On Living A Brave Life: I’m scared too. I go anyway…

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I get messages from people from time to time asking me for my advice on how they can be fearless, like me. I tend to respond outlining a full list of my fears…

The truth is, I’m ridiculously scared that I won’t have enough time on this earth to experience everything I dream of and really live. I lost friends in elementary school. All my grandparents passed by the time I was 18. I’ve been to more funerals because of cancer and accidents and heart attacks than I care to remember. I’ve had a recurring dream since I was a kid that I would die in an accident (plane crashes, car crashes, etc). Now, I have no idea how long I will live, but I’m damn sure not wasting the time I have being scared of something that may or may not happen. That doesn’t mean I’m never afraid… it just means I’ve learned to act in spite of my fear.

I was really scared of moving to San Diego with no job and an unpaid internship at 21 years old. I was terrified after my divorce at age 27. I was scared starting my own business and moving states again. But if I let my fear take over, I’d be far more scared of living a life of regret.

The point is: I have fears just like everybody else out there. Like many, I’ve learned to work through them. Here are 3 ways of dealing with fear that have helped me: 

 

{ Know What You Are Scared Of }

Don’t lie to yourself. We all have fears and we should acknowledge them. Figure out what they are so you can appropriately address them. Some fears are emotional, some are financial, some physical. What are yours and what could you do about them?

How: Sit down and make a list of the shit you’re afraid of that’s keeping you from making a move. Make three columns for each fear; one for what the fear is, one for why you’re scared (because maybe you haven’t thought about that), and the third for what you might be able to do about it.

My example: Was I scared of camping alone on my big solo road trip last year? Yes.

Column 1 – What: I’m scared of being murdered if I’m camping alone.

Column 2 – Why: I watch too many true crime shows and scary movies.

Column 3 – How I Can Act: I’ll take my dog with me, I’ll buy a weapon (or three – I camped w/ a knife, mace, and a hammer), I’ll camp where I have cell service, and I’ll give my mom, man-friend, and the local ranger my location before I go there and how long I’m staying.

Then I went camping (with my dog and my weapons), all over the country, and I didn’t get murdered! The first night was the scariest, and then I felt fine.

 

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

– Marie Curie

Extra: Read the book, Playing Big. It’s one of my faves because it’s short and to the point. Her chapter on the two types of fear was money.

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{ Have a Plan Z }

Most people don’t act because they want their Plan A to work perfectly and they’re scared of having to go to Plan B. But what if Plan B crashes and burns too? What’s your move? If you make a Plan Z – what you would do in the event that all the shit hit the fan – you’re prepared for it… so you can have the confidence in knowing that you could deal if you had to.

How: I’m a big fan of lists, obviously. Write that shit out! Write down everything that could go wrong. Then write down how you would deal with it if it did.

My example: I’m in the process of relocating to Canada to live with my man-friend, who I’ve been with for a few years now, and his two sons.

Worst case scenario: I’d miss my friends and family back home desperately. I wouldn’t  be able to get enough work to pay for a comfortable life here (it’s really expensive in this mountain town). I wouldn’t make any friends of my own and would feel isolated. His sons would hate me (“You’re not my real mom!” is always swirling around in the back of my head). And the worst: Him falling out of love with me, things not working out, me having to spend a bunch of money to leave Canada, move away, and start all over again.

My Plan Z: If that worst case scenario happened – I would be devastated, but I would also survive. I have enough savings that I could pay to move my things back home. And I have a couple empty credit cards that I could use if needed. I could stay with my family or any number of friends in Kentucky or San Diego. I’ve always been self-employed, so I would contact my previous clients and contracts to get some work. I have enough hobbies that I could distract myself with. I’ve moved several times and started over several times. I could do it again. While I would be hurt, I would survive.

* Let the record show that I would not be moving my ass all the way up here if I thought those things were actually going to happen… but it is nice having a plan should the unforeseen actually occur. When you have a backup backup backup plan, you feel better prepared and a thousand times more confident.

 

“There is always a part of my mind that is preparing for the worst, and another part of my mind that believes if I prepare enough for it, the worst won’t happen.”

– Kay Redfield Jamison

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{ Practice Working Through Fear }

“Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.” – Emma Donoghue

I don’t generally refer to doing scary things as “conquering my fear” because a lot of the time, I’m still scared as shit about something (I still think turbulence is going to cause my plane to plummet to the ground every flight I get on) afterwards. Instead of “fighting and winning” against my fear, I drag it along with me. I might not be able to get rid of it completely, but I’ma go anyway so it better be prepared to come along.

How: Start Small – do something you’ve been scared to do, but do it in a tiny, much less intimidating way. If you’re scared of traveling alone, start by just going to lunch alone one day. Want to move cities but have never lived away from your hometown? Take a day or weekend trip to that city and check things out, see the sights. Do you know that you need a new job but are scared of leaving behind the security of what you’ve known for so long? Send your resume to a few companies just to see if you get any response. You can say no to an offer and stay where you are if you want, but sometimes there are way better offers out there if you just look. What if it’s the same job but with better benefits? Better coworkers? A raise?

You will never know if you don’t test the waters a tiny bit. It’s scary to jump all the way in, but dipping your toes in the water won’t kill you. You’ll never go if you let fear talk you out of it. Fear is that punk that is trying to talk you out of something because it’s too scared to do it also… and it just wants company so it feels better about itself.

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In the end, I know it might look brave and inspiring to see somebody climbing a giant mountain, but just know that even though I love rock climbing, the really high stuff scares the shit out of me sometimes. When we were at the top of the 8th and final pitch of a route in Banff last summer, my man-friend asked me to pause so he could take this photo. He said, “You’re going to thank me for this photo!” And I was like, “Please pull up the fucking slack so I can finish this goddamn route!”

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Don’t for one second think that I’m doing the things I do without fear or hesitation. And also don’t think that you have to scale a mountain or take a huge solo trip to prove your bravery.

You know what I think is incredibly brave? One of my clients who’s never worked out ever showing up to their first bootcamp class. And then showing up again the next week. Being a single parent and juggling home and work at the same time. People living with cancer and active military are some of the people whose mindsets I can’t even begin to comprehend; knowing that things could go downhill at any moment but getting shit done anyway. There are all types of brave out there. You’ve got access to yours. Fear might be tagging along too, but don’t let it paralyze you. There are too many other things that require your time and energy.

“Fear is always with us, but we just don’t have time for it. Not now.”

~ Hillary Rodham’s Commencement Address – Wellesley College, 1969.

If you’re feeling scared and paralyzed, know you’re not alone. And know there are ways to get past it. And know that you’re already brave even if you don’t realize it.

#BeABeast

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