It can be such small things that hold us back.
In my case, it was a haircut. It was REALLY getting me down that I was overdue. But I was putting it off because I was scared I was going to come out looking like a poodle. Or at least look a bit weird.
After talking with my coach I realised that this needed to be a priority. Go get your hair cut, Claire. TODAY.
I don’t usually put off having a haircut (I used to, but that’s another blog post). But being back in Italy, with no ready translator, and having had a recommendation, but with a caveat expressing the fear I already had, I was nervous. When I was living here last summer I’d used a visit back to England to have my haircut, so it wasn't until now I was having to face this challenge.
I hadn’t gone through my fear process.
To help overcome the angst that fear can sometimes arise in me, I go through a step by step approach to pinpoint the exact reason I haven't done something.
Firstly, I ask myself what I’m afraid of.
In this case, it was coming out as: "I’m afraid of not being able to communicate what I wanted in Italian, saying the wrong thing, the hairdresser to be cutting my hair and me being powerless (and ‘wordless') to stop it."
Secondly, I ask myself how will I feel if I let the situation continue as it is (without me doing anything).
In the case of my hair, it gets more and more difficult to manage, takes more time and I don’t look my best. It’s costly. Not only that but it’s a sense of mental energy that drains me, just looking in the mirror and saying to myself: 'I really need my haircut' plus a little ‘ugh’ feeling.
Thirdly, I ask myself ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’
For me, here, now, the worst scenario was that the hairdresser makes me look ridiculous and colours my hair.
It wasn’t until I’d articulated this, that the fear suddenly was put in perspective.
I might look a bit ridiculous for a couple of weeks? I can handle that. Compared to how I’m feeling at the moment, looking a bit absurd was not going to be a problem.
(And, as my coach had pointed out, you probably won’t look ridiculous, it just won’t be how you want it)
I knew how to say ‘without colour’ in Italian so this pacified me further and off I went.
Everything was going well - they had an appointment, the receptionist spoke a bit of English - and I’d had my hair washed. So far so good.
Then the receptionist brought me an iPad and I scanned the photos of various celebrities. There weren’t really any that looked like my usual cut, so I picked the closet, one of Cameron Diaz sporting a layered style with a sweeping fringe. (In case you’re interested, this is the closest picture to the one I picked!)
Then the stylist (and owner of the salon) arrived and brandished his scissors (ok, he didn’t brandish, but there was lots of hair-flicking and dramatic flourishes).
He started using this sort of shaving knife and began shaving bits off the bottom of the layers. At first, I was slightly petrified but reassured myself that if I ended up looking stupid, it WOULD grow again.
Whilst he was cutting away, I thought of the photo of Cameron Diaz and tried not to laugh. Here I was, sitting in the chair, having just to trust, that this Italian hairdresser knew what he was doing and wondering whether I would end up being able to pass as Cameron Diaz’s brunette twin.
After a blow-dry and some more cutting, it was done.
Suffice to say, I didn’t - and still don’t - look like Cameron Diaz. But my hair is cut. I feel a million times better and I don’t look ridiculous.
Articulating your fears brings them into the open air, out of the dark corner of your mind and gives them perspective. Knowing what the ‘worst case scenario’ could be gives you the material to make a plan and the reassurance that you will get through it, even if the worst should happen.
The other side of fear feels great. I did it! And next time will be so much easier.