Category Archives: Fear

It’s all perspective

Last weekend, Mr. Wonderful and I were on the bike. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and as the wind whipped past my helmet, it was as if it pulled all the worry and stress out of my head and flung it onto the road behind us.

I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but I kind of expect a lot out of myself. (And by kind of, I mean I absolutely, 10000% expect a lot out of myself.) It’s really easy for me to focus so much on where I want to end up, that I forget to appreciate where I am.

I think we all do that from time to time, don’t you?

For example, as a parent, I want my kids to be happy, well-adjusted, functional members of society. Who doesn’t, right? But I can get so worried about who my kids might be, or should be, or will be, that I forget to see who they are.

And you know what? Watching them play together, cooperating, laughing, building huge Lego castles and immense imaginary worlds, I think I have to say that my kids are happy, well-adjusted, and functional.

So, why do I worry so much about helping them become what they already are?

Sure, I want to continue to guide them – especially as we near the teenage years with Lady Chatterbox – but do I really need to waste so much time being tense and worried about their development? I think the answer is probably ‘no.’ I mean, I’ve given myself upset stomachs and stress headaches worrying about my kids who are, essentially, just fine. Doesn’t that seem a little crazy?

In fact, I think the majority of the stress we carry around with us is … well … pointless. I know that I can get so caught up in what I want to do, what I want to have happen, that I totally forget to appreciate where I am.

Sure, sometimes where I am is in my living room, surrounded by an explosion of toys and pillows, trapped under a mountain of dogs and kids. At that point, what I want is to clean up the living room. But if all I focus on is getting that living room clean, I miss out on the fact that where I am is in a warm pile of people and animals that love and need me.

And isn’t that a pretty fantastic place to be?

When I was teaching dance, I spent a lot of time researching the psychology behind developing young artists and athletes. I stumbled across an article about a tennis player – years ago, sorry I can’t link to it – who was wickedly talented, driven, hard working, and pretty much won every match he played. He was on the fast track to success until, suddenly, he wasn’t. He started losing. His form slipped. He started losing some more.

His parents took him to a therapist who was familiar with working with athletes and it came out that the guy had changed the way he spoke to himself about his matches. Instead of saying: “I can win this,” he started saying: “I MUST win this.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to practice,” he started saying: “I HAVE to practice.” All of his self-talk switched from statements using ‘can’ and ‘will’ and ‘love,’ to statements using ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘need.’

In essence, those words popped him out of a place of positivity and into a really negative head space. Once the tennis player was able to change his self-talk, he stopped putting so much pressure on himself, lowered his stress levels, and started having fun.

Oh ya.

And he started winning again.

So my thought for the day is this:

Slow down. Look around. Appreciate where you are. Everything in this life is about perspective.

A rolling stone gathers no moss – facing fear is scary!

I totally believe in facing our fears and continuing to grow throughout our lives. I started life as a very fearful individual. Believe it or not, I’m shy. Basic human interactions used to terrify me. And by terrify, I mean turn me into a red-faced, trembling, nervous tummied, mute struggling the internal battle of wanting to speak but being absolutely unable to force words out of my mouth. Think I’m exaggerating? Ask my mom. It was bad.

I’ve grown out of it some as I’ve aged, but I’m still way more likely to hand the conversational ball to you rather than hog it all for myself. If we’re talking and you’re ever suddenly aware that you’ve done more than your fair share, don’t worry. I’m fine with that. On the other hand, if we’re talking and you’re suddenly aware that I haven’t STOPPED talking, you either

a.) might not be talking to me

or

b.) should probably really listen hard because what I’m saying means enough to me to force me out of my comfortable little quiet zone.

When I was young, I was afraid that escaped convicts were going to climb the trees to my house and get into my bedroom. I was afraid to ride roller coasters because I thought they’d break while I was on them. I was afraid our country would go to war and lots and lots of people would die.

I mean, I could keep going, but I’m afraid that I’m going to end up making myself sound like I’m a crazy person. Which I’m not. *twitches* Right?

I’ve hated that fearful side of me for as long as I’ve had it and I’ve fought it tooth and nail my whole life.

I’m too shy to carry a conversation? I study ballet and get myself on stage in front of thousands over and over and over again.

Afraid of roller coasters? I rode them anyway until now? I love them and absolutely CANNOT wait for the weather to get a little warmer to take advantage of the season passes Mr. Wonderful bought us for the amusement park kinda just down the road.

Afraid of war? Imagine an eight year old writing a letter to the President begging to keep us at peace with other nations. Be sure to give her really cute blonde pigtails and a goofy little crooked grin. Ya. That’s me. I did that.

I’m all about finding ways to take myself out of my comfort zone.

