We’ve all had to do it. We’ve all had to face our fears over something, look into the abyss, and leap anyway. At least I know I have.
Every time we venture beyond the known we risk rejection and disappointment. Knowing that shouldn’t stop us, but often, it does. We worry we won’t be accepted or liked. We are concerned we’ll look foolish, or worse, ridiculed. When does that fear start? We aren’t born with that fear. Babies don’t worry about these things, they are taught them. Life experiences teach us to fear the unknown.
I still remember, as a young child, going to a new school and being terrified everyone would look at me and make fun of me. In some ways, it makes no sense. I looked and behaved relatively normal, so there was nothing for anyone to reject. But I feared that rejection anyway. I clung to my mother’s leg, loathe to go forward and face my shyness. I wanted my mother to stay and pave the road for me. I wanted her to be there to stop the unkind words another child might say to me, or the potential harshness of a teacher whom I didn’t know. Of course she couldn’t stay. She had a job to go to, and she knew I had to find my own way. She was right. I made friends quickly and easily, and moved on without a backward glance, probably before the lunch bell rang.
So many times over my life I hesitated to take that leap of faith. I thought I had to have faith that others would be kind and respect me. I thought I had to have faith that God would protect me. What I’ve learned is that I had to have faith in all these things, but more importantly, I had to have faith in myself. Without that faith, none of the others mattered. No amount of pushing or pulling would make it possible for me to move forward.
One of the reasons I held off starting to write, really write, a novel for so long was fear of the unknown. What if people hated it? What if what I wrote turned out to be crap? What if I failed? What I had left it for too long and was too old to start over? Or perhaps even more scary, what if I succeeded? What? Wait a minute, I want to succeed, don’t I? Of course I do, but succeeding also heralds change, and change can be frightening. Remember the old adage, “Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it.”
Writers are forced, by the very nature of the craft, and the industry, to face our fears on a daily basis. Rejections abound with every query and rip at the self-confidence. Less than stellar reviews can undermine the writer’s belief in themselves. Staring at a blank page every day, or picking up a story and trying to craft something others will relate to and enjoy, is daunting in the extreme. Then there’s the marketing and promotion aspect of this crazy business. Daunting isn’t even the word for it. In today’s quicksand world of publishing, even the pros aren’t sure which way to turn. Publishers, agents, and editors are increasingly shy of taking on new talent. Book stores are closing all across North America daily, and shelf space is at a premium for those that remain open. Self-publishing is gaining increased notice and acceptance, but the time and learning commitment to produce good quality work is huge, as are the chances for failure or success.
At almost every chapter reading/book signing I attend, someone asks me how I conquer that fear and go out and do what I do every day anyway. How do I know that what I write will be accepted? How do I conquer my fear of public speaking? The answer is simple; I don’t. I don’t conquer the fear, I move through it. Every writer out there who puts their heart and soul on the line and publishes their work, does that. Every actor who stands before an audience or camera, does that. Every athlete, does that. Every man or woman who truly believes in the cause they fight for, does that. Every soldier who enlists to stand up for their country and countrymen, does that. In fact, every person who faces whatever fears might hold them back in their daily lives, but goes out and does what needs to be done anyway, does that. It’s not rocket science.
Do you fall sometimes? Yep. Do you fail sometimes? You bet. Will others criticize or misunderstand you? Perhaps. But the upswing can be huge. Even if we fail, are criticized, or misunderstood, if we’re smart, we’ll learn from it and grow. If we succeed, we accept change and look for new challenges. We experience more of life and learn more about ourselves and our possibilities. Hopefully by facing our own fears, we become more understanding of other’s fears.
Fear is instinctual self-preservation, and it’s necessary to life. Without it, we’d blunder into all kinds of dangerous situations and put ourselves in harm’s way. I’m not advocating that. What I’m advocating is taking a realistic look at your fears and determining whether or not the required action to overcome it would enhance your own or another’s life in some meaningful way. If so, you might just want to do what Tony Robbins advocates and “walk through the fire”. You might be surprised what’s waiting on the other side.