Detailing a ‘what if’ scenario is a good way to kill anxiety and expunge worry.
Someone I met recently wrote to me about how her husband was unable to cope with unemployment. He is over 50 and lost his job in a lay-off two years ago. His efforts to get a job are not bearing fruit and he’s feeling depressed. The lady said he had shown suicidal tendencies and was undergoing counseling. She requested us to meet the gentleman.
So we met him for coffee last week. He said he was anxious about the fate of his savings, which were slowly getting depleted and he wondered how he would put his only child, who is in high school now, through college. “I am desperate for a job. My income cannot be nil like this. I am at the end of the road. It is scary,” lamented the man.
It is often the fear of, or not knowing, what will happen that drives people to desperation. We are all gripped by this fear at some point or the other. None can escape it. The most effective way to deal with such a fear, with anxiety and insecurity, is to face it.
So, we advised the man that instead of only asking ‘what if’, he must go ahead and answer that question. “For instance,” we told him, “If you are facing uncertainty – meaning, if you fear all your savings going up in smoke – don’t just allow that ‘what will happen to me’ feeling to keep building up within you. Complete the scenario to the last detail – “I will sell my apartment or move to another less-expensive city or whatever…I will survive a few months and then when I am totally broke, I will go live with my parents or brother or sister…and if they won’t have me, I will take up a small-time job and live within my means until I get the break that I will need to rebuild my Life and career.” – And don’t worry about your daughter. Life will take care of her!””
The man seemed unconvinced initially. But he has read my Book Fall Like A Rose Petal. When I drew parallels to our own story and shared how Vaani and I have been coping with uncertainty, and how our children Aashirwad and Aanchal got through college through ‘acts of the Universe’ and the compassion of fellow voyagers, he felt a lot reassured.
Actually, it is not at all difficult to face worst-case scenarios. When the fear of the unknown, yet-to-be-born future arises in us, we play out each detail granularly. Each time it has helped us anchor in equanimity and face the situation stoically. You too can do this. You will be amazed how much you will benefit from such an exercise. For one, you will discover that whatever is the worst case that you imagine, and fear, is not so bad after all. Your detailing that ‘what if’ script will reassure you that you can cope with any impending crisis. You will, over time, also realize that the worst almost always never happens!
Life always, unfailingly, provides you what you need – perhaps not in the form in which you envisioned it, but in the way Life has planned it for you. No need of yours has ever been unmet. And no need of yours will remain unmet either. When you start seeing this magic and beauty in your Life, you will understand that all your anxiety and insecurity is such a waste of your time and energy! To be sure, everything is happening to a plan, Life’s plan – just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean, there isn’t one!
Imagining the worst that can happen is not being defeatist. It is the only way to kill feelings – like fear and anxiety – that may otherwise consume you. Your fears often blind you to your own resilience. Resultantly, you stop believing in your ability to face Life’s innumerable challenges. Looking your fears in the eye may not take any problem situation away. But it will most definitely help prepare you to meet that situation confidently when it arrives. So, perhaps, you do realize now that facing Life is not so ‘mushkil’, difficult, after all!
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When what you have to say or offer or ask for is rejected, remember, you are not being rejected!
An interesting conversation with an acquaintance brought up the subject of ‘fear of rejection’. She said that deep within her she was having trouble with reaching out for help or perspective or opportunity because she was never sure how she can handle a ‘no’. Now, she isn’t alone in feeling this way. A lot of the people, a lot of the times, struggle with the ‘fear of rejection’.
I too have feared, and disliked, being rejected.
I have come to understand ‘fear of rejection’ as the sum of two things – ‘fear’ and ‘dislike for rejection’. Clearly fear is a feeling within you. You fear something. Darkness. Uncertainty. Or even a pet – like I feel extremely uncomfortable in the presence of dogs. But fear can be overcome by facing it, by looking it in the eye. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is what fear delivers when you look what scares you, your fear, in the eye. So, in every sense, when you fear something, you do have the power within you to face the fear too. Try this: whatever you fear most in your Life, turn around, instead of running away from it or brushing the issue under the carpet, and face it – and believe me, your fear will dissolve. The situation may not change, but you will not fear it any more. Whether it is breaking off in a relationship or asking for a raise from your boss or whatever. ‘Rejection’, on the other hand, is not in your control. Someone else is rejecting you. What can you do about it? It is their prerogative to accept you or reject you. You only have a choice to influence their decision. You can’t enforce their decision – ever. So, ‘rejection’, to me, is a way to learn to accept Life for what it is. And it is always what it is. Yes, when you are rejected, you do dislike it – who doesn’t? But if you understand that your disliking it is not going to change any reality, you will let the dislike go and instead focus on what more can you do, what can you do next to be accepted.
