Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m not talking about THAT f-word. I’m talking about fear, the dreaded f-word that causes inaction. The one word that keeps us standing still, unmoving, and sometimes unwilling to move forward.
When you are a child, your fear is all about the monsters under your bed or in your closet. Your mom or dad comes in, looks under the bed, opens the closet door and exclaims “all clear!” You go to bed with a sense of peace, albeit perhaps with one eye open – just in case.
When my kids were 4 and 5, they had conned me into a trip to the Dollar Store for a treat for some great behavior they wanted me to recognize. As I pulled into the parking lot, my daughter said, “Hey Mom, why don’t you drop us off out front? Then you can park the car and come in.”
In disbelief, I replied, “What if someone tries to take you?” to which she replied, “Then they’ll bring us right back because we’ll drive them crazy too.” Let’s just say I was impressed with her wit at the age of 5, but I remember thinking, where is her fear? When I was her age, I’m pretty sure I clung to my mother like butter on a toasted English muffin.
Fear changes as we age. At least the circumstances of fear changes. How many times in life have we heard the acronym FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. Most of the time, that’s true, but sometimes it’s a total crock of you-know-what. That adrenal-pumping fear you have when faced with a dangerous situation, well, that fear is the real deal. But again, how many of those moments have we encountered?
Most of the time, the reality is false evidence appearing real. And isn’t it really just about creating a roadblock, mental or otherwise, that has a tendency to impede us from moving forward?
I don’t know about you, but there have been moments in my life where the idea of starting a new endeavor, business or otherwise, created a fear that stifled me from putting my plan into action. I’ve realized over the years that I have two speeds. 75 mph which, where I live in NY, is far over the legal speed limit and zero. 40 mph is seriously not my speed. It’s either all in, or nothing. I’m at my personal best when I am full steam ahead, tackling everything that comes in my path. At zero, you can find me on the couch binge-watching something mindless on Netflix. The operative word there being mindless.
What I have learned about myself with the speed comparison is that when I have a fear to face, most often the fear of failure, I move right through it at mach speed. Better to face it and run towards it than to bee-line away from it. The path less taken is always the hardest as you zig-zag through all of the obstacles like a running back trying to get to the end zone. In the end, the touchdown is a sweet victory; knowing you faced your fear and did it anyway.
What if I fail? What if I’m not as good as Suzie Q who has a similar business? Or, what if I don’t have what it takes to go back to school and get my master’s degree or run for the local school board? You can certainly fill in the blanks after the what if’s. Isn’t it really about how we talk to ourselves?
Debbie Doubter can’t live in the same space as Fearless Fanny. One would overtake the other. Remember Felix and Oscar? Oscar was a slob. His shit was everywhere and Felix was an anal neat freak. They made it work, and that was the comedy of it, but I’m talking about the real-life yin and yang.
I had a turning point on one of my high-speed road trips. My Fearless Fanny had to kick Debbie Doubter to the curb. I was sick of her complaining, plus she wore some seriously ugly sweaters. I HAD to change my self-talk. What if I do this and I am everything I thought I could be? Is my fear of failure going to keep me from trying? What greatness can I accomplish by facing my fear and just going for it?
What if we all change the way we talk to ourselves when we are facing this challenge? My point is that fear of failure isn’t the obstacle to our successes. We are. And it really comes down to how we talk to ourselves.
Fear is an f-word, but it doesn’t need to be a bad one.