Do you experience FOSY? How to banish a 'fear of saying yes' this year

Doing things outside the cosy realms of our comfort zone can be scary.

This might be accepting a new career opportunity, travelling solo for the first time, or even taking someone up on an invite for an acitivity you typically wouldn’t try.

Sometimes, saying ‘no’ feels like the easier and safer option.

But as January is a time for self-reflection for the year ahead, it’s important to try to banish this ‘fear of saying yes’ (FOSY) for personal growth.

This fear can stop us from taking risks, trying new things and, ultimately, pushing the boundaries of what we are comfortable with. However, the first few weeks of January are the perfect time to consider the ways to banish this fear and embrace a more positive outlook.

‘Many of us can identify with the feeling of fear and anxiety when trying something new or going to a new place – especially if there is the potential to make a mistake, or for it to not go “perfectly”,’ explains Lisa Gunn, the emotional wellbeing prevention lead at Nuffield Health.

‘When facing these situations, the most comfortable and safe answer is to say “no” as it keeps us in the familiar and safety of our personal comfort zones.

‘By embracing and experiencing our fears through doing the things we keep saying no to, we can prove to ourselves that we can overcome many things and step out into the world with all the possibilities that a “yes” can offer.’

If you’re keen to banish FOSY in 2023, experts have shared a few things to try…

Try to understand the source of the fear

One way to overcome FOSY is through mindfulness and self-awareness, explains Alyssa Roberts, a senior writer at Practical Psychology.

‘By taking a moment to pause and reflect on our thoughts and feelings, we can better understand the sources of our fear and address them head on,’ she says.

‘This may involve challenging negative thought patterns, such as “I’m not good enough” or “I’m going to fail,” and replacing them with more empowering thoughts, such as “I am capable and worthy.”’

Alyssa adds that it can also be helpful to practice self-compassion – reminding ourselves that it is natural to feel anxious or uncertain at times, and that it’s OK to make mistakes.

Start small

As with any new habit, the key is to start with small steps for change.

Lisa explains: ‘Start by saying yes to something that isn’t so threatening, reflect on what came out of that yes and what you learnt about yourself. 

‘Keep building on this gradually until it becomes second nature to put yourself out there.’

A good starting point is saying yes to family and friends – as this helps us develop a ‘muscle memory’ for saying it and we become more confident doing so, as a result.

Consider risk of regret

In general terms, we tend to regret the opportunities we didn’t take – rather than the ones we did.

‘Opportunities do not always arise again – or at least the same ones. Life and luck favour the bold,’ explains psychologist Mairead Molloy,

‘Sometimes when making a decision and considering both outcomes, the “no” outcome can be connected to regret. This regret is sometimes the biggest risk of all.

‘There is a power to always being open to experiencing new things. Many of us find patterns we like and stick to them. It’s somewhat inevitable to be attracted to the safety of familiarity. 

‘But that familiarity can prevent you from new experiences that may just change your life for the better.’

Life coach Manuel Giudice says a good way of assessing this is to ask yourself the following question: ‘What has this fear cost me, so far, personally, professionally, health-wise, emotionally, socially, and financially?’

Focusing on the regret you might experience from not taking an opportunity, rather than the worries around pursuing it, might encourage you more to give it a go.

Share your commitment with others

In the same way sharing New Year’s resolutions with friends and family can prompt you to actually keep them up, being open about how to you want to banish a FOSY in 2023 may help you hold yourself accountable more.

Manuel explains: ‘By sharing your greater resolution with others, such as family and friends, it can act as a reminder and encourage us to do it even if we may not feel like it.

‘For others, having a coach or someone outside of their familiar circle works better. It ultimately depends on individual preferences.’

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