Have you ever considered the impact of fear in your life? And I don't mean actual flight-or-fight fear — we have that mechanism in place in our body for a reason. That fear is always worth attention and response. (And if you want a good book on the topic, I recommend The Gift of Fear, by Gavin DeGraw.)
The type of fear I'm talking about here is the psychological crazy-making kind that draws out your personal critic. I'll call her "Anti-Courage."
Last week a friend and I started working through the Cultivating Courage 21-day journaling course at Mindfulist. And in just one lesson, I realized how much of my day is spent in fear.
- Fear of penning the first word for a story.
- Fear of pressing send on an email with a magazine pitch.
- Fear of hitting "call" on the phone after dialing a number.
- Fear of getting on my mat to teach a yoga class. (Because who am I to take the seat of teacher?)
Most of my fear, I'm learning, arises around my work, in places I actually do have a fair amount of competency or skill. Where I've maybe even won fancy paper awards or accolades from peers. When it comes to doing things I have never tried, or know nothing about, I have little to no fear.
- Run a crazy obstacle race and jump over fire? Sure!
- Jump on a standup paddleboard and wobble myself around a lake. Okey doke.
- Paint, or collage, or wrangle together some sort of art project. No prob.
I think, for me, there is much less tied up in doing something I've never done — because if I look stupid I always have the first- (or second- or third-) timer excuse. Where my debilitating fear-critic, Anti-Courage, comes in to play is in those areas of my life where I'm supposed to already know what I'm doing. Where, many days, I feel like I'm really just fooling everyone. Where the pressure of perfection feels like a stranglehold.
As Brené Brown says:
When perfection is driving, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying back-seat driver.
Perfectionism kills success. I know that if I want to achieve more in my life, I have to give vulnerability the keys. And not just today, or tomorrow, but every single moment of every day. I have to write the first word, press send, hit call, step on my mat.
But vulnerability itself is scary. So am I really just exchanging one fear for another? I don't think so, because I agree with Brené when she also says:
Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
If I have a choice, I choose innovation and creativity and change over stasis. I choose Courage over Anti-Courage. But I don't think it will ever be easy. I will regularly need a tap on the shoulder, whether from rereading a passage of Brené's, or taking a course like Mindfulist's, or simply donning a bright red superheroine cape in my mind (over my worn-out jeans and tank top) and choosing the magic of flight over presumed fail.
It all comes back to choice. I have a choice to make each day. And so do you.