Fear - the job description

Mar 11, 2020

Fear is an interesting beast. 

I talk to my fear a lot, I write letters to it, I sit with it, I give in to it and I win over it. We have discussions that can go on for hours. Why are you here? I ask him often. And all he has to say is - I cannot not be here, this is my place and I have no means of moving elsewhere. But he has means of spreading, of being in multiple places at the same time. You know fear, I know fear, fear is omnipresent, it seems. Is it the same shady guy or are there endless siblings all over the world, sneaking up on us without invitation? 

Fear is an entity that will not cease to exist. Ever. We spend a lot of energy trying to eliminate this “enemy”, fight him, put him down, hide away from him. He doesn’t budge. He knows that we can’t grab him, he won’t twist his ankle chasing us around the house, he will remain whole. We, on the other hand, might break in the process. 

What we resist persists, or in other words - by living in denial about his omnipresence, by refusing him place in our life, by fighting, screaming, closing our eyes, pretending that we can’t see or feel him - we give him more power. He doesn’t need to try to be noticed or heard, we make it perfectly clear that we are aware of his strength. So he relaxes on a sofa right next to your working station, just waiting for you to panic. That’s when his voice gets louder and louder - you can’t do this, that won’t work, you are ridiculous, who do you think you are? And we listen, because that voice becomes impossible to ignore. And that is ok. The more interesting point is - why don’t we ever talk back? 

Maybe this voice that is trying to bring you down, eliminate “the crazy” out of your plans, keep the status quo of your life, so that you (and him) can drift along without unexpected turbulence, is just a figure in this game. Maybe this discussion doesn’t have to be serious, maybe it is about a banter and having some laughs. Who decided that he is right and you are wrong? Why don’t you answer him? Did you ever take the time to think about what you might want to say? 

Listen first - what does he actually have to say to you? Is it valid, or is he the one that needs “the crazy” chased out of him? Let’s imagine this conversation right now:

Fear: I don’t want you to hurt. You have tried new things before and I remember you crying a lot and feeling like a failure. Do you remember what that horrible woman said about your work? She hated it and I saw your heart breaking when she spoke. Do you remember that guy who said he’d love you forever and then left, do you remember those weeks of darkness that relationship brought? I don’t want you to ever feel that way again. I want to protect you. Let’s not rock the boat, we are ok where we are, we are safe, things are calm, we have a routine. Just play small. Let’s not disturb the good thing we have going here. 

You: Thank you for being here and alarming me about the danger when a quick reaction to a speeding car is needed. Thank you for wanting to protect me from all the pain there is in the world, but you see, the thing is - the pain is already here. I have dreams, ideas, plans for a new adventure, and not being able to step into the unknown realm of what tomorrow might look like if I put myself out there, hurts the most. I am a unique being with  a voice that nobody else has, I speak through expressing my inner creative process - this means doing new things and being a new person, every day. Staying the same feels like dying and I am not ready to rest just yet. So be there, give me a shout when something very dangerous happens out there while I am here, focused, creative, unaware of the rest of the world. I will have a look and decide if it is worth my attention. Be the whistle that alarms me when it is time to come out from under the water and have a look around, remind me that I have to eat (it is dangerous not to in a long run, right?). But that’s about it. I accept that you are coming on this adventure with me, but just to be clear - I am leading this team. Creativity is coming along - me and her will be building new worlds together, and then we will open the curtain for everyone to see. You are the security guard standing outside of the theatre, you are not the star of this show. I am glad to have your support and expertise, but please keep to your post. I will review your report at the end of the day, however you are not allowed to interrupt my work unannounced. I have big things coming my way, I am creating my life. I am done drifting along. 

When you listen to your fear you realise that there are only a couple of lines he always has to say - it is the same information recycled into multitude of similar words - all with the same message - it will hurt. Actually - it might hurt. So what? Pain is already here, and regardless of whether we give up or forge ahead with our ideas - it will always be there. We can be hurt by rejection, harsh words, not getting it perfect on the first try. Or we can live in pain of never trying, never expressing ourselves. The first kind of pain is temporary, it will dissolve with time and become irrelevant the deeper we go into the process and the more we learn about ourselves, our voice, our creative work. The second kind is permanent, even worse, it grows, it takes over our lives. It marries the fear and now we have become a home to this dreadful couple. Fear and Pain have now moved in permanently. And they are taking over.

Is this who you want to be? A host to the winners of the saddest prize in the world? You’ve tried and you’ve failed, nothing left to do but dig your grave now. Or maybe, just maybe, you could pick yourself up and try again, and try better, from a different angle, give yourself time to develop your interests and skills. Nobody has decided that you have to be perfect, that your work has to be perfect from the get go - or at all. 

Fear is the bully that chose your creativity as a victim. Or actually - that’s what we were lead to believe. Now is the moment to take charge of this description - what is fear? I think it is a concerned protector, who has seen you fall and cry, he just wants some peace for you. He wants you to be safe. He doesn’t know why you do what you do, he doesn’t know where you are heading, because you have never told him. Don’t be mad at fear for doing his job - be mad at yourself for not taking the time to rewrite his job description. Or better yet, don’t be mad at all. 

Talk to the fear, decide on his place in this journey, and soar.

 

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