“Doing It Afraid:” No Fight, No Flight, Only Action!
This weekend, over bottomless mimosas and French-Vietnamese cuisine, my brunch companion and I had a frustrating conversation: what are we doing with our lives?
Of course, this is not to say that we are unhappy with where we are. We’ve both got a lot of really excellent things going for us, including steady paychecks, enjoyable work, fulfilling social lives, shelters to retreat to, champagne to consume over brunch. But the both of us are also artists: he draws, I write. And it seems we’re not doing enough inside of those crafts.
We mulled over what we know we should be doing: building our portfolios, networking, making a point to practice it every day, pursuing freelancing opportunities. We observed what we had been doing: day jobs, social lives, avoiding everything in the previous list. But why were we avoiding it?
Because the fear of abject failure is as powerful a feeling as anything one has ever felt before.
Think about the last thing that you wanted desperately for your life. Did you pursue it? If you didn’t, what was the reason? Likely, you can come up with a number of reasons in your head: you didn’t have the resources, you couldn’t find the time, you didn’t have enough experience or a wide enough network, you just weren’t ready, too much of it depended on other people. But when we get right down to it, we can pursue our future and attain the things we want to…but fear often stands in our way. Is there any fear greater than the fear of failure and rejection?
In his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz has the following to say about this kind of fear:
When we went against the rules we were punished; when we went along with the rules we got a reward. We were punished many times a day, and we were also rewarded many times a day. Soon we became afraid of being punished and also afraid of not receiving the reward. The reward is the attention that we got from our parents or from other people like siblings, teachers, and friends. We soon develop a need to hook other people’s attention in order to get the reward.
The reward feels good and we keep doing what others want us to do in order to get the reward. With that fear of being punished and that fear of not getting the reward, we start pretending to be what we are not, just to please others, just to be good enough for someone else. [...] The fear of being rejected becomes the fear of not being good enough. Eventually we become someone we are not.
Fear is an extremely human response to anything that may be new or different, or anything at which we fear we might fail. We are acclimated to doing what is going to incite accolades and not what could very well end up seeing us on our faces in the mud. Fear can rule our everyday lives in this way and prevent us from using our talents, skills, gifts, to be who we ought to be and do what will make us happy and fulfilled.
So what do we do about it? My co-brunch-er observed that, at some point, we just need to “let the fear go.” But it’s my personal belief that we can ultimately spend far too much time focusing on progressing to a point where we are able to let our fears go…time that can be spent simply “doing it afraid.”
Let’s consider it: fear is our natural response. It often prevents us from doing exactly what we love and exploring where we may be successful. As with all natural reactions, they may happen to us, but the world keeps on spinning despite our feelings, thoughts, or reactions to it. So why waste one more minute allowing something so pedantic as fear to stand in between us and self-fulfillment?
This week, I challenge you to figure out where you are holding yourself back…where fear is holding you back? Think about the hobbies or careers or pursuits that you have been putting off for your litany of reasons, and make a decision to power through the barriers you keep in front of you. Plan out your first step and then do it, scared or not. You may take the step, palms sweaty, heart racing, near tears and almost passing out from anxiety, but you will do it. And that will mean that you didn’t die, that you’re one step closer, and that you proved yourself to the most critical judge you know: you.