Recognizing and Overcoming the Fears That Make Us Settle

See the Light

“Fear, uncertainty, and discomfort are your compasses towards growth.” ~Celestine Chua

Settling feels awful. Take it from me—for the past few months I’ve been holding the Scepter of Settling in both my personal life and my business.

And it hasn’t felt good.

The other morning, as I sat waiting in LaGuardia Airport to board a plane for a three-day intensive business retreat in North Carolina, I had this sudden, radical a-ha! moment in which pieces of my life, both personal and business, just clicked into place.

Have you ever had that happen to you?

I realized I was settling in my personal life by accepting a relationship in which I was getting so much less than I wanted, and I was settling simply because I was afraid I couldn’t have more than I was currently getting.

There is a part of me that feels slightly embarrassed to admit that I was settling because of this deep fear that I couldn’t possibly have what I wanted from a partner, because it’s been so long since I have.

I was also settling in my business by continuing to work with a client who I bent over backward for again, and again, and again, who still always wanted more. I was settling by compromising myself and the way I work just for a few thousand dollars. I was afraid to trust that I would be absolutely fine without that money.

Does any of this feel familiar to you? 

  • You’re settling for friendships where you don’t feel supported, where it feels like it’s rarely “about you,” or where you have to hide or make parts of yourself smaller.
  • You’re settling for intimate relationships where you’re not seen and heard the way you want to be, or can’t show up authentically.
  • You play small in your family of origin, having to dumb down your success or your inner “shine” because there are stories about who you’re supposed to be or what you’re supposed to do, or you might “out-shine” a family member if you really show your brilliance.
  • You accept more than your share of work, work longer hours than you want, get paid less than you want, or work with people for whom you feel like you’re compromising yourself.
  • You make or have way less time for yourself than you like—you put off self-care, rest, good food, and exercise because there’s not enough time, money, or support.

In her amazing book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks about a marble jar that her daughter’s teacher used in the classroom.

Every time the class collectively did something good, the teacher put a few marbles in the jar. When they misbehaved, she took a few out. When the jar got to be full of marbles, the teacher threw a class party.

Brown talks about relationships in this context. Whenever we have a choice of attending to our partner, paying attention to them or their needs, seeing them fully and hearing them—showing up for them and our relationships—it’s like adding marbles to the jar.

And every time we turn away from our partner, choose to walk by instead of asking what’s wrong, avoid getting involved, turn away from the work of connecting and feeding emotional intimacy, marbles come out of the jar.

The last few relationships I’ve had were empty jars, with the occasional lonely marble rolling around desolately. I was getting sick with the settling—literally and figuratively. 

And it was impacting my business, where I found myself also settling in ways that were completely fear-based.

As I sat working just after dawn at LaGuardia Airport, getting ready to take three days for myself at a mastermind and business retreat, it hit me.

I’m finally ready to let go of what hasn’t been working, and the fear, and make painfully blank, open, empty space for what works, what feeds me.

I’m holding out for a full marble jar.

Are you settling anywhere in your life? Does it feel awful, sad, frustrating, exhausting?

Whether you’re settling in your friendships, your relationships, your work, your family, or your self-care, settling feels terrible and it’s bad for you, for your work, for your relationships.

Here are a few questions to get you started thinking about where and why you’re settling.

Grab a journal and a pen and get yourself a cup of tea. Light your favorite candle. Get comfortable. Dedicate this space to feeding yourself and filling that marble jar.

Closing your eyes, think about the areas of your life—your work, your love life/partnership, your self-care, your friendships…

Open your eyes and write each question. Then just start writing, without censoring or editing.

1. Where in your life are you settling for less than you want and need? Write out each place and how you’re settling.

2. Why are you settling? What’s the fear behind it? For instance, I found myself settling in a personal relationship because I had a deep fear that I couldn’t have what I wanted, so I thought I might as well settle for what I could get.

3. What do you fear would happen if you stopped settling?

4. What is a new belief about what’s possible for you that you’d like to think about working toward?

5. What would the first small step be if you were to act as if this belief were true?

We do this work in tiny steps so that they’re achievable and sustainable. Here’s to smashing the ways we settle.

Photo by Jonathan Kos-Read

About Britt Bolnick

Britt Bolnick is the owner of In Arms Coaching, heart-centered life coaching for women. You can connect with her at www.InArmsCoaching.com.

See a typo or inaccuracy? Please contact us so we can fix it!