‘I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.’
–To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
‘Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.’
In this business, I spend a lot of time coaching people to overlook their fears and get started doing the things that they desperately wish to do. That seems counter-intuitive, no? People come to me to achieve certain goals, I give them a strategy, they get excited…and then the Fear takes over, and I have to spend a lot of time coaching/supporting/nagging/kicking ass to get them to leap-frog their fears so they can achieve their potential. But Fear doesn’t have to make sense, it has fear going for it.
The problem, of course, is that fear is greedy: it wants all of you. So if you avoid doing the little things that scare you, hoping to make some kind of “deal” with fear…yeah, the only deal you’ve made is a deal to lose. Because once you start giving up, fear wins and fear, that self-aggrandizing bitch, likes to savor her triumphs, which she does by making everything else in your life equally fearful and hard.
So, for example, say you’ve always wanted to act, but since you don’t like your body, since you’re (understandably) afraid of being made fun of, since you’re not comfortable with yourself…well, you don’t take acting classes, you don’t join a glee club, you do nothing and you let fear win. The problem isn’t that you simply gave up on acting…you’re now more likely to give up on everything acting could have brought into your life.
You’re now more likely to give up on taking care of your body, to give up on going to the gym and to give up on loving yourself. So then, if you don’t like yourself, if you don’t think you’re talented…now it’s much easier to give up on figuring out whom you really are, on what’s important to you, on living your potential, right? Now you’re more likely to start giving up on a lot of other (emotionally-related) opportunities regarding life, love and the pursuit of your happiness. Does that sound far-fetched? It shouldn’t. In your mind (i.e. your life), everything is connected. You have to believe it to build it, right?
We don’t get to pick and choose what we’re afraid of, but we do get to choose what we remain afraid of. So, let’s say that you get bored hating yourself and decide that, Yahweh help us, what this world needs is more actors*so you take some acting classes, do some community theater…and you start getting that ole confidence up and thriving. And that confidence makes you go to the gym, makes you start eating better, makes you start wanting to take care of your (talented) body. This confidence becomes infectious. And you start seeing the world as full of opportunities, instead of restrictions. You’ve got Fear on the run, don’t stop now! #gospeedracergo!
I, for example, moved to Moscow after I graduated Wellesley College, because of a Russian boy I was dating, and I was also curious to see if I could make a life in a foreign country. (Short answer: Yes…if I learned how to drink all night, while eating more picked foods than I thought humanly possible.) Now, I had already spent my junior year of college in a lovely small town up in the north of Russia….but this was different. Now I was, somehow, going to have to get a job.
Oy. I can’t even tell you had many nights, before I left, were spent tossing and turning in my bed, sick to my stomach with melodramatic fears of failure, whining piteously. My poor dog started sleeping on the sofa, since my angst was keeping her awake. I have, as you may have guessed, a rather over-active imagination and so I foresaw all the many, many ways I was going to end up staring in my own version of “Midnight Express.”
Needless to say…none of that happened. I went to Russia, ended up working for NBC News’ Moscow Bureau, adopted some (spoiled) cats, dumped the boy…and had some pretty fantastic years, working and living in Mother Russia.
Now. I’m not writing this to suggest you, at home, should move to Russia, or adopt several cats, or even perform dinner theater. (Well…I would never say that adopting cats is a waste of one’s life. Let me be perfectly clear on that point.) But I am strongly suggesting that you do the thing(s) you’re most terrified of…since more than likely, the scenario you’ve envisioned in your over-heated little brain is the direct opposite of what is likely to happen.
And honestly: doing what terrifies you, can only open up your life. It is, in fact, likely to bring you into contact with the people and experiences you may only have dreamed about. And really: life is a lot more fun lived with opportunities than with restrictions, no?
‘You must do the things you think you cannot.’ -Eleanor Roosevelt
Want some help telling fear to piss off? Email me @firstname.lastname@example.org!
*…and seriously, since Bradley Cooper destroyed his hawt…might as well. That’s a damn shame.