100dayswithoutfear found me this morning thanks to the not-so random Facebook newsfeed. Some Internet algorithm decided that I needed to hear about this (and an adorable dance off between the groom and his mother at his wedding reception). Thank you, Internet. You are so right.

Michelle, a New Yorker, is sharing her journey as she explores 100 of her fears. She is facing them one at a time, documenting and blogging about them. Each blog post has a video of her facing the fear, some details and an emoji rating about her stress during the experience. Some of the fears she has tackled are: a day without her cellphone, getting her ears pierced, and sky diving (gulp).

A few things really peaked my interest: the emoji ratings, the fears she was facing, and the Internet response.

Let’s face a fear!

The emoji ratings made a pattern appear that reinforces my experiences facing fears.

On day 49 (entitled: Shake it) Michelle is 7/10 on the scared scale before she starts dancing in Time Square. After really letting loose she is super happy and writes that she has “never felt so good, comfortable and confident.” In fact, she is quite happy while facing her fear too.

For a lot of people dancing and music naturally puts them in a good mood and lowers their stress levels. But when I read the rest of her posts, here’s the gist of what I observed:

Before: she’s afraid

During: she feels ok

After: she feels better

That resonates with me. Think about when you faced a fear. Did it go something like this:

Before: I don’t want to do this. Why am I doing this? This is going to be horrible!

During: Ok this isn’t so bad. I imagined this soooo much worse.

After: I can’t believe I did it! I did it! I can do anything!

This resonates with me because it sums up my experience facing fears. It also reinforces what I learned from Susan Jeffers’ book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. On her site she provides an excellent summary of the lessons entitled “Five truths about fear.” Check it out here.

 

“Feel the fear and do it any way.” – Susan Jeffers

 

A couple of summers ago, my daughter asked me to ride the Ferris Wheel with her. It was a relatively small Ferris Wheel, but it was still too high for me – I’m afraid of heights. But my husband was tending the baby in another part of the park, so if I didn’t go with her she wouldn’t have the experience. And boy did she want the experience.

"Fear is a teacher" post by MCLconsultingI told her that I was a little scared, but she said she’d hold my hand. So we waited in line holding hands (and I discreetly scanned the ride for hints of disrepair). Eventually it was our turn to get on. We climbed in the bucket and went up. But quickly stopped so other passengers could get on. I was ok. In fact, my death grip on the safety bar loosened, and I was smiling and laughing with my daughter. It wasn’t sooo bad.

We started and stopped a few more times. We were pretty high at this point, but I was okay looking straight ahead and holding onto the safety bar. But then my daughter sneezed and the bucket rocked. I swore and called out for God. My daughter laughed nervously. I made her swear she wouldn’t rock the bucket and I promised that I wouldn’t drop a naughty word again. We made it to the end of the ride, including disembarking, without breaking our promises to each other.

Did I enjoy myself? There were moments. (*smirk*)

Did I feel pride once we got off the Ferris Wheel? I certainly did. In fact, I still do (even years later).

 

My lesson: Facing fears feels awesome!

 

Michelle’s list of fears is an interesting mix mostly of things and experiences. The Internet has come out and critiqued her list. Some have called it lame. Others claim she obviously hasn’t lived very much. Others comment that she should be afraid of some of those things. Gimme a break.

Her list is hers. And hers alone. The emotions behind the list are universal; pain, rejection, loneliness, instability, and judgment. There are few people who are not afraid of those feelings.

Michelle writes that “fear will keep [her] from enjoying success.” I agree. By quoting Neal Donald Walsh I believe she admits that fear limits her life. And I couldn’t agree more.

 

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

 

So I acknowledge that fear is limiting my life. How do I move through the fear?

 

My lesson: Explore the emotion behind the fear.

 

What are you afraid of?

  • Opening an Etsy store filled with your beautiful handmade items?
  • Looking for a new job that allows you to feel like you’re making a difference?
  • Ending a long-term relationship that has become toxic?

Get to the root by asking yourself why you’re afraid at least 4 times. Your first couple answers are platitudes (sorry, I’m onto you).

Example:

The Ferris wheel isn’t on my fear list anymore. I felt awesome after I faced the fear. But honestly, I’m still afraid of heights.

Why? It’s really high.

Why? The safety equipment could fail.

Why? I could fall.

Why? I could get seriously injured.

Why? I could die.

What’s the root cause of my fear? Dying. That’s not going to go away completely. Will I go on another Ferris wheel? Probably, especially if one of the kids ask. Will I venture out on the observation deck on the CN Tower? Probably not. Will I do the Edge Walk at the CN Tower? Hell, no.

In my previous role there was an executive that I enjoyed listening to. I appreciated his ideas and the way he conveyed them. I wanted to tell him as much. In fact, I had an idea that built on an idea that he shared in one of his presentations. I was afraid of introducing myself, let alone sharing my idea.

Why? Maybe my idea wasn’t very good.

Why? Maybe he already knew about my idea.

Why? Maybe he doesn’t care to improve on his original idea.

Why? I’d be bothering him because he’s a busy executive.

None of those answers were completely factual. I knew in my gut that my idea was good. I didn’t know if he had already thought of it, but if he had wouldn’t he include it in his presentations? Naturally he would have, because the idea was pretty good (remember?). I didn’t know if he’d care about my idea, because I didn’t really know him. But from what others had told me, and the passion he obviously displayed in his presentations, he should care about my idea. Because remember, I thought it was a good idea.

So why was I afraid? I didn’t want to look or sound like a fool and be remembered as the one with the crazy idea and poor communication skills. But remember, the idea was good.

 

 What did I choose?

The second time I heard his presentation, I did nothing. And boy did I feel bad about that. I knew I didn’t want to feel that way again (and I knew my idea was good, remember?). I wrote a script of how I’d introduce myself and pitch my idea. I practiced it. I knew I’d run into him or see him deliver a similar presentation. I told myself that if my idea was still not captured in his presentation the next time that I’d put my big girl panties on and march up to him afterwards. And that’s what I did (right after I wiped my sweaty palm on my skirt).

 

What happened?

He said that my idea was good and we chatted about it for over 10 minutes while people waited to talk to him.

 

The bottom line

You can choose to be afraid and feel bad about it. You can choose to stay there in the fear. Or you can choose to move forward and feel awesome afterward.

What are you going to choose?

2 Comments

2 comments on “Fear is a teacher”

    • Hi! Thank you. It is a conscious decision that needs to be made. Have you read Susan Jeffers’ book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” I really do recommend it. Her site is great too if you want to learn more.

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