Helping Students Work through Fear

During class, we frequently confront a huge spectrum of emotion that our students go through. Many of us are empathetic people and internalize a lot of that, which can both make us excellent teachers but also be mentally exhausting and challenging. We often reinforce and magnify the positive ones while offering coping skills to work through the negative ones.

Today I want to talk about probably the most common “negative” emotion we encounter- Fear. I have “negative” in quotes because the concept of fear is an umbrella term that encompasses a huge spectrum of feelings, some of which are healthy in a certain way. For example, a reasonable amount of anxiety while anticipating their first client just shows that the student is taking it very seriously and wants so much to do a great job. But without keeping it in check, fear can easily overwhelm people into adopting unhealthy habits that will limit their growth creatively and professionally.

Fear of failure can cause a person to give up before they’ve even started. I can’t tell you how many people have been brought almost to tears just because the first pair of eyebrows they do on a practice pad don’t look like the pictures their favorite insta-artist posts online. Fear of competition can cause a person to low-ball their prices. Now they’ve attracted the type of client who searches for a deal and demands free treatments and will abandon you at a drop of a hat for the next person who comes along offering a new lower rate. Wanna go even deeper? How about the fear of success, the fear of money, the fear of happiness? The stress of an intense class week of being pushed violently out of their comfort zone can bring up all sorts of issues that have been quietly bubbling under the surface for years, most of which they aren’t even consciously aware that they have.

So how do we help?? We’re not licensed therapists. We can’t hand out Xanax (wouldn’t that be nice?) But what we can do is attempt to bring to awareness the source of the emotion and work through whether or not it is coming from a productive place. Words, actions, and decisions rarely work out for the best when they come from a fear-based motivation. We can remind our students of this.

You are only saying this/doing this because you are feeling scared in this moment. What would you be saying/doing if you didn’t let your fear guide you? What would you be saying/doing if you were letting strength guide you? Or Confidence? Or Happiness?

My goal is that a student will remember these words next time he or she is feeling overwhelmed or scared and hopefully be able to take themselves to a better place and a healthier mindset, in order to make more beneficial decisions.

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