Among the most difficult things to ask for in Life, according to me, is money. And unfortunately, for almost 5 years of my Life between 2002~2007, and on some occasions in the past decade, I have had to ask people for money. It was extremely humiliating in the beginning and the ‘fear of rejection’ gnawed at me so, so many times. But when I realized that I had to do what I had to in the given situation, of having to survive, and keep our family afloat, I faced my fear and asked people. I was humbled by many who came forth and have supported me and Vaani. But my requests have also been rejected by people. In fact, even as I asked people for money, I gave them the option to say ‘no’ saying that I will never misunderstand if they said they can’t support me or Vaani at that time. This is how I learnt to be non-judgmental about being rejected. To say ‘no’ is anyone’s prerogative – including yours – in a given context. And I learnt that we should never hold it against anyone for choosing to say ‘no’. This experience, humbling and awakening at the same time, has helped me deal with many other contexts with equanimity – rejection when a prospective client either does not award an engagement or does not even respond to emails/messages despite showing a keen interest upfront, rejection by a creditor of the evidence we place before them of our enduring bankrupt situation, rejection by a judicial authority of our pleas for more time to honor our commitments and several other instances. So, over the past 10 years, I have learnt to deal with ‘fear of rejection’ as follows:
- Stop running away from whatever you fear. Face what you fear, look it in the eye!
- When someone rejects you or says ‘no’ or implies that they are not interested, don’t be judgmental. Respect their choice to reject you, your offering or proposition. Remember: they are saying no to your proposition, your idea, your pitch, they are not saying no to you!
- Don’t dislike the situation when you are rejected. Instead ask yourself what you can do to be accepted. Try again. And again. And stay willing to keep trying.
Both ‘fear’ and ‘dislike for rejection’ are debilitating. Don’t let them pin you down. Face what you fear and accept the situation every time your proposition is rejected. You too can then experience equanimity and be happy despite the circumstances!
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You too can be courageous in a situation – if you choose to face whatever you fear!
A reader of my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ (Westland) met me at The Uncommon Leader Event I was curating last evening. He said he found my Book very useful in developing the courage to deal with his own Life: “I was running away from my problems. Your story inspired me to turn around and face Life. Thank you!”
I am grateful to this reader for his feedback. It makes me feel blessed that our experience and learnings are useful for someone, somewhere.
It is only through living with fear, from feeling insecure, desperate and despondent, that I personally woke up to the futility of those emotions. When I was tired of living that way, I decided to turn around and face my situation. And, interestingly, what I feared most stopped haunting me. In fact, my worst fears have never come true and only facing my fears have made me be courageous in dark, apparently, no-go situations!
To be sure, fear spares no one. Even so, interestingly, all of us have the ability to be courageous. Because courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is what fear delivers when you face up to the fear. Only when you face up to something, will you realize that it cannot harm you; only what you run away from chases you, haunts you.
For instance, with a health challenge like cancer, you will feel fearful of death. But as long as you run scared of death, it will torment you. But the moment you discover that death is a non-negotiable eventuality that all of us who are born have to confront, you will no longer fear death. Then you start living. And you begin to feel blessed that at least you reasonably know how much time you have left to live. So, you start investing in the process of living than obsess with the process of dying. Clearly, fear of death has delivered to you the ability, the courage, to live simply because you stopped running away from death.
So, it is with every Life situation. The more you run away from a problem, the more fearful you will be. When you face it, the problem, even if it doesn’t go away, will at least stop tormenting you. Try this approach on anything that you are dealing with presently – watch your fear dissolve and feel the courage rising in you! Let me assure you, you will feel infinitely stronger, no matter what your circumstances are!