October is a month dedicated to scary things – horror movies, haunted houses, Halloween costumes – all with the intent to scare the bejeezus out of me. It’s not something I look forward to, yet the concept of fear, and how to deal with it, has been rattling around in my brain.
Fear keeps us safe. It also holds us back. And the spectrum of fear is wide; from physical fears of death, spiders, and heights to emotional fears of failure, judgment, and unknown outcomes. How do we decide what fears to conquer? That question led me to evaluate a few of the fears I’ve overcome.
The first time I went zip-lining was in Costa Rica a few years back. Given I’m scared of heights, strapping into a harness at the top of a canopied forest guided by very lovely men who didn’t speak much English pushed my fear-o-meter to the edge. But I was determined to have this experience. My last thought before pushing off the platform was “If I die, it will make for a great story.”
I was just getting the hang of it (pun intended), when I landed on the platform of the 4th leg and the young guide asked me, “Do you want to go upside down?” I know I should have had more relevant questions but the only one that came out of my mouth was, “Will your friend catch me at the end?” He nodded, then reached over, flipped me upside down and off I went!
I now know what freedom and exhilaration feel like.
I got to the bottom and wanted to go again. Take that, you silly fear of heights!
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I had a tremendous amount of fear when I left my corporate job six years ago. What would my life be like, what did I want to do, would I still be relevant, could I find a new career at this stage of life? The fear monster had a field day!
When I decided to try coaching, the fear was so strong I almost didn’t attend the first class. I was terrified of being vulnerable with a room full of strangers. Then my inner critics joined the party, telling me I was an imposter and couldn’t learn something new, especially at this age.
Those fears came with me into that classroom and never left my side. But they didn’t rule me. I learned to live with the fear sitting beside me in service to having a new career. And those people in the classroom are now some of my best friends.
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I had a lot of fear when I started my blog. Using the pronoun “I” indicated ownership of my thoughts and experiences. It opened me up to judgment and it felt very vulnerable. After six years, I’d like to say those fears have subsided. They haven’t. I just don’t let them stop me from hitting “publish” once a month.
Then last year, during the height of the pandemic and political campaign, I extended my public commentary to installing yard signs in my front yard. Recently, I was beginning to doubt my impact, thinking it might be time to take them down.
Until last week.
I’d just returned from my neighborhood walk and was straightening a sign that was a bit lopsided. I live on a corner with a stop sign and occasionally, cars actually stop. On this afternoon, a car pulled up and a young lady rolled down her window.
“Ohhh Myyy God!” she gushed, as only an enthusiastic teenage girl can, “I looooove your signs! Every … single …. time … we drive by!” She was grinning from ear to ear and practically bouncing in her seat. We laughed. I thanked her while her mom leaned over and gave me a thumbs up. They drove off, having provided the encouragement I needed.
I went inside and immediately bought two more signs.
I’ve dedicated them to my idealistic fan girl who I fervently hope grows up to fearlessly plant signs of her own.
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I know a wide variety of fears will always be present in my life but I will continue to push through them and come out the other side.