Growing up, I was afraid not only of all the commonly recognized and legitimate childhood dangers (the dark, strangers, the deep end of the swimming pool), but I was also afraid of an extensive list of completely benign things (snow, perfectly nice babysitters, cars, playgrounds, stairs, Sesame Street, the telephone, board games, the grocery store, sharp blades of grass, any new situation whatsoever, anything that dared to move, etc., etc., etc.). “
Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, her conclusion about fear, after living a very fearful childhood? Fear is boring: “because it was the same thing every day. Around the age of fifteen, I somehow figured out that my fear had no variety to it, no depth, no substance, no texture. I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist or an unexpected ending. My fear was a song with only one note—only one word, actually—and that word was ‘STOP!’”
I remember reading an interview with her a few years ago and she was asked how she deals with fear. She said something to the effect that she greets fear everyday – “oh hello Fear. You’re here again. Ok, no problem. Just want to let you know that I’m going to continue writing anyways.”
That was something that really stuck with me, because, the goal isn’t to get rid of the fear. The goal is to keep on with our chosen art/profession/passion and not be deterred or inhibited by our fears.
Fear is normal and human! I strongly believe that fear is super important, it is our evolutionary safety mechanism. That is it’s one and only goal – to keep us safe – and it is really good at it!
Fear has a hair trigger for anything that could potentially, possibly, even slightly, be dangerous.
Like performing in front of people who are judging us.
This week I encourage you to make space for fear, rather than pushing it away. What happens if you follow Elizabeth Gilbert's lead next time fear pops up? Try saying to it: "Oh, hello Fear. You're here again. Ok, no problem. I'm gonna keep on keeping on with my work."
Sometimes it's not practical to make space for fear. Sometimes fear can feel overwhelming and debilitating. Next week I will send out another tool I like to use to keep functional under pressure, when fear is especially strong, like in performance.