But I did something this weekend that I never in a million zillion years ever thought I’d do. And I’m not gonna lie, I’m feeling a little proud.

I took a Basic Rider course and am now a licensed motorcyclist!

I covered up my name and license number with a silly pencil so you can't see them!
I covered up my name and license number with a silly pencil so you can’t see them!

Mr. Wonderful has ridden motorcycles his whole life and took me out on the back of his way back on our second date. It took everything in me to swallow my fear and climb on that thing with him, but I did it and I loved it.

And now I can drive one myself!

Take that fear!

*I promise I’ll be careful and I always, always, always, wear a helmet and protective gear. Even though I’m legally allowed to drive on highways and at night, I’ll be the weirdo taking back roads because twenty-five miles per hour feels really, really fast!

Fear Whispers its Sweet Nothings

Artists are strange birds. Odd ducks. Unusual people.

We suffer these massive delusions of grandeur, these awesome moments of self-confidence that allow us to do whatever it is we do and then offer it up for public consumption. At the same time, most of us are busy totally believing we’re not worthy of the attention we receive. We’re not good enough. We are, in actuality, hacks, and sooner or later someone is going to realize it and they’re all gonna laugh at us!

In my early twenties, I took an incredibly low paying position at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. And by low paying, I mean I made just about $100 for that entire season. My family was awesome and supplemented my income as best they could, which really didn’t amount to much. Don’t take that wrong. I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifice. That still doesn’t change the fact that my budget was tight.

I mean like skinny jeans on a fat day kinda tight.

I lived in a tiny studio apartment. I couldn’t afford to drive to the grocery store, let alone splurge on fancy things like name-brand yogurt.

I wish I could say that despite all that, I was happy as a clam. Pleased as punch. Good to go.

Truth of it is, I wasn’t. I should’ve been, but I wasn’t.

Wanna know why? There was this awful voice in my head that kept telling me everything I did, every movement I made, every part of my body was complete and utter shit. My upper arms were too flabby. My technique was awful. My artistry was bland. My ability to portray emotion through movement was trite and under-developed.

My dancing was stupid. My body was stupid. I was stupid.

Thing is, no one else said those things about me. I was the only one. I was doing the thing I loved most in the world and honestly, I was succeeding, but I was so busy tearing myself down, I couldn’t see the progress I made or the attention I got for it.

That voice overwhelmed me. I believed those awful things it said about me and eventually I was the one saying those awful things. I wanted desperately to improve, to be worthy of the sacrifice I’d made, to be worthy of the sacrifice my family made on my behalf.

Nothing I did was good enough.

Period. The end.

Let’s fast forward a decade and find me sitting at my keyboard, pursuing another career in the arts. I write stories and try to get people to read them. And I love it in the same way I loved ballet. And, guess what. That awful voice that ruined me as a dancer is trying to creep up and start tangling itself into my thoughts as I write.

It tells me I write stupid things and my stories are dumb and no one wants to read my books and I’m wasting my time and Mr. Wonderful’s time and the money we’re throwing at this venture is wasted and on and on and on.

Here’s where it gets cool.

I’m older. I’m stronger. I’m more prepared.

I know that voice is trying to sabotage me. Steven Pressfield calls it the voice of Resistance in his book The War of Art. I call it the voice of my inner critic (otherwise known as The Bitch) and know that at its root, it’s the voice of fear. Fear of failing. Fear of looking dumb. Fear of judgement.

All those awful things I say to myself are nothing more than fear whispering its sweet nothings in my ear.

If you’re suffering due to your inner critic,  you’re not alone. We all suffer when The Bitch whispers. I’m pretty sure that voice comes standard in today’s newest human model, pre-installed, no activation required.

But remember, in the end, you’re in control of this side-show we call life, at least your little corner of it. When The Bitch climbs her way into your head, her nails digging at your daydreams, her harsh voice freezing you in your tracks, it’s up to you how much you believe what she has to say.

My advice?

The Bitch feeds off our emotions, twisting them to help prove what she’s saying as complete and utter truth. In order to shut her down, stop feeding her. Switch over to the analytical side of your art. Deal in facts, not fears, proof, not hope.

Worried about a bad review? Read the good ones.

Worried that a plot line isn’t going to work? Deconstruct it.

Worried that you’re not making enough money? Create a business plan that will lead you to making money. (Be careful here. Deal with facts and worst case scenarios, not hopes for lightening strikes of luck and the most delightful of daydreams.)

Worried that your technique isn’t good enough? Get feedback. Then address any issues that are brought to your attention.

Once you start attacking the root of your fear with well-thought out plans and strategies, that awful little voice will quiet. Just as the Wicked Witch of the West, the bane of Dorothy’s entire trip to Oz, succumbed to a single bucket of water, the voice of your fears will disappear when you douse it with truth.