Sometimes when we talk to someone about something fun we’ve done, the other person will say something like “I’ve always wanted to try that.” We hear it all the time when we talk about our archery classes. Scuba divers, skydivers, dancers, actors, artists and writers all hear it over and over. Well, if you’ve always wanted to try it, why haven’t you?
When you ask someone why they haven’t tried whatever it is, they usually give a vague reason that almost always boils down to fear. People don’t want to look awkward or foolish, they fear that they will be humiliated or laughed at; they think they won’t fit in or be accepted. Or they perceive some sort of danger involved. They’re afraid they can’t afford it, or that they will be obligated to sign up for an extended program or be pressured into buying something, or they’re afraid they just won’t like it and will have wasted time and money.
Don’t let fear decide for you.
The entire point of this blog is to celebrate creativity, luxury and adventure without blowing the household budget. We think the world (including your city) is full of opportunities to try new things, whether that’s music, food, art, or a new activity, and that taking advantage of them is part of growing as a person. So if fear is stopping you, let’s talk about fear.
You may have heard somebody in a movie or TV show recite a little passage about fear, usually as they are facing a great danger. This litany is popular among police and military personnel and anyone whose job is dangerous. It’s from Frank Herbert’s science-fiction novel Dune, and it goes like this:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
A long time ago, a friend (an aspiring horror writer) told me about a study he had read, probably in Psychology Today, about the nature of fear. According to what he said, all fear can be distilled down to one of three primal fears. Whatever you’re afraid of, be it heights or public speaking, it comes down to one of these categories:
Pain includes everything from mutilation to heartbreak; nobody wants to hurt. Fear of blood is an association: blood means a wound, which means pain. Fear of dogs is a further abstraction; dogs bite, bites hurt. Fear of heights is fear of the painful consequences of falling.
Helplessness includes confinement, paralysis, drowning, economic disaster; anything that could leave you without any way to help yourself, whether physically, economically, or emotionally. Fear of heights also fits in this category, because once you’re falling, there’s nothing you can do about it. Everything from fear of losing a job to claustrophobia falls under this one.
Isolation includes abandonment, rejection and neglect. People who are afraid of public speaking are afraid that the audience will reject and ostracize them, leaving them all alone. In many ways, this could be the worst category of fear; people fear rejection more than pain. Fear of isolation is a huge factor in many bad relationships; somebody stays with an abusive person because they believe it’s better than being alone.
Here’s the good news:
Now that you know the elements of fear, you know the antidote. When you think about it, the opposite of love is not hate, it’s fear. What’s the opposite of pain? Comfort. The opposite of helplessness? Security. The opposite of isolation? Intimacy. Now, how would you define love? I’d say that comfort, security, and intimacy are a pretty good place to start.
This means that the way to conquer fear is through love. If a person you love wants you to try something, let your love for the person be stronger than your fear of the thing. If you love a place, an activity, or an art, let your love for that be greater than your fear of embarrassment. At the very least, surround yourself with people you love, who will support and encourage your attempts at whatever it is you want to try.
On the other hand, if there is a person in your life who will undermine your efforts, belittle your attempts and insult your abilities, you may have to politely-but-firmly suggest that they keep their opinions to themselves; or you may have to refrain from sharing with them about what you’re exploring; or you may have to reduce their presence in your life. Certainly keep them out of your circle of supporters. Trying new things is daunting enough without having someone around who is trying to sabotage your confidence.
Write these quotes on Post-It notes and hang them on your mirror, computer monitor, refrigerator or wherever you’ll see them:
“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
“Go at it boldly, and you’ll find unexpected forces closing round you and coming to your aid.” – Basil King
“Do or do not; there is no try.” – Yoda
“It’s supposed to be hard! If it were easy, everyone would do it! Hard is what makes it great!” – Jimmy Dugan
Here’s a little song to encourage you. It’s by the marvelous Scottish trad singer Andy M. Stewart, formerly of the band Silly Wizard, and it’s called “Ramblin’ Rover.
Oh, there’re sober men and plenty,
And drunkards barely twenty,
There are men of over ninety
That have never yet kissed a girl.
But give me a ramblin’ rover,
Frae Orkney down to Dover.*
We will roam the country over
And together we’ll face the world.
I’ve roamed through all the nations,
Ta’en delight in all creation,
And enjoyed a wee sensation
Where the company did prove kind.
And when partin’ was no pleasure,
I’ve drunk another measure
To the good friends that we treasure
For they always are in my mind.
There’s many that feign enjoyment
From merciless employment,
Their ambition was this deployment
From the minute they left their school.
And they save and scrape and ponder
While the rest go out and squander,
See the world and rove and wander
And are happier as a rule.
If you’re bent with arthuritis,
Your bowels have got Colitis,
You’ve gallopin’ bollockitis
And you’re thinkin’ it’s time you died,
If you’ve been a man of action,
Though you’re lying there in traction,
You may gain some satisfaction
Thinkin’, “Jesus, at least I tried.”
Now that nothing’s stopping you, what are you waiting for?
* “Frae” is a Scottish colloquialism meaning “from”; Orkney is an archipelago in Northern Scotland and Dover is a city on the southeast edge of England; from one to the other is about as far as it’s possible to travel within the British Isles.