Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.Anais Nin
It may be an overstatement, but not by much, to say that most everything worthwhile that I’ve accomplished in this world came from my pushing through fear and finding my courage to do something that I’m afraid of.
For instance, I’ve always been afraid of speaking. Public speaking really. And by that I mean, speaking to more than one person.
For much of my life I was a shy, introverted kid. I didn’t understand other people and I’d been exposed to a lot of cruelty and ridicule at an early age.
I read a lot. I was always learning and testing things out. I could see patterns in things. I was always cross referencing different subjects against one another. Looking for ways that things interconnected and informed one another. It seemed that I saw things that others didn’t.
And for a long time, I didn’t know how to articulate what I saw. I’d jump to the end much too quickly and others wouldn’t follow where I was headed. Not being able to communicate well and explain, I found myself ostracized from others. I felt like an outsider and an alien.
The best thing I could do was shut up. I avoided ridicule, or at least lessened it by not speaking up even when I knew the answer. For a long time in my life, nothing good ever came from speaking up.
And this is where I think my fear of public speaking was born.
I also had and still have something inside of me that is trying to get out. It can’t be contained. And so I’ve raised my hand to speak in front of groups.
Time and time again, I get up the nerve and I go make myself do it. It is stronger than my fear. Sometimes, my fear wins and I’m quiet. Eventually, this something else inside of me, rises up and I cannot be contained.
When I do speak in public, whether it be in front of 5 people or 1000, I’m always nervous. You’d think that would go away at some point. But it never has.
Until about a year ago, I always, always threw up before any speaking engagement. While, my pre-show vomiting has started to subside, I still always have that fear inside of me, that almost panic at the last moment that I don’t know what to say and that I can’t do it.
And still I would always go back for more, and each time I’ve upped the ante of difficulty.
This fear, for me, is more about putting myself out there in front of others, telling what is in my head and being afraid of looking stupid and others not accepting me for who I am. I know most of the logical reasons why this really shouldn’t be a thing. And each time that I put myself out there – I’ve gotten something amazing in return. I’ve grown each time.
And so I keep putting myself out there. Every word I write here, every post I make, every video I shoot, or article I write – there is the nasty blade on the end of a pendulum swinging ever closer to me. It is the fear of this unknown thing that could happen to me if I keep putting myself out there. That once and for all, the world will deem me unworthy.
I imagine that for others this is silly. For me, it has been my constant companion.
I’m not sure if it is comforting to know that I’m not alone, and that every one has fears.
Many are possibly biologically built into our sense of survival and considered to be linked to humankind’s early days of survivability. Walk out in the wilderness and step on a venomous snake or spider without access to medical care and you’ll easily imagine how this one got built into our collective unconscious fear response. The world was a dangerous place for our early ancestors.
Study almost any list of the top fears and you’ll always find some variation of the following:
- Germs – With the Covid-19 pandemic, this one may be gaining some traction for a lot of people
- Needles –
- Storms – Thunder and Lightening
- Enclosed Spaces
- Open Spaces/Aloneness
- Social Phobias – such as public speaking
These affect people in a wide range of ways, from a strong dislike and fear, to a full on psychological phobia. They can be quite debilitating for those that are afflicted with a severe case of any one of these.
There are also a lot of fears people have that hold them back in life.
These are areas such as loss of freedom, inadequacy, being judged, getting hurt, uncertainty, rejection, failure, loneliness, and change that hold people back. These fears can run deep. And it seems fairly clear that most people are dealing with or have dealt with at least one of these.
I’ve certainly felt most of those at one point or another. And still our ability to confront these with courage is the only real measure of our success in growing as a person.
For me, I’ll continue to ratchet up the fear factor. I’ve learned to use that energy and turn it back on itself. I use that anxiety as fuel to be absolutely in the moment when I speak. I believe that there is something to be found on the other side of this fear, if only I can keep going.
Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keeping getting up on a stage or doing a video and putting it out on the internet.
I do have a need to be seen. Not for fame. Or glory. But because, there is something on the other side of that fear. I just know it. If I can share with just one more person, and one more person after that. —There is something amazing out there, connecting with others, helping others.
I just know it.
And so I keep writing for my life, sharing, putting myself out there, and I know something good will come from all of it.