You Name It, I Fear It

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(originally posted on on 9/22/14)

A particular theme keeps surfacing as I continue on this journey of creative self healing: fear. Fear seems to motivate, or at the very least, color many of my choices. A close relative of the Worry Monster that I’ve written about before, fear seems to be the bigger, more aggressive, gun-toting, hate-speaking brother. The one who takes your lunch money and threatens that you better not tell anyone – or else!

Fear keeps me from pursuing my passions full throttle. Fear of failure is, of course, a primary concern. What if I try the thing that is closest to my heart and fills me up like nothing else, and I completely suck at it? What if people make fun of my unskilled attempts? What if I spend years toiling away and never find success? What if I am nothing more than a dilettante? What if I’m exposed for the hack I really am?

Then there’s the lesser-known fear of success. What if I’m good at this, and suddenly there’s tons of pressure to keep up the success? What if I have to be totally “on” all of the time? What if I alienate my friends and family? What if we have to move? What if I have to change? God forbid.

Of course, lets not forget about all the mundane, daily fears. What if that persistent muscle pain in my leg is really a blood clot? What if the guy across the street decides to upgrade his verbal threats into actual physical threats – and act on them? What if my car breaks down in heavy traffic on the 405 again? What if I don’t ever take off these 20 extra pounds for good?

Why has evolution taken so long? I understand why our ancient ancestors developed a sense of fear – it kept them alive. Now we just seem to fear the things that exist only in our own heads, situations that could happen but most likely won’t.

I wish I could tell you all that I’ve conquered my fears. I haven’t. But I’m starting to address them in a more constructive way, in an attempt to take away their power. Elizabeth Gilbert has a great essay about a fear, a letter written to a friend who was fearful about sending her book into the world. In a nutshell, she responds by telling her friend that her fear is boring. All of our fears are boring. We all have the same fears, and they keep repeating themselves. There is nothing original about my fear, or your fear. When we begin to realize that our fear can’t come up with anything original, we can more easily put it aside.

What do you fear? What keeps you from pursuing your passions and making your dreams a reality? How do you handle your fear and take away its power?


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