How to Deal With Fear

The Nature of Fear

I have a bad habit of letting fear paralyze me. The reasons for this are deeply rooted in my subjective experience during childhood and many of them have very little to do with either objective reality or the present. And, digging into the past to uncover the whys and wherefores of this habit is truly less important that figuring out how to change the habit.

I have many of the same basic fears as every other human – of dying, being abandoned, not being loved, losing loved ones, not having enough food, safety, shelter, etc.

My fears that are more personal to me come from the intersection of the more general fears and my personal experience.

So, having been praised for good grades and stellar academic work as I child, I connected a sense of love from my family with perfect performance at school. Eventually, this warped into a perceived need to be perfect in my achievements in order to be loved. From my current perspective, I know that this is not true. I have seen my family embrace imperfect people with deep love, but the conclusions I came to as a child about how the world works still hold sway in my subconscious processing.

Over the decades, I have shied away from many opportunities because I feared I would not be seen as competent at first. I have a perennial discomfort with things I do not know or understand. As a result, I have not stretched far enough out of my own comfort zone to grow into the person I always hoped I would be.

But, I keep growing. As I get older, I see the value in stretching beyond my comfort zone, and through practice, the experience of stretching is slowly becoming part of my comfort zone. And, as a result, I am developing courage and grit in new and beneficial ways.

Dealing with Fear

1. Notice how fear shows up in your life

For me, fear often shows up as procrastination. If there is something I think I want to do but don’t do, there is often a fear behind it.

Fear shows up as emotional numbness. If I stop enjoying things that usually bring me pleasure, I maybe blocking uncomfortable feelings. For me, fear and anger are the two most likely culprits.

2. Take action

Identify the fear.

If it is a rational fear, take what steps you can to mitigate the risks involved.

Do something that is part of the task triggering the fear. A small step is often enough to get over the emotional speedbump that is stopping you.

3. Rinse and repeat

Over time, the power that fear has over you will diminish.

How do I know? Because years of practice as an actor have taught me how to move forward in performance and public speaking despite fear. I know that these simple to explain, but not always so easy to do, steps applied in any one fear-making direction will eventually change my comfort zone.

And, I know from my own experience that my art, my work, and my personal life all benefit from this approach to not letting fear stand in my way.

I am always interesting in learning how to move past fear. What do you use to move forward when courage is required?

Getting The Work Out There

Ship often. Ship lousy stuff, but ship. Ship constantly.
Seth Godin

Today, I am thinking about shipping. Shipping is scary, but must be done.

I don't usually think of myself of a seamstress, but my kids love these "sock monsties" that I made them for Christmas.

When Seth Godin talks about shipping, he means getting your stuff out there into the world.

Shipping has always scared me. I have a tendency to assume that people will judge me by my work and that I will be deemed not up to snuff.

It’s always a little unnerving when people read my work and like it, even more so when it inspires them or they ask for more. There’s still a voice in my head doing the internal equivalent of looking over my shoulder to see if the person is talking to someone else, then looking back, pointing to myself and mouthing “Me?”

I am starting to realize that I how I feel is immaterial. The truth appears to be that I produce some words that some other people get something useful from. I think most of us do. Not always, but often enough that keeping our thoughts to ourselves is actually a disservice to the rest of the world.

If I have an idea that might help you, I do you a disservice by not sharing it with you. But, because I have no idea what of my material might resonate with you, I have to find ways to get most of my stuff out where people can find it.

It is the best way I know to be of service.

I have increased my rate of shipping recently. I am writing more for this blog; my fiction is out in the hands of readers for feedback; I am writing once a month on issues associated with giftedness for An Intense Life; and, I have been publishing improvised poems over at A More Playful Life.

All I can say is that the thrill of having people respond to my writing is intoxicating. The more I do, the more I want to do.

I don’t know where this is all leading, but it looks like it might be a wild ride.

Thanks for being a part of this journey.