“Feel the fear and do it anyway!”
― Susan Jeffers
I’m afraid I’ve spent a lot of my life in fear. I’ve lived in fear of failure and sickness. I’ve feared pain and rejection and loss and embarrassment. I’ve lived in fear of change and loneliness, of judgment and criticism. I’ve even lived in fear of heights and the ocean, whales (WHY?) and stingrays and spiders. I’ve mostly spent time fearing things that either never happen or, when they do, aren’t as catastrophic as I’d imagined they’d be.
My fears have inhibited and entrapped me. They’ve undoubtedly kept me away from what would bring me joy but, what’s worse, my fears have stolen from me those experiences that would teach me, toughen me, shape me. And I won’t pretend that I’m only now understanding this, or that I’m suddenly having one of my grand realizations. I’ve long known how I’ve been thoroughly weakened by fear — I’ve simply been too afraid to challenge those fears. I’ve been too afraid of the discomfort that comes with risk, and chance, and exploration. So, in an attempt to quell my fears, I’ve played it safe. I’ve planned and ritualized and ruminated. I’ve catastrophized and avoided, telling myself there’s a difference between being afraid and being pragmatic.
The prize we all seek, however, is born from challenging our fears. Each time we confront fear, take control of it, and survive whatever it is that we’re afraid of, then our fear no longer controls us. In releasing ourselves from the grip of fear, we’re able to grow, and become empowered by our bravery. That sense of empowerment is our prize.
I’ve always been the type to wait for the perfect opportunity, the sign from the heavens, the twist of fate that gives me the metaphorical green light which compels me to take action. I’ve told myself that in looking for these etherial signals, I become more in tune with my faith and with my surroundings. Maybe I do. But it doesn’t do much for me by way of courage, confidence or empowerment.
So, if you too have been looking for a sign:
HERE IT IS.
Here’s our chance to defy our fears. We’ll just do it. We won’t wait. We’ll send the email, make the call, sign up for the class, attend the seminar, climb the mountain, seek the treasure, learn the dance, take the chance, swim in the ocean, go out on the limb, take the shot, jump from the airplane, hike the trail, take the lead, ask the question, demand the answer, take the stage. We will challenge, train, try, run, RSVP, participate, sing, attend, invite, dare, risk, play, live, say “yes” and do whatever it is that we have always wanted to do, but fear prevented us from doing . After all, as Mark Twain wrote, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.” And though in the past we may have been daunted and paralyzed by fear, we have not been ruined by it. Instead, we are now energized by what scares us, redirecting our fear into excitement and unabashed enthusiasm.
No matter the outcome, regardless of whether we find success or failure or elation or embarrassment, on the other side of fear we will always find empowerment — and therein lies the prize.
Ultimately, as FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”