How to Overcome Fear

Photo cred: Andrea Piacquadio

A writer friend of mine and I were talking a few days ago about fear.

Fear.

What a word, right? Just the sound of it invokes…well…fear.

Fear is something we’re all feeling a bit more acutely these days. For her, who’s husband works the graveyard shift as a nurse, fear means worrying over whether he’s going to come home tonight with a cough and fever. Or if she remembered to Lysol the door handles, wash the scrubs he just shucked off in the laundry room, or wipe down every surface he possibly touched before he hightailed it to the shower.

She’s not the only one.

One of my kids is a stocker at a grocery store. Another is an RN. I consider both to be on the front lines of this pandemic. If I was a betting woman, I’d lay a fiver down that just about everybody on planet Earth has a friend or loved one in some sort of high risk situation.

But fear isn’t just working overtime on our COVID-19 awareness.

It’s driving up the anxiety toward our passion projects. Because let’s be real: who has time to work on a side-hustle in the middle of a worldwide, mass craze?

You do, darling.

Author Elizabeth Gilbert encourages us to take fear along for the ride on our life’s journey. As a creative, that may seem absurd. Let’s take a look at what she has to say in her famous letter to fear:

“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I am about to do something interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the roadmaps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.” (Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Penguin Publishing Group, 2016)

Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making decisions along the way.

Readers, I look at each of us as two parts of one being: human and soul. Yes, I realize there are many ways of referring to this internal split. But this is the one that works easiest for me. I understand it. Human understands fear. Fear protects human. The human says, “Why work on that book today, when you don’t even know if anyone will read it? What if it’s not as good as the one before? What if you leave out something important? What if you’re just not cut out to do this–like, maybe you’re not really a writer? Why don’t you roll through Instagram, instead? Catch up on that blogger you really like. Go take a nap. You’re awesome at naps, remember?”

And then there is soul. The real you. Soul doesn’t respond to fear. There’s a reason why when you were a kid you considered yourself “fearless.” As a child, you didn’t draw a picture of the trees and birds in your front yard and think, “Man, I suck at this.” You didn’t ride your bike down the street with the thought of, “This bike-riding business is for the birds–I’m not even very good at it.” You didn’t open a 1,000 piece Lego set and say, “Uuuggghhh, but there’s SO many pieces! I’ll NEVER get done!”

Folks, my eight-year-old wants the bigger Lego sets, not because they’re more expensive, but because he sees more pieces as a bigger challenge. I mean, Mom, it says 10+ and I’m only 8! Won’t it be awesome when I’m finished??

At what point did you lose that mindset?

At what point did you see the task ahead of you, sigh, and say, “Eh. Maybe I’ll watch Netflix, instead.”

“I really need to go to the grocery store.”

“I’ve gotta get my hair done. Nails done. It’s almost summer; I’d better go for that pedicure, too.”

YouTube rabbit hole, anyone? I see a few hands up in the back. If you’re looking, you’ll see mine raised, too.

“I’ll start tomorrow.” Then tomorrow becomes the next day and the next and the next.

These are ALL examples of fear protecting human.

But what if we let soul drive this dream bus, instead? What if, today, you said, “To heck with you, Fear, I’m working on my book.” Or, in the case of my writer friend mentioned at the beginning of this post, what if you went out back and planted the moonflowers? What if you started the LLC? Put that first brush of paint to the canvas? Made that first blog post? Finally enrolled in college or that online language course?

Soul doesn’t recognize fear. Soul feels joy and passion and success. And when failure arrives, because she certainly will, soul smiles and welcomes her in. Soul knows that success is failure turned inside out and, boy, soul is ready to get back up and try again and again. Just like my son when he falls off his bike and scrapes his knees. He trembles at first. Legs wobbling. He examines the wound. It’s not that bad. A little blood, sure, but he’ll live. He breathes, gets back on, and keeps going. Accomplishment fills his lungs. Fire blazes in his soul.

This is living. This is soul-living.

Refocus your attention. Speak out loud to anxiety and fear. Tell them, sure, they’re allowed along for the ride. But they have to sit in the back and hush up, because we’re moving forward.

Soul moves forward.

Who’s driving you? Soul or human? Because, I promise you, only one will push your dreams into reality.

xoxo – Alyssia

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