“You’re not scared of anything, are you?”
“You’re so brave. I wish I could be like that.”
“It’s so easy for you to do scary things. I’m not like you.”
People have made comments like this to me on many occasions.
They think that having courage means not feeling fear. It doesn’t.
It means feeling the fear and doing the thing you need to do anyway. No matter how scary it is.
Because you know it’s better on the other side. Because you’d rather live with however you screwed up the thing than with not having tried it.
Your fear says you can’t do it. You say, I can. That right there is worth more than all your fears together.
You have courage because you make yourself have courage.
I make myself have courage because I know I am happier when I do. I am happiest when I am living a life that is true to the things I value the most — and that takes a ton of courage.
It means being willing to change everything at the drop of a hat if it isn’t working for you.
It means shutting out the voices of the haters who tell you you’re wrong and crazy, and, way, way harder, the voices of the ones you care for who lovingly tell you that it’s a great idea, but … what’s your backup plan? (And isn’t it your own voice that’s often the loudest and most insistent?)
It means doing a lot of stuff you’ve never done before.
It means jumping off cliffs (sometimes metaphorically, sometimes actually) and trusting yourself to deal with whatever comes.
So how do you do this?
Fear is mostly about thoughts. Your thoughts have gotten tangled into a ball of emotion you’re not dealing with head-on. The key is to untangle those thoughts.
1. Ask yourself some questions:
How will I feel if I don’t do this?
Will I miss out on something? Will I regret it?
Even if I’m so scared that I don’t think I will regret it, if I make myself do it, is there some new experience that I may gain that might make me glad I did it?
If the answer to any of these is yes, you are starting to know what you have to do.
What am I potentially going to gain?
How much does that gain matter to me?
If the gain is great, and it is something that matters a lot, you are starting to feel what you have to do.
I often find myself really wanting to do something, but continuing to hesitate. When that happens, I ask myself if I’m hesitating because I’m afraid. If I am, I make myself do it. (I usually am.)
I also ask:
What am I ACTUALLY afraid of?
What’s the worst-case scenario? How would you deal with it? How likely is it? If it did happen, would you be unable to deal with it?
2. Get support from your people.
Sometimes a new friend can solve a problem you’ve been struggling with. Sometimes an old friend can say, you got this, puta. Sometimes it just feels good to talk it out.
3. Don’t rush.
Give yourself time to think and rethink. Get a solid sense of how much it matters and how much you’ll regret it if you don’t go for it.
In high school, I had a giant, long-standing crush on a close friend. Finally, I had to tell him. It stopped being about his response and became a matter of staying true to myself. I couldn’t hide anymore.
Telling him felt both terrible and amazing. It wasn’t easy. We almost stopped being friends.
He never loved me back, not in the same way.
But I look back at that moment as something that made more difference to me and who I am than it did to him.
I’m proud of it. I went for it, and I have no regrets. I didn’t let fear get in the way of trying for something good or of being the real me.
You don’t need to do everything. Sometimes your fear is there for a good reason.
I will never go skydiving, and I’m okay with that. I care more about living than I care about getting over my fear of that.
But in the last few years, I’ve rock scrambled, rappelled off waterfalls, rock climbed indoors and out, traveled by myself, loved a couple of people who didn’t love me back and let them go when they needed to, talked to lots of strangers … and launched the real me into the online universe (WAY scarier than any of the other stuff).
I still get scared when I go over the edge and let go on a rappel.
I still get scared every time I hit publish on a new blog post.
I’m still scared, every damn day, that I’ll be looking for the right man forever.
But I keep rappelling, and posting, and looking, anyway.
Because I know that the only way to get to excitement, euphoria, joy — even happiness — is by crossing over to the other side.
Won’t you come, too? 😉