How to Start a New Life When You’re Scared to Start Over
March 1, 2023 9:00 AM EST | 8 min read
Is it too late to start over in life?
There is no age where starting over is “too old.”
It isn’t a person’s age that keeps them from wanting to start over.
It is the fear of doing something new that we learn from life and being responsible over the years.
Our past experiences have also taught our brains to view situations in a particular light.
It’s scary to relearn your natural reaction to things.
Change and the unknown are some of the biggest roadblocks people face when changing their lives.
However, there are ways you can overcome the past and be brave enough to start over.
The scariest moment for me was when my past and present collided, and I realized I had spent my entire adult life building the wrong one.
When the past and present collide
When I was younger, I had little fear of believing in myself.
I remember being a sophomore in high school and arguing with my guidance counselor that I could go to the college campus and take English 101 there.
The school had a dual enrollment program.
Typically, the kids just took a few classes here and there and earned college credits for things like public speaking.
I wanted to take as many as possible!
This way, I would almost have an associate’s degree when I graduated high school.
We bantered back and forth.
Even though I was only in my second year of high school English, I assured her I would do just fine in the college class.
She finally relented.
I was one of the first two students (a friend of mine was the other one) to graduate from PHCC before completing high school.
I had so many credits that they wouldn’t let me go to high school my senior year.
So, I took a full course load at the college.
Instead of almost having an associate’s degree, I walked across the stage in my college cap and gown before my high school graduation ceremony.
This article is from when we graduated, and they interviewed me.
It was the winter of 2000 (I’m not sure why it says 2005…).
I remember how much pride, excitement, and joy I felt.
Honestly, I read a little of the rest of the article besides the part about me.
I was a teenage girl, but now when I reread it, there is a part that sticks out.
People start over all the time
The writer says, “For some students, the journey lasted much longer than it did for De Santo and Stalford. Elizabeth Mohammed, 35, of Brooksville, attended PHCC on and off for the past six years while battling rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and working to support her three teenagers.”
I was not the 17-year-old reading her “first interview” anymore.
Now, I was the 35-year-old woman, stepping out of her comfort zone, facing all the fear of letting her family down, but still believing in her dreams enough to try.
I had spent a lifetime building a career and educational background in business.
Working for over 20 years in various industry management roles and earned a master’s degree in management and leadership.
Yet one day, I woke up and realized this was not the life I wanted.
That young girl I was in high school wanted to earn a degree in journalism and be the next Christiane Amanpour.
However, life kept throwing me curveballs, and when I returned to school, I already had a few years of management experience.
So, a business degree made sense.
That’s how we build a life as an adult; doing things that make sense, things that pay off financially, stuff we find security in.
That’s why it is scary to imagine starting all over when we realize it isn’t the right path.
But you are not too old, too ‘set in your ways,’ or anything else you might tell yourself.
Face your past first and see what you can learn from it.
How to use your past to kick-start your new life
The past has many valuable lessons about what we can take with us to start over and what we can leave behind.
Depending on your past experiences, going back and reliving them can be another scary factor in starting a new life.
However, this is an important step you will not want to rush past.
Learning from the past doesn’t mean unpacking your suitcase and staying there, though!
Learn from the past and then let it go
We can use negative life experiences to learn what went right and what didn’t!
Everything we go through allows us to grow.
Spending a little time reflecting on the experience, and focusing on something you gained (knowledge, a skill, perspective, a habit, etc.), gives you the building blocks to start your new life off right!
You can look back on these situations and ask yourself these questions to build a better path for your decisions in the future:
- What happened? Only look at the facts.
- What emotions did you feel?
- Is there anything I can take away from that and use it to empower myself and my feelings?
Understanding these feelings and emotions will help you start a new life filled with healthier relationships, better workplace dynamics, and a stronger sense of yourself.
It can be terrifying to walk away from a poor relationship with which we have grown comfortable or from a job that doesn’t serve us.
The trick is to ask yourself what you gain instead of focusing on what you lose.
Using skills from your past career to start a new one
The realization that I was in the wrong job made me nervous.
I didn’t enjoy my job anymore, the last couple of classes of my master’s degree were draining, and I realized I just wanted to be writing.
I started walking around a lake near my house daily, trying to reconnect with nature and myself.
It was a great exercise in rediscovering who I was, and I pursued a career in writing.
That meant leaving behind a decent-paying job with fantastic benefits, all the things I thought I needed as an adult.
It was scary, and I wondered if I had just wasted the last twenty years of my life.
Yet, I realized that many of my skills were transferable.
Instead of directly managing a team, I could use my knowledge to write articles about leadership, management, and team development.
The topics related to career and business that I could write about were endless.
I could also use my life experiences to write about overcoming trauma and building a glorious life despite how life might have started.
Change the way you approach challenges.
The wrong question is asking yourself if you should start over because you will throw away everything you have worked for.
What will improve in your life if you change directions?
How can you use your expertise and talents toward your new goals?
These questions will change your perspective because it forces your brain to frame things from the perspective of “What if this works?”
That opens up more doors than you ever thought possible.
According to Alistair Cox, “With a shift in mindset and adopting this mindset, you can quickly expand your skills as you’re starting to approach every new challenge with enthusiasm and confidence instead of with avoidance and fear.”
Overcoming fear is much easier said than done, but I have found that the best things that have happened in my life were the things I was most afraid of trying.
The NHS, Scotland’s national health information services, offers some great tips for dealing with fear:
- Face your fears. Avoiding our fears causes them to seem scarier. When we face it, it fades.
- Look at the evidence. Challenge those fearful thoughts with evidence. If you are afraid to start over because of your age, look at all the people older than you who became successful! This is evidence that it can be done!
- Don’t be perfect. Your quest for a new life will probably have some setbacks and challenges, but that is to be expected. The life you were living before also had setbacks and challenges, so don’t let the fear of it not being perfect hold you back!
- Breathe through the panic. When your palms are sweating, and your heart is racing, don’t fight it. It is ok to feel the panic without trying to distract yourself. Place the palm of your hand on your stomach while taking slow and deep breaths. This will help your mind get used to coping with panic, which takes the fear of fear away.
What comes next?
So, take that leap if you are ready.
It’s ok to be scared, but don’t let that stop you from living the life you were meant to.
Share your stories of starting over in the comment section below.
It is your life, and you deserve to live the best you envision.
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