Feeling Stuck? How to Deal with a Fear of Loss

RHN OvercomingFearThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Leslie Kolb, MSW, ASW.

Do you ever feel afraid of taking a risk because you might lose? It’s true that sometimes the risk outweighs the reward, but sometimes we hold ourselves back because of a fear of loss. You might think to yourself, what if I go for that dream job and end up getting fired? What if I miss the job I left? Sometimes fear of loss can make us feel “stuck” and impede our ability to make a decision and move forward. Do you ever feel stuck?

If you’re not sure, here’s a concrete example: When you play the stock market, there are stocks that are considered low risk and stocks that are considered high risk. The stocks that are low risk generally have a good return, but it may take years for your investment to grow and pay off. High risk stocks are much more volatile. Investing in one could lead to a big loss, but it can also yield a high reward. In this example, let’s replace stocks with jobs. The low risk job is a steady income, but you might be dissatisfied or even unhappy working there. It’s a sure bet, but it’s not fulfilling. The high risk job is your dream job, but it might be a big risk at first because you won’t initially have income, or you might be hired temporarily and have to prove yourself before becoming a permanent employee. But if your dream job comes along, what do you do? You might think that sticking with the low risk job is playing it safe. But are we really playing it safe if we keep ourselves from reaching for something truly great because we want to avoid losing it or being disappointed?

To help ourselves get “unstuck,” we must first identify what we truly want. What have you always dreamed of but never attained? Using our example, what is your dream job? What might the risks be? What about the reward? Being mindful about the risk versus the reward is a good place to start. If the risk is worth the reward but the possibility of risk scares you, try some reality testing. If you go without income for a month or two, for example, realistically what might happen? You might think it feels too unstable to go without income, but perhaps you have money saved that can float you financially for a little while. Though taking a risk might feel frightening or foolish, you might find that you have safety nets in place (like a savings account) that will help you succeed in achieving what you desire.

Next, create a plan. If you feel you need to create safety nets like saving money for a few months or exploring all your professional options before taking the proverbial plunge, then do it. If you feel more comfortable creating a timeline of achieving your dream job, then do that. Find what it is that makes you feel safer in taking a big risk. Keep in mind, however, that a risk is called a risk for a reason: it’s risky. Consider the fact that loss is an unavoidable part of life. There are no guarantees, and you might experience some loss along the way, even unexpected losses, like missing your old job or the people with whom you used to work. Try to embrace the unexpected, even if you are carefully following the plan you laid out for yourself.

Finally, try to embrace the unexpected. Some of us might regularly try to avoid loss, but think back to a big loss you experienced. Was it a break-up? Maybe the end of one relationship, though difficult, helped you move forward to find a more fulfilling relationship. Loss, though painful, can often be useful. It can motivate, create momentum, and ultimately give you reason to make changes that you might have not otherwise made. Change your outlook on it—though you might lose one thing, you can gain something new, perhaps even something better. We learn from our mistakes. We choose better the next time. What a perfect example of how loss can secretly benefit you.

This week, look back on how you’ve used losses as learning experiences. How have you triumphed in the face of what initially felt like a failure? You might see that you do it even in some small way everyday.


Elana Clark-Faler
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