Let’s Do it: Self-Compassion that Ignites Our Ability to Act in Spite of Fear


Let’s Do It is the phrase that I use for myself, and clients when conflict emerges between the desire to do something fulfilling and the fear of how it will turn out There are two key reasons that you hesitate to engage in an action that could bring you greater well being and fulfillment: the fear of failure and the fear of loss.  The term, “Let’s,” is important because it assumes the presence of another, a team effort, and this team effort just makes the ability to act so much easier.

What drives the fear of failure and the fear of loss and how will working with someone help mitigate these difficulties?  

What Drives these Fears

Psychological research suggests that our fear of failure has to do with the consequences.  Failing can negatively affect our self-confidence and positive sense of self.  These thoughts might sound like: If I fail, I am unable to do what it takes to live a good life, and if I fail I am a failure.  The fear of loss has more to do with losing our and others’ approval and support.  These thoughts might sound like: If I fail, people will think I am a failure and people do not surround themselves with failures.  If I fail, I have failed myself.

What Reduces these Fears

Psychological research suggests that we are more likely to take risks while in the company of others, which could significantly decrease our fear of failure.  Research also suggests that connection especially connection defined by loving-kindness or true compassion has the potential to neutralize fear.  The fear of loss involves losing others or being alone.  Acting with others is a strong reminder that we are not alone, and when we act positively with others we have so much more to gain than to lose (ie: a more developed relationship either by hardship or success).

How can Self-Compassion Help

A secret that most long term and even some short term mindfulness and self-compassion practitioners know is that when you practice mindfulness or self-compassion, you are both tied to the world of people who are suffering and the world of people giving kindness to themselves.  In this way you are both tied to understanding and acceptance.  In a famous research experiment, they looked at the brain of a long time French metta or compassion meditator, while he was meditating.  They found that the parts of his brain that established distance between himself and others were inactive, and the parts that were responsible for connection were very active.  In other words, as he meditated he was connected to others.

With this information, we are able to see that when we practice self-compassion that we are doing so in the company of others even if no one is physically nearby.  Acting in the company of others, especially in a positive way, enables us to take action in meaningful and fulfilling ways because they increase our confidence to take chances and hold a greater potential to deepen rather than lessen our connection to others.

We use the phrase Let’s Do It because it short circuits our greatest obstacle in pursuing a good life, namely the time that we spend obscuring the pathway to happiness with predictions of loss.  If you get lost in your journey to your destination, you have a much greater chance in reaching it than you do if you never take the first step.  Sometimes, the most important parts of the journey actually happen on the way to your destination, and getting lost tends to be part of being on your way.  Even if we do not remember getting lost, per say, most of can acknowledge that we make stops on our way to achieving our goals that we could not predict, but enrich our experience anyway. 

So take action, but don’t go it alone.  Practice self-compassion instead! Worry will abound but just acknowledge it, let it pass, and bring kindness to it.  It can be part of the journey without being the navigator.  Let your desire to have a fulfilling meaningful life lead the way.  Don’t wait to take the first step, and don’t forget to do it with kindness.  If you get lost, be present to your experience.  It just might be the most enriching part of your journey.

365 Days of Kindness.  Self-Compassion. Day 40.  In the Books.