When Being Scared & Being Brave Are The Same Thing
Two years ago, while cleaning the toilet, (swear to God) I was given a gift—a shiny new idea for a book. It came as many of my ideas seem to, out of nowhere and nearly fully formed. Thrilled, I dropped what I was doing, (the toilet, remember?) and rushed to find a pen and legal pad. For the next three hours I wrote furiously, thrilled with the idea of a woman whose life is turned upside down with a single phone call, and is then faced with a seemingly impossible choice—to do the thing she has sworn all her life never to do. Sounds exciting, right? Except, the thought made me so squeamish I wasn’t sure I wanted to write it.
You see, I have a lot of “nevers” in my own life, things I’ve sworn I’ll never do. I decided a long time ago that there were things I simply wasn’t cut out for, like jumping out of an airplane, scaling Everest, or snorkeling in shark infested waters. Nope. No way. No how. But there were other things too, things like getting Twitter savvy, taking charge of my investments, and getting my arms around the whole blogging thing.
Not exactly life and death stuff, right? But for me they felt like it, because admitting I don’t know how to do something everyone on the planet already knows how to do is scary, and being scared is, well… scary. I was scared of being scared, if you can believe that. Scared of looking inept, of getting it wrong, of having to ask for help. And so, I simply decided to slide all those I-don’t-know-how items over into the “Never Column.” If I didn’t look at them I wouldn’t have to feel scared, or inept, or imperfect. Problem solved, right? Umm… not exactly.
Because something happened when I finally finished writing When Never Comes. (the toilet book, in case you lost track) I had to come up with a tagline for the book, which amounts to boiling four hundred pages into a single pithy line, and what I came up with was: “Sometimes it’s the thing that scares us most that ultimately saves us.” I loved that line. I loved the kickass truth behind it, the sense of power that comes with taking an enormous leap of faith. And all the while I was ducking the small stuff, so uncomfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable that I was stunting both my personal and professional growth. So where did I get off championing a character who must find the courage to face her biggest fear?
It was time for some serious introspection, and a deep dive into the subject of fear. And what I learned in that deep dive is that I’m not even close to being the only one who’s scared of being scared. (even of the little stuff) We all hate it, right? That icky sensation that comes with feeling out of our depth, out of control, out of courage. Of venturing into unknown territory armed with nothing but fear and our wits. But what I also learned is that being scared isn’t just normal, it’s actually a HUGE blessing.
It’s like the Divine waving us in, or a giant arrow pointing the way to the yellow brick road. Fear is the sweet spot, my lovelies, a cue from the Universe that just maybe we’re on to something. The scary doesn’t go away, but it does serve a purpose. If we want to be someone we’ve never been before, it stands to reason that we’re going to have to do things we’ve never done. It also stands to reason that if we’ve never done a thing, it’s going to scare us a little. Or a LOT.
Are you seeing how the dots are connecting? Where we’ve previously seen danger, we start to see that being scared may actually be a sign that we’re headed for something big. Or at least something shiny and new. In our comfort zone, sameness reigns and the scenery never changes, but we’re cozy where we are, so why rock the boat? As long as we stay on familiar ground nothing bad can happen, right? That was my theory, anyway. What I didn’t realize was that I was standing in quicksand, sinking deeper and deeper into a place I didn’t actually want to be, let alone stay.
I call it the comfort trap now, because that’s exactly what it is—a big fat trap—and because I still need to be reminded that scary shouldn’t always stop me in my tracks. Looking back, I now see that every good thing that’s ever happened to me happened because I took some action that scared the living poo out of me. Proof that sometimes it really IS the thing that scares us most that ultimately saves us.
So… that’s my dirty little secret: being scared scares me. But you can’t be brave if you’re not at least a little scared, right? And I do so love the idea of being brave. So… truth time. Have there been times when you let fear hold you back from things you needed or wanted to do? And if so, how did you manage to get past it? Looking back, can you see how your life changed when you started facing your fears?