So I thought I’d kick off the Big Scary Monster series with some tips on how to actually make friends with our big scary fears. Embracing our fear can seem like a weird thing to do, because aren’t fears something to be conquered?
Remember, fear is how our minds protect us from things that could potentially hurt us. What would happen if we weren’t afraid of anything? We wouldn’t last long, that’s for sure. We’d all be jumping off cliffs and quitting our day jobs before we even have a business plan or a book proposal.
On the other hands, my favorite quote about fear says it all:
“Fear is just excitement with the brakes on.” –Jessica Mullen
We feel fear when we’re about to do something amazing, but potentially unsafe, stepping into the unknown. Whether we’re launching a new business, sending our creations into the world to be looked at, trying a new dance class or just learning to feel our emotions without eating them, we feel fear because we’re moving into an unknown space, and our Big Scary Monster is there to protect us.
Here’s a few tips for giving that monster a big hug and then passing through him:
- Recognize your monster: Understand that he’s only there to take care of you. Thank him for doing so and move on.
- Ask him what he’s protecting you from: Vulnerability, rejection, physical injury, uncomfortable emotions. What are you really afraid of? Of marketing your jewelry line, or of opening yourself to rejection?
- Develop a solid base of self-love: Though this can take years, I find that it’s the best cushion for taking a big leap. If you fail, do something stupid, totally screw up, you still love yourself and know of your own worth, whether your book gets published or not, whether you stuff down your emotions with a package of Oreos or not. Give yourself a hug and know you’re ok.
- Baby steps: Instead of showing your monster who’s boss and launching a massive marketing campaign for your knitwear line in one day, take baby steps. Create a blog or webpage. Set up a Twitter or Facebook account. Get on Etsy. No need to do all that in one day and then travel the country promoting yourself, just stretch a little here and there until the previously unknown becomes familiar territory.
Skydiving? Freestyle rock climbing? Saving a baby from a burning building?
Joining the military to defend our country? Quitting a stable job to stay at home with your kids?
Giving unrealistic expectations and social norms the middle finger and living your own life?
Bravery comes in different forms, but sometimes the scariest things in this world have nothing to do with physical danger.
Instead of fighting dragons, we might be standing up for ourselves and what we believe in, choosing to love ourselves the way we are, or deciding to live according to our own values despite society’s relentless messages that we are not good enough, that we always have to change, buy something, or do something to make us worthwhile.
I used to think I was a ‘fraidy cat because I’m afraid of doing anything that involves being towed behind a speedboat, or because I’ve crossed skydiving off my Handprint List, or because I dated some guys or had friends who were really bad for me because I didn’t think I could get anything better.
I feared rejection, failure and most of all, hurting other people’s feelings and being a “bad person”. Over the last few months though, I’ve learned that sometimes, you have to be willing to disappoint someone, or get rejected, or even piss someone off. Sometimes you have to just accept that some people will think badly of you, that you’re a wingnut or too outspoken or even selfish. While you don’t want everyone to think of you this way, do the right thing.
Leave. Or stay.
Do it. Or don’t.
Make a decision. Change your mind. Even if someone disapproves. You know what’s right. Do it.
Say no. Take time to think about it.
Listen to your body.
Wear the damn swimsuit.
I think one of our deepest fears is the disapproval of others, but this fear is rooted in the deepest fear of all: That without the approval of our peers, we are nothing. We are only worthwhile if everyone else things we are.
This is the biggest lie we tell ourselves. Deep in our hearts, in our very souls, we know who we are, what we were sent here to do and what is right for us. We might forget this sometimes, but we know our own worth. Living authentically means eliminating the sway of “What will everyone else think?” and accepting our own worth and uniqueness.
Accepting our worth takes courage. Living our purpose takes courage. We can never accomplish these things we feel we need to look, act, or be a certain way.
Be brave. Be yourself.
This post is part of Self-Discovery Word-by-Word. This month’s host is Dr. Dana Udall-Weiner at The Body and the Brood. The word for June 2011 is “Bravery”.