I’m not talking spider fear. I’m not talking the jumping-out-of the plane kind of fear that comes in a rush and is completed the minute you hit the ground. I’m talking the soul shaking stuff that comes when we are vulnerable and feeling out of control.
The kind of fear that comes when we need to step up and into something we’ve never done before. Fear that comes when we do something new and bold. When we engage in life and do what matters. The kind of fear that comes when we contemplate revealing ourselves or loving deeply or pursuing our goals even though we don’t know if we’ll ever achieve them.
This fear can linger a bit because many of the things that prompt it don’t have a finite end. You can always stomp the spider (or in my house we herd it outside) and the fear of skydiving subsides (gradually, I’m told) in the seconds after you hit the ground.
But, with the life stuff, there is no finite ending. Think raising kids, getting married, creating anything. There is no sure thing. There is never a point where you stop worrying about your kids or sit back and think “great. I have this marriage thing figured out now.” There is never a time when your creating doesn’t reveal a bit about who you are and that leaves you exposed. That can be scary.
There are no guarantees that you are going to land safely in the marriage, the new job, the book venture, the exotic vacation or even the next moment. So each moment presents the possibility for joy and love and compassion, as well as fear. When we care deeply about something our fears go up a notch because we have more to lose.
When we recognize that fear is a part of the experience, though, we can prepare, manage, minimize and grow through it. We can use it to inspire us and keep going.
First, we’ve got to go deep into our psyches and see how fear is keeping us caught up. Too often it masquerades as something else – like limiting beliefs and excuses. These keep us stuck. Stumped. Stunted. Without us even realizing it, this is how fear traps us in the mundane. When you can identify how fear works in your life, when you can spell it out — inadequacy, unworthiness, fear of not belonging or being accepted, fear of failing — then you get to use the very thing you once feared to propel forward. So, what are you afraid of?
How Fear Shows Up
Ever heard one of these excuses?
I’m too busy.
I don’t have enough time.
I’ll do it right after I…
I’ve got to wait until my kids are in school.
It’s too expensive.
I can’t afford it.
It would never work.
The company/culture/group would never take someone like me.
I will as soon as I have more experience.
I need to do more research.
Perhaps you’ve used a few of these yourself to stay safe. I have. In every case though, this is our fear talking. Giving us reasons not to try. Of course we are likely to fail. Even if we write the book, date the guy, take the promotion, there are bound to be setbacks along the way.
But isn’t it a whole lot scarier never to try?
Work With Your Fears to Live a Big Life
Isn’t it downright crushing to go through life without really having experienced the thing you most wanted? Isn’t it scarier to spend your days imagining what it would have been like to have gotten married, travelled to Egypt, quit your dream job to pursue our passion, instead of actually living with it?
Living with your fears instead of working through them is like playing inside on a sunny day when the rest of the kids are out in the yard with the butterflies and light, warm breeze.
When I was a writer just starting out, I was encouraged to send my story ideas to the smaller publications that were more likely to take work from newbies. That would be my way in, more experienced writers suggested. I did just the opposite. I sent to one of the bigger magazines out there. Then I freaked out — nervous and embarrassed that my lack of experience would shine like a neon sign. But I felt excited too. Alive.
Guess what? I sold that piece to that big magazine. First time out. Course then I had to face my fear and self-doubt about whether I could write the piece. I did. Then there were more fears about whether I would ever write again. I have.
Our fears aren’t going away. They will show up in new more creative ways each day. But that doesn’t have to be daunting. Instead you can recognize them, notice. Then eschew the excuses and take baby steps toward the thing that feels so scary but promises to yield a lifetime of satisfaction and meaning.
Are you ready? Are you ready to do that thing that scares your and inspires you? Today, spend a few minutes identifying the excuses you’re using to stay stuck, then explore the fears that they are hiding. What is it your are afraid of? On Wednesday, I’ll tell you how to take that little baby step toward the thing you want but are afraid to pursue.