These days, the messages to be FEARLESS are pretty relentless. Everywhere we go someone is telling us to be fearless. It’s on T-shirts, podcasts, in movies, and definitely all over social media. If you’ve looked at IG even for 10 minutes today (come on, I know you spent an hour there already), you saw at least one person prodding you to be fearless. Take the leap!
Here’s the thing – fear is natural and no rah rah speech, cool t-shirt, or social media influencer is going to completely eradicate a natural human response. And it is powerful! It stops us in our tracks. It keeps us from exploring our potential. It sends us running in the opposite direction of the things we really want in life.
I went Ziplining in Thailand. I’m TERRIFIED of heights.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about fear and why some of us seem fearless and some of us are completely submissive to its power. One of my best friends often describes me as fearless and I always reject the characterization. I get afraid just like everyone else, I just take fear along with me for the ride.
I am not afraid of fear. In fact, I think she has a bad reputation. We see her as the enemy. But what if she’s been trying to be our ally all along. What if we’ve been misreading her messages? What if she’s like “umm I didn’t tell you NOT to do the things you want to do. I was just trying to tell you to be aware of the possible negative outcomes and plan for them. YOU’RE the one who decided to throw your hands up and not even try.”
I feel the need to speak out on Fear’s behalf.
The only reason the Godmother of “black travel” and I are friends is because I was brave enough to send her an email asking her to be my mentor before I launched my travel company. I was honestly scared she’d be like “BEAT IT!”.
I feel I have to present another side of the story and let you know it’s possible she showed up to help you think critically about the risks you’ll need to mitigate on your way to achieving your dream, conquering your mountain, and reaching your goals.
We can’t blame things on fear when we are the ones choosing to give up. I wrote a blog post a while back challenging people about their fears (How I Know You’re Lying About Your Fears). Don’t get me wrong, I know fear is real.
I climbed almost to the very top of Machu Picchu (this is not the top). One of the hardest things I’ve ever done b/c FEAR!
I used to drop that famous line from After Earth “fear is not real” all the time until I stared her right in the face just 10 minutes from the very top of Macchu Picchu. She paralyzed me and I could not move any further.
Or at least that’s what I thought.
What I realize is that fear only stopped me and forced me to analyze the risk vs reward scenario and I chose not to proceed further. Fear did not stop me. I stopped me.
It’s time we own up to making our own choices, stop blaming things on fear, and push our way forward.
I’m not just telling you to “feel the fear and do it anyway” I’m encouraging you to embrace the fear and use it strategically.
Did a TEDx style talk at SXSW, we had to memorize the entire talk and go at the pace of our slides. I was definitely scared so I prepared and practice and prepared and practiced. That helped a lot.
I was recently chatting on IG with a woman I met a couple years ago and have followed religiously since. She’s incredibly talented. She mentioned to me offhandedly that she’d like to do photography professionally and she would love to focus on wedding photography. Of course, the logical Libryia thing to do was to ask “so when are you going to start?” She told me point blank that she likely won’t because she’s afraid. Wait what? You’re just going to sit on this talent because of fear?
I asked her to indulge me while I took her through an exercise I’ve been doing with myself to use fear as an ally:
Articulate Your Fears
Me: Ok sis, tell me what exactly are you afraid of?
Her: That I won’t be good at this, or not good enough. I spent tons of money buying gear and I just let it sit there cuz I’m too afraid to really give it a shot.
Check Your Evidence
Me: Ok, what evidence do have have to support you being good or bad at it?
Her: Well, I went to school for design. I haven’t really done weddings but I’ve nailed photoshoots with models.
Identify the worst case scenario
Me: Ok, tell me what’s the worst case scenario. What’s the worst that can happen if you do this and aren’t good at it?
Her: I’ll ruin someone’s wedding photos and be devastated.
Put Worst Case Scenario into perspective
Me: But would you die?
Her: I mean, I’ll feel like I want to!
Me: But no one has ever died from feeling bad about ruining someone’s wedding photos, right?
Her: of course not
Me: So then, at some point you’d get over it and do better next time. Have you ever failed at anything before?
Her: I mean, sure
Me: Ok and look at you still out here living and having a good time. You got over that. If it happens again, you’ll get over it again.
Determine a Mitigation Plan for Worst Case Scenario
Me: Alright, so let’s just say you ruined someone’s wedding photos. What would you actually do?
Her: Besides be devastated because I ruined someone’s big day?
Me: Yes. You’d probably refund them their money and maybe offer to do a reshoot with them. Truthfully, in the grand scheme of things, they still got married, they’ll be fine.
Me: You could also start out working with another wedding photographer for free so you can practice and prove to yourself that you can take great wedding photos. You could also stage some wedding shoots with some friends or models you know, or people who are about to get married. You could do some things to hone your skills and figure out where you need to improve.
Her: Hmm, I hadn’t thought about that.
Me: DOOOO IT! Here’s the thing, you absolutely might screw this up but you also might ROCK at it. But you’re letting a hypothetical worst case scenario keep you from doing something you really want to do. That worst case scenario may never even happen! Just plan for it and move forward!
Scariest thing I’ve EVER done? Started a company that took a group of people around the world for a year.
I think speaking our fears, identifying our worst case scenario, and planning for how we would address it helps build our confidence against the thing we’re afraid of.
I embrace the fear, it reminds me that I’m awake, alive, and excited about something.
In my imagination, fear is that favorite teacher I had in highschool who always gave me a hard time but believed so much in my abilities. She’s not on my ass trying to force me to quit or telling me I can’t do it. She making sure I know how important this is and reminding me to give it my very best. She’s telling me to be thoughtful, be intentional, and be excellent.
Perhaps she’s point out that I need to spend more time learning how to do something, or finding a contact who can help me, or to make sure I’ve prepared properly.
And that makes her my ally.
So let’s recap the steps you need to use fear as an ally:
- Articulate your fears
- Check the evidence
- State the worst case scenario
- Put it into perspective
- Identify a mitigation plan
- GO DO THE THING!
I put together a writing prompt to use when I find myself sitting with fear. I’m sharing it with you in the hopes that it helps facilitate a strategy session between you and fear. I hope it helps you to see her as an ally.