Do you find that you stay at home rather than going out? Do you say to yourself you don’t like people, but maybe the truth is that you’re not sure what to say when you meet someone new, or how to meet new people?
Do you find that you feel shy at times and it can affect other areas of your life, like your career? That you stay in the same job when really you’d love to do something different or would love to try a different role at your workplace, but it’s just easier and safer just to stay where you are, to keep things the same?
What is safety?
There’s a difference between being safe and feeling safe. Being safe is in the actions that you do. In being safe to walk home, being safe and doing safe behaviours as opposed to the feeling of safety.
If you’re in a situation that has a risk of injury, danger or loss, like you’re caught in a middle of a storm, then you need to know to do everything you can to ensure you’re physically safe. That’s an act of being safe; protecting yourself.
When I talk about not feeling safe, I’m referring to that irrational feeling you get when you don’t feel comfortable expressing your emotions, feeling uncertain about speaking up or insecure about just being you.
Feeling like it’s uncomfortable to ask a question of a colleague or boss, or to suggest an alternative way of doing something in a work situation, or to share your story with someone you’ve just met.
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Sometimes we have a physical response to an irrational sense of not being safe. Your heart starts racing; you get a shortness of breath. Thoughts start racing through every possible situation or scenario. ‘What if she says she doesn’t like me?’ ‘What if he doesn’t like the red lipstick I’m wearing?’ ‘What if she doesn’t date lawyers or people who work in IT?’ ‘What if he doesn’t like that I play computer games?’ All those thoughts go round, and that feeling of insecurity in yourself increases.
Why does this happen though? What’s actually going on?
Why is it that there are some people who get these sensations and other people feel internally safe and secure expressing themselves. Have you ever met someone who seems to say the first thing that comes into their head and it never bothers them? It reminds me of little kids who haven’t learnt to filter and think about what they say? And then there are people who are like I used to be. Maybe you or someone you know holds themselves back and overthinks before speaking. For me, it was like I had this fear of saying the wrong thing and of people thinking I’m unintelligent, or of getting embarrassed and of people not liking me. I thought that being perfect; wearing the right clothes; saying the right thing, was the answer.
Instead of having an opinion when asked a question, I’d agree with the majority or sit on the fence. At work, I’d find myself saying yes to things that didn’t make sense for me to be doing. If I knew a better way of doing a task, rather than questioning, I’d just do it the way I was told. I was so scared of making waves so I’d stay in my shell to be safe.
Have you ever felt, or known anyone who has felt like this?
I didn’t have many friends to begin with, so having people not like me seemed to be the worst thing in the world. I’d stay quiet during conversations, and I’d do this thing where I’d script-write in my head, planning the perfect come-back, the perfect start to a conversation. Imagining conversations, to try and feel like I would be prepared when I walked up to somebody for the first time to say the right thing so they’d like me straight away.
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Only people are not predictable. After we got through ‘What do you do for work’ or ‘How’s the weather’ there were a million different directions the conversation could go, and I couldn’t predict every one of them. I’d watch TV and movies and envied the actors who had scripts to follow to know the perfect funny response to a situation; the perfect thing to say on a first date. I felt like I wanted my life to be in a movie or in a TV series where somebody could tell me what to say to get the great relationship, to get the perfect job I’d love, to feel safer within myself, to express myself.
Life is unpredictable
Life is unpredictable though, and it’s important to find a way to feel safe inside yourself to handle any situation. To be able to feel confident introducing yourself to somebody who you don’t know. Feel confident going to that job interview. Knowing that ‘you’re okay’. Often people look for safety in external things, but what happens when those external things are not present?
For me, I’d look to things I could control to feel safe, like eating chocolate. I knew if I ate chocolate that would make me feel in a certain way (happy initially). Other ways I’d feel safe would be by having my mobile phone on me at all times, and I’d check it frequently. I felt that I was connected to other people when I’d look at Facebook, seeing the posts of my friends and famous people I was following.
Our body responds to our thoughts as if they are real. Our body doesn’t know the difference between the scenario we play out in our head and what’s actually going on out in the real world. It responds in the same way.
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Your mind doesn’t know the difference between what we imagine to be real and what is physically real. Athletes know this well, and they use it to help them to be the best, by playing through the race in their head. Let’s use swimming as an example. In the athlete’s mind, they imagining each stroke they will take, each turn at the end of the lane, playing through the best case scenario, perfect execution of the race over and over again. The more that they do this, the more their body is trained to respond exactly as they have prepared for it to.
What if we applied this tactic to a situation we wanted to feel emotionally safe in. Take going on a first date when we are shy. Our usual thoughts might be to play scenarios through in our mind like tripping over, or of saying the wrong thing, which adds to our nerves. As a result of feeling this way, our body thinks is real and it responds with our heart racing or shortness of breath as we picture all the things that could go wrong. So instead, what if we turn it around and use the same skill to create a positive situation instead?
Play out the best case scenario
So, when we’re about to go out on a date rather than thinking of all the things that could go wrong, why don’t we play through our minds feeling great on a date. Not focussing on the words but focus on the feeling that you want. Feeling confident, brave, courageous, fun, happy. Create a movie of yourself feeling those emotions and talking to someone and play the movie through, again and again, feeling stronger and stronger emotions. Picture walking into the date acting as if you’ve done this a thousand of times.
What you will notice is that your physiology/the way that you are holding yourself changes. There are similarities to how people hold their body when they are feeling different emotions. Typically when we feel insecure, shy, unconfident our eyes look down, our shoulders slump downwards, our breath is shallow, we are trying to make ourselves smaller so we are not as easily noticed. If you’re like me and have started trying it out you may also notice that your thoughts start focussing on things that are less than great.
Now shake your body out…
Now shake your body out, and this time sit or stand up straight, with shoulders back, eyes open and looking ahead or upwards, breathe deeper. When we do this, we can notice that there is more of a feeling of strength, certainty and our thoughts may be changing to more positive things also. You may even have a little smile on your face.The more you focus on how you are holding your body, where you are looking the better you get at it, the more automatic it will become and the more your thoughts will respond.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
Healthy ways to feel safe…
There are healthy ways of feeling safe, and there are not so healthy ways of feeling safe. I know this only too well. I used to do the not so healthy ways to feel safe, things like eating chocolate, cakes, pastries; comfort food. I’d do things that would make me feel good for the moment, like watching TV. Because I wasn’t exercising it meant that over time, I put weight on.
1. Check Your Physiology… How Are You Standing? Where Are You Looking?
Often when I’m feeling uncertain about something, I check if I am sitting or standing straight, with my shoulders back. If my breathing is very shallow, I take three deep breaths, breathing all the way in and then all the way out. I do that three times, and I notice that my body starts to relax, my thoughts slow down.
2. Direct Your Movie!
Be the director of your movie. Create a movie playing through the situation that you are worried about or that you want to feel stronger or more confident in (going for a job interview, going on a first date, talking to your boss) and think of the emotions you would like to feel and imagine the situation. Play it like a movie all the way through to the best case scenario. Remember the words are less important than the feelings. Focus on what you can control. You can control your emotions, and the more you play it through, the easier it will become, and the more natural it will feel when you are in the situation that you are creating a movie of.
3. Sing! Listen to Music!
Music is a great way to shift emotions. I have playlists for everything! I have songs that I listen to that help me feel confident, fun, strong, playful or calm. What are the songs you can add to your playlist that keep you feeling positive?
Building safety within yourself will take time; these steps will help you get started. Notice the little changes. Internal safety is like a snowball. It may start with one snowflake that grows to a bigger snowball the more you work on it
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