Whyyy did I think this was a good idea?! This sucks, it’s toooo hard, it’s a terrible idea, you don’t even wanna do it anyway. Just quit already. You’re not good enough. You’ll never be ready in time. There’s no way you can win this and you’re just going to be embarrassed by a crushing defeat. What if you trip? What if your plane crashes and you don’t even get there? What if, what if, what if…
Those are just some of the thoughts that ran through my head a million times a day, every day during every one of the competitions I’ve done in the last few years.
And each time, I knew I only had two choices: listen to my heart, just go for it anyway and accept that being full of doubt and fear was part of the process, or listen to the voices and not even bother trying.
See, I didn’t compete in figure because I wasn’t afraid to, I did it precisely because I was terrified of it.
Over the years I’ve heard a lot of people talk about how much they thought about competing, or running a marathon, or start a business or moving… there are millions of people walking around right now who hate their spouses, their lives, their jobs, whatever and dream of all the things they wish they could do, or would love to do…
But they never do anything about any of it.
That my friends, is the paralyzing power of fear.
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being seen, fear of judgement, fear of not being accepted, fear of not being good enough, fear of not being safe… so much fear…
Personally, I’ve experienced it ALL.
Franklin Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.”
And I get the point he was making. We’re all afraid of something and the way we manage our fear (or don’t) determines the outcome of everything in life.
When improperly managed, fear kills more goals and dreams than just about anything else. I could have quit a million times when I was competing -- and I would have spent the rest of my life wondering if I could have done it and regretting that I never even tried. I never would have had that experience or learned everything I was supposed to learn from it, either.
So, I disagree with the literal statement. I don’t think we should fear, fear.
Being afraid of our fear keeps us paralyzed in it, stuck and looking for ways to ignore it or numb ourselves from feeling unfulfilled, unhappy or afraid.
Imagine if you’re driving along, come around a corner and all of a sudden there’s millions of venomous snakes on the road in front of you. Ahhh… snakes… You slam on the brakes and start trying to turn around to avoid them -- but -- the car breaks down ...and by then the snakes have surrounded you.
You’re stuck sitting there, staring at the snakes. How much time would you spend thinking about those snakes? How many stories would you be telling about the snakes? And yanno maybe your mom calls and you’re like… send help… I’m stuck here.. there’s… snakes… you tell everyone all your scary stories about the snakes… and then after awhile if someone asks you about the snakes you’re like.... “ugh, I don’t even wanna talk about it, I can’t even think about it”. The snakes never even came near you but the stories you’ve been telling yourself about them have become so scary you don’t even wanna look at it, think about it or face it.
So you spend the next 20 years sitting in that same spot desperately trying to avoid looking at them or thinking about it… you look up, you look down, you look everywhere you possibly can to avoid even looking at the snakes…
But what if the snakes were a hologram and the entire time… the ONLY way to get past them is to just go right through them.
The thing is, our brains don't know the difference between real snakes or holograms… they don’t know something that's actually a threat to our safety and survival versus something that isn't so fear convinces us that everything is an existential threat that we have to avoid at all costs, whether it’s real or not and whether or not we should be avoiding it, or going through it.
And often, we don’t even realize that fear is even the one in the drivers seat - making the decisions and running the show ...because it will convince us of anything to get us to believe it. It just made us sit in our car for 20 years to avoid hologram snakes when all we had to do was out and walk through them.
That's why it's so powerful.
Fear is that little voice in your head that says, “No. You can’t do that and here are the 10485 reasons why you can’t and for that matter, why you don't even really want to”. It’s that voice that says, nope, you stay right where you’re at because you see what’s ahead there? We are not going anywhere near that.
It’s that thing that keeps you trapped in the same familiar cycle or even misery, day after day, month after month, year after year – because it’s familiar and familiar pain is a whole lot less scary than the unknown – even when the unknown could result in a better life.
So no, I don’t think we should fear, fear -- nor do I think we should numb it, deny it, ignore it, run or hide from it.
Because living from the place of being ruled by and scared of our fear creates insecurity, anxiety, depression, lowers our self-worth and slowly erodes physical and mental health.
It’s like staying stuck in that broken down car staring at snakes for 20 years -- what if there’s paradise on the other side of that snake hologram and all you had to do was get out of the car and walk through to it get there?
When we’re not afraid to look at it, and move through it, we become less ruled by it.
And the less we’re ruled by it, the more fully we’re able to live and the more we begin to believe in, trust, and value ourselves.
The snakes in my own life are still very much a fear of being seen. That’s one of the biggest reasons I made a commitment to myself to start talking so publicly about own struggles, as often as possible. Every time I do, it’s like taking another step through my own snakes.
See, we’re all afraid of something. The difference lies in what we do with that fear.
Do we go through life afraid of our fear? Trapped in that broken down car trying not to even think about the snakes? Or do we look at it and accept the only way past it is through it and take a step forward?
That, to me, is what bravery and courage is all about.
It’s not an absence of fear -- it’s being overcome by fear and taking one step at a time, straight through the snakes.
How do you tell the difference? Between what you really want versus when it’s fear talking? Listen to the FIRST thing your heart tells you. What’s your FIRST reaction to something you want? Does it start with yessss, I’m doing that! …only to be followed by the lists of reasons why you shouldn’t or can’t?
That’s your answer.
There are always two voices. The one that decides to do something, and then one who tells you no. The one who tells you no is fear.
The one who speaks first is your heart – that’s the voice to trust. The rest is fear talking.
Listen to your heart, the first voice – and let your fear find out along the way that everything will be okay if you’re just brave enough to take a leap (even the tiniest of little leaps to start) and trust.