I have a client -- a coach who is gearing up to start her practice -- who expressed admiration for the ballsy vibe of my own business. She asked, "How did you become so fearless?!"
To which I replied, and I quote, "Are you fucking kidding me? I'm scared most of the time."
That was a big surprise to her, so I thought it was about time we aired this thing out.
Let's talk about fear.
Everybody has fear. My particular brand of fear usually involves worrying about what people will think of me. Writing publicly about that fear now only punctuates it further.
I care way too much about what people think of me and how I'm perceived. I like to say that I'm a recovering approval-seeker, but it's a long road, baby.
There's a part of me that desperately wants my life to play out like Sally Fields' 1984 Oscar acceptance speech. I want to stand in a crowd of adoring supporters and shout, "You like me! You really like me!"
Neurotic fantasies aside, I really do want people to like me. I always have. And sometimes my fear of not being liked gets in my way.
We are all just scared humans, every one of us. Anyone who says they don't care about what people think is either flat-out lying or way more evolved than the other 99 per cent of us (but I have a feeling it's the former, not the latter).
When people talk about being fearless I think what they're actually talking about is being brave, but the words fearless and brave are not interchangeable.
Nor are the words fear and bravery opposites. Fear isn't the opposite of bravery, it's a prerequisite. You can't have bravery without fear. Fear comes first.
So let's just go ahead and admit that life is one big scary adventure -- wonderful and surprising and exciting, yes -- but white-knuckling it is also part of the deal.
At the risk of sounding neurotic (See? I'm even afraid of what you'll think about what I'm about to say), here are some of the fearful thoughts that ran through my head today:
- Ugh. Typo. People are going to think I'm an idiot.
- I hope that Facebook post didn't offend anybody. Maybe I should edit it. Or remove it.
- So-and-so is acting strange. Is she mad at me? Why would she be mad at me?
- Maybe I shouldn't have told people about that goal of mine. If I don't achieve it I'll be so embarrassed.
- I hope that thing I said didn't sound too braggy. I don't want people to think I'm arrogant.
- I hope that thing I said doesn't sound too apologetic. I don't want people to think I'm a wuss.
- What if that thing I wrote isn't my idea at all? What if I read it in passing somewhere and I stole it without even knowing it?
- What if that mistake I made comes back to bite me in the ass?
- Someday someone is going to figure out that I'm just winging it and then the whole damn house of cards will come crashing down.
And the list goes on.
With fearful thoughts on parade, what's a gal (or guy) to do?
Well, I haven't figured out how to conquer fear (I don't actually think that's possible...or necessary), but I am learning how to manage fear, so I do my best to acknowledge it and move forward anyway.
There's a reason you keep hearing that cliché, "Feel the fear and do it anyway." It's because it works. That's how you make progress. At least that's how I get by.
I'm still afraid a heck of a lot. I just don't let the fear call the shots.
Except when I do. Because sometimes I do. Thankfully, that's less often than it used to be . But every time I regret a fear-based decision I learn that lesson all over again and get a little braver next time.
If I let fear call the shots I'd never write another word, accept a speaking gig, say what I think, express disagreement, ask for help, put myself out there, try new things, do something scary, or take a risk.
So let's raise a glass to bravery, to digging deep and finding the guts to go for it.
And while we're at it, let's raise a glass to fear, too. Because fear comes first, and with it an opportunity to really show yourself what you're made of.
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