If You Read One Article About Fear, Read This One
My inspiration for this article about fear was Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular book, Big Magic. I devoured it in two short sittings and a highlighter’s barrel of ink.
It’s easy to read, straight to the point, and, most importantly, offers creatives like myself (and everyone, really) a big boot up the backside and implores us all to start really living our lives.
That’s what we’re here for, right?
Here’s what I’m going to tell you about your fear: It’s the most boring thing about you.
- Elizabeth Gilbert
Upon reading a motivational tome or Instagram’s #quoteoftheday, many people feel fired up to transform themselves, kick their bad habits to the kerb, and start singing from their soapbox about how successful (or worse still #woke) they are.
But here’s the kicker.
If there’s more fear than fuel, that success ain’t gonna come around very quickly—if at all.
Fears are cunning shapeshifters and, like that utter mistake of an ex-boyfriend from hell, they show up when you really, really don’t want them to.
(Why is that?)
If we let fears rule our life, we’ll never fly. So it’s useful to see fears for what they really are.
Hey, fear! How you doin’?
Fears are an invitation to feel more deeply and a chance to get to know ourselves just that little bit better.
Fears and journals are a match made in stationery heaven. When you feel one pop up—even if it’s at the most inopportune moment, like at your first Toastmasters meetup—take a breath, and take it deep, because fear is just excitement in disguise.
Breath uncloaks fear and exposes it for what it truly is: an opportunity for personal growth.
Humanise your fear. Draw all your attention to how utterly misguided it is. Talk to it, if you have to.
Hey there, fear. I hear you’ve been spreading rumours ‘round town about my lack of talent? You don’t think I’ve got what it takes to build this new business/leave my husband/ask for more/be a good mama/get that promotion/? Tell me a little more about that? Lay it all on the table for me. Don’t leave a single word out.
Airing your fear for what it is—a story—helps dramatically.
Would you be afraid of a mouse dressed as a wolf?
Maybe—if it was running around your workplace telling your coworkers you don’t think you’ve actually got what it takes to get that promotion because you’re a big fat fraud.
Luckily, mice don’t habitually dress up as wolves, so I’ve got your back there, friend. It’s only happening in your head in your fantastical little dream world where everyone else is way better at everything than you are and you have no right to take up any space or do anything that anyone’s ever done before (there’s that Imposter Syndrome again.)
What other fears are inhabiting that mind and heart of yours?
Maybe a little bit of:
“I’m afraid of rejection, criticism, ridicule, being misunderstood, or ignored.”
So I’ll just be over here in the corner keeping quiet, so as to not draw attention to myself. (Satire alert)
“There’s no market for my creativity and therefore no point in pursuing it.”
So I’ll just stifle it and pretend it’s a “want” and not a “need”. Which will lead me to feel incomplete and unexpressed, but at least I’m not in denial.
“Somebody else, everybody else, already did it better.”
Who am I to do anything, really. Most things have been done before, so I may as well just become a nihilist and end it all now.
“Somebody will steal my ideas so I’ll keep them hidden.”
At least that way, no one will benefit from the offerings I have. If it’s not me, it’ll be no one! I’ll take my magic to the grave.
“I won’t be taken seriously.”
I’m just a normal human, not an artist / writer / speaker / entrepreneur / inventor / any vocation under the sun that is not socially celebrated, and requires risk taking and comfort zone travelling. So I’ll just remain where I am in this nice cushy job that makes my heart weep.
“My work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.”
And changing other people’s lives is way more important than enriching my own, so I’ll just be over here slowly dying.
“Dreams are embarrassing.”
So much so that I’ll just live over here in the “real world”. Reality is harsh, and unfortunate for most. That’s just the way it goes.
“Creative endeavours are a giant waste of time, energy, money.”
I’ll focus on the things that matter—like being a doctor or a lawyer, and all the things that make me lots of money. Because money is the entire point of existence, not happiness.
Didn’t you get that memo?
The voice inside your mind, it’s relentless.
It’s always working to keep you from getting what you think you want.
It’s looking out for you every minute of the day.
The important question is:
Are you going to let it rule you?
Or are you going to create the life of your dreams?
Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?
- Elizabeth Gilbert
“I don’t have right kind of discipline.”
I have other priorities that keep me safe from exiting my comfort zone.
“I don’t have right kind of work space, financial freedom, or empty hours in which to focus on invention or expansion.”
I unconsciously like to invent ways to keep myself from getting what I want so that I can complain that I don’t have what I want.
“I don’t have right kind of training or degree.”
So I’ll put everyone else on a pedestal that does have the right training or degree and prevent myself from moving forward.
“I’m too fat.”
And I believe fat people don’t deserve near as much happiness as people who aren’t. So I’ll tell myself that and pretend that’s why I don’t have the life I want.
“I might be exposed as a hack, fool, dilettante, narcissist.”
And I’d rather not risk that, so I’ll play really, really small. Like, nano small.
“I might upset my family.”
And I can’t have that; I’ve gotta keep the peace. I can’t be myself around them anyway, but their feelings are more important than mine, so I’ll deny my dreams so they can be comfortable. Sounds legit.
“I’m afraid what my coworkers/peers will say if I express my personal truth.”
Who would I be without my peers? What might happen if I was ousted as different? How might they treat me if they really found out who I am and what I stand for? Will I be given 20 lashes in the town square? I’ll never know, because I’ll forever hide that from them to keep things peachy.
“Unleashing inneremost demons, and don’t really want to encounter them.”
I’m a positive woman, and my Dad used to get really angry when I was a child, so I refrain from putting myself in any situations where similar emotions may be unleashed, including in my own life. I just think on the bright side and walk towards the light. That way I never have to deal with my dark side.
“My best work is behind me.”
Come to think of it; my best years are behind me. So maybe I just stop everything. Why continue?
“I’ve never had any best work to begin with.”
Even if I’ve enjoyed my work, I haven’t received the accolades I’d have like to. So what’s the point? Maybe everything I’ve ever made has been a waste of time?
“I’ve neglected my creativity for so long that now I can never get it back.”
Much like my body. Why change now?
I think that may be enough.
You may find my article about fear a little too probing or tiresome at this point (or my comments a little too on point). But hey, I had to ram it home.
Fears, we’ve all got ‘em.
They are going to be ever-present. Newsflash: they’re not going anywhere.
But please, celebrate them. They’re a great signpost that you’re heading in the right direction because you’re pulling on the threads of your current reality and asking to be something more.
And every time you do that, your comfortable little self is going to give a tug on you to keep you where you are. Just like your 5am self when it’s snuggled in bed having cuddles, it’s raining outside, and all you want to do is stay where you are because it feels so damn good.
But life awaits and love abounds (and Robin Sharma says the 5am Club is the best place to be so, you’ve gotta get your workout, meditation, gratitude list, and #allthethings done before you get the day on the road!).
My point is…
You can use every excuse under the sun to prevent yourself from getting what you want, but are you?
Like Eminem says, we “Only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, cause opportunity strikes once in a lifetime, yo.”
The fears referred to in this article are all drawn from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, which I highly recommend you read. Like, now.
And, if you’re ready to conquer those fears and create the life of your dreams, click here to join me and become part of The Prosperity Rebellion today.