3 Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Trying New Things

Have you ever have passed on doing something new that interests you or could improve your life because you couldn't or fear you couldn't “get it right” right away?

We expect so much of ourselves.

An expectation I observe often is the belief that learning something new should be easy.

Underlying this belief is a judgment that not understanding something new right away means you are inadequate. This can show up in any context, from learning a new hobby or skill like tai chi or meditation, through to starting a new profession, a new position at work, or a new project, and even learning a new art form or language.

Often, this expectation reflects unexamined ideas we have of what it means to be worthy. These ideas shape our choices and limit our options. They also cause significant and unnecessary stress.

Have you ever considered what expectations you have of yourself that do not serve you?

Before you decide to pass on learning something new, or decide to walk away from an opportunity, here are a few tips:

1. Consider what your hesitation reflects

It may simply reflect a lack of knowledge. It feels daunting to be a beginner, thinking about the years of practice it might take to reach a level of proficiency.

It may reflect impatience – an unwillingness to put the time in to become comfortable with something new.

Or it may reflect a preference. For example, maybe you really aren't interested in engaging in something new that's going to take a lot of time and effort. It’s just not what you want at this time in your life.

But it could be something else – a fear that others will see you as incompetent and not so smart after all if you don’t keep up right away or know everything there is to know, a fear of exploring a new side of yourself, a fear of the unknown, and an automatic self-judgment about yourself and your experience. If so, it may be holding you back from an experience that could lead to real growth, friendship, and opportunity!

2. Think about the true range of benefits it can bring to you

The true value in the learning process is rarely limited to the information you learn or stature it may bring. The qualities in yourself that you cultivate through the learning process are often the greatest reward.

  • What besides information will you learn by engaging in a new activity?
  • To what extent will it cultivate qualities you seek, such as patience, empathy, resilience?
  • To what extent will it develop other aspects of your life experience?

You may, for instance, feel like it is time to become less a competitor in the workplace and more a mentor. That promotion or project leader opportunity is a perfect vehicle but you hesitate to go for it.

3. Look for ways your overwhelm can be diminished or eliminated

If the idea of doing something new overwhelms you, reflect on ways that feeling of overwhelm can be diminished or eliminated.

If you do not want the responsibility and time commitment related to a promotion, for example, perhaps you can join a volunteer mentoring program. If you are intimidated by the idea of learning a traditional tai chi form, perhaps you can seek out a form of qigong or moving meditation that requires less training.

Be open to alternative ways to pursue your interests and goals without being disappointed that you are not pursuing the most aggressive approach.

An awareness of what is holding you back along with an understanding of why you are interested in the new endeavor and the full scope of benefits, both extrinsic and intrinsic, can help you decide which way to move forward.

Related Resources

3 Steps to Overcome Your Fear of Trying New Things

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5 Responses

  1. I am very confused by this idea of “our thoughts create our reality.” I mean, when my parents hit me or talked down to me, it wasn’t my thoughts that caused it. But because of them, I have chosen people like them. So how much is our life a result of our thoughts? Like the other day, my flight was delayed by over 3 hours. Was it a result of my thoughts or was it because the weather was bad and it had nothing to do with me?

    1. Hey JJ, I totally hear you. Yes indeed, you don’t cause everything by every thought, but our thoughts ABOUT what happened certainly creates our version of that reality. We can’t control other people, and what they do or don’t do, say or don’t say, but we can control our own perception and how we think and feel about that, in order to keep empowering over our own health, wellbeing and our own lives. In this way, we have the ability and the opportunity not to let others dictate the life we end up living (we can choose to be victorious vs victimized for example). Naturally in terrible situations your thoughts and feelings may be dark and painful as a result of such situations, but as we go into the conscious process of healing and choice, evolving and directing our own lives, we can choose to frame those events differently, to create a new reality for ourselves in relation to those things. It’s never about denying those things, but seeking to see them in new ways in order to move forward. There is often so much debate about that question of whether we create everything with our thoughts or whether there is a fine balance between a) creating our life with our thoughts and b) uncontrollable events that are part of life’s bigger picture unfolding which we are affected by and we choose our own thoughts about how to see/respond to that. For me, I sense it’s both, a dance of the two. I hope this is helpful. Best wishes, B

    2. JJ, thank you for your thoughtful question, and Bernadette, for your helpful reply. We have little control over the actions of others or the environment around us. But, so often, our thoughts and emotions about an experience are automatic. With a sense of mindful awareness we can begin to realize that we have more choice than we realize, as Bernadette said so well, over how we react and respond to our circumstances, even when they are difficult. The flight delay you mentioned is a great example – there was no choice about the plane taking off 3 hours late. There was choice though in the emotional or physical response to the delay. There is the event and then there is our reaction to the event. Those are two very different things. As Viktor Frankl once said, ” Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Recognizing that that space exists and the choices we make as a result can have a significant impact on our reality. I hope this helps as well. In peace and gratitude.

  2. Fantastic article Stephanie.

    It seemed as though you were talking directly at me.

    I have all the issues you’ve mentioned.

    Thank you for sharing

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