In honor of Halloween month, today’s post is about fear. I’m a proponent of doing things that scare me. I don’t mean watching horror movies or walking alone at night through dark alleys. I mean doing things that are outside my comfort zone, in the hopes that I can make that zone a little wider over time.
I used to be really scared of the Bob character from Twin Peaks. For years, I would see someone crouched at the foot of my bed from the corner of my eye. Well done, Twin Peaks. While thankfully Bob has faded from mind, I’m easily scared by scores of other things so I have plenty of fodder to challenge my fears. This morning, I made a quick list of things that scare me. I noticed two themes: 1) security (nuclear war, economic collapse), and 2) not being good enough (failure, letting people down).
As a natural worrier, and from seeing The Day After at a suggestible age, as a kid I used to have nightmares about nuclear war. Today, 39 years later, I have the life experience to temper my fear of things I cannot control. It’s not that I’m not afraid of stock market collapse or a super-virus, but having lived through these things, and still putting one foot in front of the other, these fears have become background noise.
What remain prominent fears in my life are the fear of shame, ridicule and failure. I work hard to keep them from crippling me. I fear public speaking, but I have presented to thousands of people. I feel rejection, but I can successfully interview for a job. I fear oversharing in this blog, but I keep writing posts. My brain says to edit and be confident, authoritative and safe. Is it a mistake to chronicle my fears into the permanent record of the internet to be read by the global community or new employer? Maybe, but, I’m going to Publish anyway.
I got this fortune in Chinese take out. I have it taped to my laptop:
“Perhaps you’ve been focusing too much on yourself.”— Fortune cookie
All the fears on my “not good enough” list are fundamentally a desire to preserve my pride and avoid the risk of having my sense of self shattered by criticism. I want acceptance and belonging. As the fortune cookie warned, focusing too much on myself makes me afraid.
Writers, songwriters, creators of all kinds, if we choose to put our work out in public, we are opening ourselves up for rejection and ridicule. Each time we push Publish it takes bravery. I keep doing it to stretch my boundaries in rebellion of the limits imposed by my brain. Sometimes I challenge myself so much I need to lie down in a dark room afterwards, but I feel the fear and do it anyway.
I hope that by consistently challenging my fears I will lessen their sting. I will stop feeling the butterflies when I go on stage. I will easily talk to strangers. I’ll breeze through interviews without a drop of sweat. I’ll enjoy big parties. In actuality, I don’t think the fear will ever go away. Maybe that’s a good thing as the fear keeps me sharp in the moment, even if it gives me a migraine afterwards. But with each challenge, I know that I can instead of wondering if I could.
Last week, I entered a short story contest. I was afraid when I started writing the story that I wouldn’t be able to finish it. I was afraid my story would be boring and cement my fear that I am a banal writer. But, sometimes, despite all barriers, ideas insist on being born into the world. This particular story started life on a flight from Ireland to Texas two months ago, before I knew about the contest. During the entire flight, even when I tried to sleep, my brain kept fiddling with an idea for a novel like a cat batting around a twist tie.
I put the idea aside as I am not a novelist, however, the last week’s prompt for the short story contest brought it back to mind. The idea insisted that I write it down, otherwise it was going to hold all other ideas hostage until I did so. Dutifully, I wrote the short story, fighting my anxieties the whole time, and entered it into the contest. I was afraid to hit submit, fearing that the story was not good enough, but, I did it anyway. More fears, if not vanquished, perhaps blunted.
If you’re interested, here is a link to my short story, “Modern Myth” on Reedsy. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/kh25ba/
I hope sharing my fears helps you deal with yours. We may not be afraid of the same things, but its good for all of us to keep exercising your fear-facing muscles. Lastly, thanks for reading, commenting, liking and following my blog. As a new blogger, writer, songwriter, and ukulele player, your interaction means a lot to me. I hope to support you as you tackle your fears as you are helping me to conquer mine.
2 responses to “Embrace the Fear”
We’re not afraid of the same things, but the emotion is the same for all of us. That’s what I find super interesting, that despite our place in life—rich-poor, tall-short, active-homely—we all still feel the same.
So I can definitely relate to you conquering your fear, and kudos to you on that. All the best with it!
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Thanks, Stuart. It helps to keep remembering we’re all afraid of something. It’s a lifetime journey of acceptance.