Slay Your "To Fear" List

What would your fear look like if you gave it a face and a body? Mine is a hump-backed, green-faced, crackly-voiced crone with missing teeth, a pointy stick, and razor-sharp fingernails. She shapeshifts into a kindly grandmother and pours on the charm to seduce me into her web, then she turns into a screaming harpy once I am in her clutches. The only way to keep her quiet is to stay well within boundaries. Boring! I I am tired of her empty threats and scrawny security blankets, so I am getting better at popping in some earplugs and doing whatever she tells me not to do.

I have learned to think through what she is trying to get me to believe. I might make a fool of myself if I try something new? Well, sure; that could happen, but it is not the end of the world, is it? I have a fairly long history of such moments that have never come back to haunt me, except in my own mind. The time I made a less-than-graceful entrance to a concert on my derriere comes to mind. They make me colorful!

I might sit/stand by myself the whole time if I go to an event on my own? Hah! I am an only child. I am quite skilled at keeping my own company, if it comes to that (which it will not because I really like to talk and meet people).

The biggie: I might say the wrong thing or {horror of horrors!} not have an answer when someone asks a question. True, but that is a flimsy barrier to living my dreams. Have I not said the wrong thing on plenty of occasions? And then fixed it by apologizing and finding something more "right" to say? I say I value learning. Mistakes are a natural part of the trail.

I may not have all the answers (who does?), but I have mad librarian skills and will find the answer or someone acceptable to provide an answer. When all else fails, I am content with speculating, ideating, and/or co-existing with unanswered questions (or unquestioned answers).

How about you? Make a To Fear List and lay all your fears out in front of you. Dig deep and empty those nooks and crannies of old hesitations. Where do you halt action, even momentarily, in making choices and taking action? If you laugh at how ridiculous some of the fears are, that is a great first step. My To Fear List has a childhood hanger-on: Fear of talking to checkout clerks. I used to get so scared as a child that I routinely left the grocery store without the items my mom sent me in to buy. On rare occasions, I still feel a tiny urge to bolt from the checkout line when it is really busy or the clerk is surly. When that happens, I take a deep breath and smile. Even deeply ingrained fears can be overwritten.

When you make a to-do list of the fears keeping you stuck in place, how many of them shrivel under the lamp of reason? Consider what would happen if your fears played out. What problems might arise? Can you visualize how you will slay those problems? Better yet, can you visualize how you will prevent those problems and succeed in your mission? Visualizing success in full sensory detail lays a solid track to follow.

Consider the costs of staying right where you are now, in terms of time, resources, and missed opportunities. What do you stand to lose today if you do nothing new? Next week? As time goes on? Lost earnings? Trips and activities? Laughter and amazement? Countless pats on the back, winning moments, and goals met. Perhaps late nights, lost weekends, and nasty surprises, too, but you will have to manage such challenges regardless of your path. Compare the potential costs to the potential gains. How can you soften the impact of potential costs? Who and what do you know that can help you shift the balance in your favor?

Our fears should slow us down and give us pause before we go over the edge of a cliff. Take a good look, though, and make sure you are seeing the cliff's danger clearly and not missing a blind trail or a deep refreshing pool or another hidden delight. Bring your fears out into the light of day. When you keep them hidden, they seem larger, darker, and hairier just like the shadows on the bedroom ceiling at night. They gain more power than they deserve.

Only trapeze artists get to fly with a net in place. In the real world here, we have to walk through our fears and leave the illusion of safety to soar. Take the first step. Then, take another. Keep going, however slowly.