forward.
Side Note: I apologize to my readers for taking a few days break from writing. I was feeling blocked in what to write about, so I didn’t force it.
Tomorrow marks 21 days… am I on my way to breaking an old/ building a new habit? We shall see.
I appreciate all the positive and encouraging comments this series has received. I love the conversations some of these posts have provoked, and suggestions that have been shared. Keep them coming.
As always feel free to share, like, comment and follow along on the Madge Midgely blog.
May your day be splenderific. Links to past posts below!