Why You Feel Fear When Doing Something New


I had lunch with a dear friend a few weeks ago. She was about to start a new job, and our conversation went a little something like this: 

ME: I am SO excited about your new job and couldn’t be happier for you. I can’t believe it starts Monday!

FRIEND: Thanks, friend! I know – I can’t believe it’s here already! I have to say though… I have really mixed feelings about it.

ME: What do you mean? 

FRIEND: I know this is what I want and that it’s a great next step for me. But honestly, I’m really scared! Nervous too.

ME: Say more.

FRIEND: Whenever I start something new, I always get scared. And it’s so frustrating, because I don’t want to be scared! I know my fear is silly and I have nothing to be afraid of. But I still am. 

^^ This reaction is SO common. Even when “out with the old, in with the new” is your doing, done with the intention of moving onwards and upwards. Like a new job, a new partner, a new baby, a new city, a new decade, and more. 

Whether upcoming change is by choice or not, or something you *know* you want and have been gunning for, change comes with risk. And with risk comes fear. 

Because your physical and emotional experience has nothing to do with logic. Your brain and nervous system view life experiences through the lens of life or death, kill or be killed, fight, flight or freeze. It’s too narrow a view to include or consider the good side of change. 

You’re wired for survival, programmed to assume the worst (and never expect the best, either).

So as far as your body is concerned, keeping things the same is pretty much the #1, sure-fire way to keep you safe… and alive. Sameness means you’ve already been there, done that – and you’re still standing.

Change on the other hand? Well, it’s synonymous with death.

Intense, yes. Silly, even. 

But reality nonetheless.

Let’s jump back to my story above for a second. During our conversation, I noted that she was being really hard on herself. Resentful of her emotions. Trying to harden against her fear and muscle her way through.

I went on to tell her what I’ve shared with you here. We normalized the fear, which helped her realize she’s not alone in her reaction. That it’s not her fault, either. 

(In case there’s any doubt, the same goes for you too.)

We then went on to discuss different ways to work through her fear.

Here are two journal prompts based on what we discussed:

Question #1: 

How can I soften into my fear? How can I hold space for my fear AND the excitement I have for what’s to come?

*Oftentimes fear takes over and prevents us from seeing any other emotions associated with the upcoming change and overall situation. When you let go of the tension associated with resisting your fear, what else comes up? What else can you make space for? 

Question #2: 

What am I really afraid of? 

*Naming your fear diffuses it. It’s no different than how you felt as a child, scared of the monsters under your bed. To make you feel better, your mom turned on the light and peeked under the bed with you. Showing you that there was nothing there, and therefore nothing to be afraid of. Remember, what you can’t see is scarier than what you can.

No doubt about it – change is fear-inducing. It signifies the ending of something you knew, and beginning of something you can’t predict or control. Next time you feel fear creep into the pit of your belly and rise up into your chest, I invite you to remember that this is a normal, biological reaction to change. Then congratulate yourself for not sticking with the status quo. For pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, making a commitment to grow and evolve. 

From this place of self-compassion, confidence and kindness, I invite you to try out one or both of the questions above. See what comes up for you, and let me know how it goes.

Comment below or send me an email at sofia@sofiaadler.com 

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