Monday, January 20, 2014

The Power of Fear

In loving memory of my fur-baby boy

Fear can be one of our greatest allies, and not just because it sometimes keeps us safe. Fear is one of our greatest allies because if we use it, instead of run from it, it is more powerful than jet fuel in getting us to our goals.

If you've read my book you know how I used fear to step out of my comfort zone. Well I didn't exactly step, I stumbled, I sprinted and I fell on my butt and made a fool of myself but so what, I was out of my comfort zone and that's all that matters. Eventually once I forced myself to stay outside my C.Z. I was slaying demons left, right and, center - and it was a blast!

Too often we run from fear because we're afraid about what others will think about us, we're afraid of failure or putting ourselves out there for the rest of the world to judge and heaven forbid we get a negative book review (who? me? ;p).

If we allow him, fear will paralyze us and keep us on the sidelines of life where there's a thermos of hot cocoa and a little blankie to keep us warm, you know, the uber-safe blah zone.  We've all been there.
We've all had dreams that we let fear keep just out of our reach instead of strapping a saddle on fear and riding him out into dream world and claiming what is ours.
We become master storytellers of all the reasons why we didn't do this or that but deep down underneath all the 'safe-reasoning' is the R-word and there's only one person we're pissed off at. Yeah, you and I both know who that is. (Pssst, it's regret, the R-word - I know it's tough to even read isn't it?)

Brene Brown, in her New York Times Best Seller, The Gifts of Imperfection gives us a simple yet highly effective tool for using fear to our advantage: permission slips. Dr. Brown tells us to write ourselves permission slips to be afraid, to fail, to not give a shit what others think and most importantly, to be imperfect and that is enough. She says to carry these permission slips (and whatever other ones you want to write for yourself) with you everyday.
She also says to write a list, a teensy, weensy, itsy bitsy, tiniest list you've ever written containing the names of all the people whose opinion about you matters most to you. Yep, you got it - it should be a tiny list. 

Dr. Wayne Dyer, one of the greatest spiritual masters of all time has this to say about fear: 'Feel the fear and do it anyway'. He makes it sound so easy because it is, it really is.

I'd like to share a recent personal example of my own fear. Public squeaking, I mean public speaking, ha, that just came right out of my fingertips which demonstrates how I feel about this ghastly act.
I public speak nearly every week and yet I still feel anxious, scared shitless and like I am about to make the biggest fool of myself right before my stage time.
The only reason I continue to put myself through this week after week is because I believed that eventually I would become comfortable with public speaking (the number one fear in the world) and the fear would go away.
Well that was my biggest mistake. I may have become a better speaker but the fear has never dissipated, not one iota. In fact, the moment before I stand up I am pleading with my higher power to open up the floor below me and let me fall into a tank of hungry, great white sharks where I can succumb to a quick and relatively painless death instead of the slow painful 'I'm DYING' feeling of public speaking. Cheeks flushed, hands trembling, fiery earlobes sweating, butterflies having an orgy in my stomach, heart racing, memory gone to hell, concrete feet and arms frozen in fear at my sides. Ok I don't look that bad but I feel that bad. Most people would have no idea I was nervous but I, on the other hand, am seriously hoping that floor magically opens up...

Until now that is. Because instead of allowing fear to take control of me or waiting for fear to magically disappear, which, let's be honest he would never do because he was having way too much fun seeing me sweat every week, I finally gave myself permission.
I gave myself permission to be nervous, to be scared, to shake and quiver and sweat and forget a line here and there, and, drum roll be imperfect - heck sounds like I gave myself permission to be human doesn't it? Also sounds like permission slips may be closely related to acceptance. Cue fireworks here.

So this week just before I got up to speak I mentally rehearsed my permission slips and I felt RELIEF, it was like those butterflies were finally exhausted and gave the proverbial headache excuse. The pressure was off and you know what? I felt all the jitters, laughed at myself and forgot all about fear and the nervousness before I even hit the stage because it had already been dealt with in my permission slips.

I got up and lead an engaging and lively discussion about one of my greatest passions: African animals and it was all fueled by my fear of public speaking.

So the point is, don't try and be fearless or squelch the fear but instead feel the fear, give yourself permission to be afraid, to be nervous, to make mistakes, to have flushed cheeks, a rumbling stomach, to fail, to be imperfect, to take a negative book review on the chin ;-) and then do it anyway.

Adventures Await!

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