My family is Catholic, and my youngest daughter was about to make her First Penance. Gasp! That is when she needs to confess her “sins” to the priest and ask for God’s forgiveness. She was so nervous about this event that she’d been having some meltdowns about it. We tried to be very supportive of her and reassure her that nothing bad would happen. She became more comfortable with the idea as we talked about it, so I was sure that by the time the big day arrived, she would get through it just fine.
Fear is like that. It creeps up on us without warning and can cause us to react in undesirable ways. There are three steps to ensure that you can take hold of that fear and use it to your advantage rather than your enemy.
1.) Recognize fear in its initial stages. With our daughter we recognized her fear because she is our third child going through this process, and we’ve seen it happening before. Our first child was so afraid of telling the priest what he had done wrong during his First Penance that he got himself sick for six weeks! Fear is different for all of us. Learn to recognize when fear is taking hold and preventing you from moving forward towards your goal. How do you react when you are afraid? Do you get an upset stomach? Do you procrastinate and not complete the job because you are afraid of the results? Are you afraid to fail, or not be as successful as you wish?
2.) Set yourself up for success and believe in yourself. The thing that is helping my daughter with her process is having someone to help her brainstorm. We are teaching her to believe in herself and to look inside herself. We are helping her to walk through the steps she will take on the day of her First Penance. Knowing what she is going to say and do seems to be calming her down. Whenever you notice fear holding you back. Take a step back for a few minutes. Take out a notebook and walk through the steps with yourself. What action are you trying to accomplish that is causing the fear? Step through the tasks one step at a time and picture yourself confidently making the next step and the next step. Write down each step. Close your eyes and picture yourself completing each step.
3.) Take action. When my daughter’s big day finally arrived, I could tell she was a little nervous. She was glad when she saw some of her friends entering the church to go through the ceremony with her. She took action and did what she needed to do when her turn came. She knew she couldn’t back down. If you could have seen her face when she was done, you would have seen a huge smile. That grin told us that she was so relieved to have the ritual over with. She realized that it wasn’t as bad as she originally thought it would be.