What Do We Fear?

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist 

The topic of fear comes up a lot in my line of work. If there is one emotion that takes the shimmer out of life, it’s fear. We all have something in our lives that frighten us: people, emotions or experiences. The mere thought causes us to sweat. It’s human to fear and in many cases, justified. Life is full of risks. However, in my experience, some of life’s finest moments were immediately after facing a fear: giving a meaningful speech, comforting a distressed client or telling someone that I love them. Fear involves risk. However, as the saying goes; without risk there is no reward.

Fear Of Letting It Out

I chose this topic for many reasons. Mainly, because the very process of writing this is a confrontation of a deep fear of mine. I’ve been writing in one capacity or another for many years. It’s something I enjoy greatly and never feel quite right without. For some reason, the past few years have been sparse in content. Writing was reserved for classes or personal notes. I’d cut myself off from the creative part of my writing. I’ve been aware of it, though unsure of why. Until it hit me.

I’m afraid of be judged. I’m afraid my writing is no good.

For the last few years, my focus has been on my clients and the development of counseling skills. While helping others is a meaningful practice, it can also be a great way to avoid your own problems. For the first Living Lite* post I discussed the conflicts that led to me to leave my job. Among these conflicts is the gnawing sense that I was not practicing what I preached. Asking others to face their fears is easy, doing it yourself is not. I had been avoiding creative output out of fear of rejection.

Everybody creates poor quality material once in a while and excellence is not achieved overnight. It takes a lot of trial and error. Recently, I came across an article by Ira Glass of NPR’s program This American Life. He discussed how developing creative material that’s worthwhile takes a lot of time and a lot of crummy work. We all want to call it quits once in a while but instead press on. ZenPencils offers a beautiful comic to illustrate the artist’s personal experience with what Glass is articulating here.

To go through this process takes a lot of courage. It’s tough to be bad and in our current era things stick around. Not only that, but they’re available for a lot of people to see. Youtube and Facebook are testaments to this. But I agree with Glass, we must work through it.

Fear and Vulnerability

I realized how deep this fear went when I found myself afraid to tell close friends about this blog. It‘s difficult to making yourself vulnerable in front of strangers but it can sometime be harder with friends. It comes down to risk. With friends, there’s more to lose. Many of my clients’ crowning therapeutic achievements occur when finally confronting their loved ones about a fear. Whether it be coming out, expressing past trauma or just telling them how they truly feel. It’s a high hurdle to overcome.

We’re all sitting in front of our computers or on our phones with some level of fear in our hearts. I’m not here to tell you how or when to handle them. That is a personal choice. What I can say is that facing it will make you feel bare. However, without bareness, we cannot feel the coolness of a summer breeze or the warmth of the sun. Part of Living Lite is dropping the weight of other’s judgements and expectations. If we desire to feel more alive we must dance with danger once in a while.

As for my fear. I opened up about my writing to my friends and now to the world. There will always be criticism and even hate but we don’t have to let it dictate how we think, act or feel. Be brave, you have something wonderful to offer others. Whether it’s your time, your words, your art, your sense of humor, or just your presence. We all have value, it’s just a matter of opening up and taking chances. It’s up to each of us to decide how and when.

Photo by Laura Cores