When Fear is Mean

Amidst the clank and clatter of a bustling coffee shop, I shared my latest fear with a girlfriend.

“I’m scared about writing this book.”

“Why?”

“Because. I’ve never been able to finish one. What if nothing comes of it?  What if I finish this time and no one wants it, or I self publish and sell 10 copies . . .  and that’s the end of it?”

As someone who’s worked hard on emotional intelligence, I like the ability to access, own and name my feelings. But my friend didn’t find my fear the least bit compelling.

“Hmm,” she said, and looked down at her phone. 

This is a friend who’s always attentive to my true pain. But she wasn’t buying it. I realized — through her artful distraction — that I wasn’t really scared. 

I was just scaring myself.

I wasn’t really scared. I was just scaring myself. Click To Tweet

There’s a difference between feeling afraid — like when you are 20 feet away from a life-threatening force such as a bear (as I was recently), or when your human rights and dignity are at stake, or you are truly lost in some literal way — and scaring yourself; when you limit your risk taking with narratives and movies of a future in which you fail, feel bereft, humiliated or even devastated.

 Taking risks shakes things up. Not knowing what will happen, who we will become, and what change will do to life as we know it is a sure source of anxiety . . . and excitement.

When immersed in the shadow-filled delight of scaring ourselves, we forget that whatever happens, we’ll be there. Think about that. If you risk for love or creativity, and your worst nightmare happens . . . you’ll be there, with you, through it all. Let that sink in.

If you’re truly scared, hold yourself tenderly until it passes.

It always passes.

If you’re scaring yourself, stop.

Just stop.

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