What are you afraid of?

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

I know what has been holding you back. I know because it has been holding me back, too.

It is a little word that consistently derails you. It is the root of worry and anxiety. It saps your joy. It steals your momentum. It robs you of motivation, sucks your ideas dry, keeps you small.

It is the enemy working against you.

It's fear.

For me, fear is the little "what if" that frightens me back to my corner. For me, fear is a fear of failure.

It keeps me from even starting. That shadow creeps up and I shrink back. If I feel like I don't quite measure up, then I am not going to put myself out there for scrutiny. Why would I want to? Because who am I to just start up a blog? Because what if someone would laugh? What if someone makes fun of me? Truthfully, this was such a part of my life as a kid--I know what it felt like to be made fun of, to be the butt of jokes....and it was just. So. Awful.

And let's be honest, sometimes grown-up women can be pretty harsh, too (yeah, I said it).

As I got older I assumed that at some point I would outgrow that fear. But I hadn't. And it is funny, I never thought of myself as having a fear of failure, but that is really the truth. I didn't recognize it for what it was. When I look back on my younger life, I can see evidence of it in the risks I DIDN'T take. The goals and dreams I didn't voice, in fear that I could not actually accomplish them.

Then the fear itself breeds a bit of shame that I am missing out on something God actually has put in my path. For me, this is all about tending to this creative streak I have nurtured in small ways over the past years, and it is fighting for more space in my life. But I tend to wait and over think things. And also ask lots of opinions, as though I didn't have the authority to make the decision. So I don't keep creating at the pace my heart wants to because I haven't wanted to look foolish.

And there in my heart, the fear wins a little ground.

Earlier this year I took a really huge leap, and as a complete novice, I threw my hat into the arena of local politics. I ran for the school board in my community. It was exciting, and also terrifying. And totally unlike anything I have ever done. And to make a long story short, I didn't make it. And that made it a very public failure. Which was basically my nightmare. Exactly what I had been afraid of.

Want to know what happened?


To be fair, I was disappointed. I felt badly about it. Friends were all, "Oh, that stinks. Better luck next time." Do you know why? Because they are wrapped up in their own lives and not worried about what I am doing at all.

And in that moment, I came upon this very freeing sort of knowledge. No one else is really watching. It was a comfort, in a sense.

I have a sort of imagined audience (please tell me I'm not alone!?) of people who notice all of my comings and goings and successes and shortcomings, but for the most part "they" (meaning the fictitious/universal "they" with whom I tend to compare myself) are running their own kinds of marathons and doing life and are not worried about me.

It was a brilliant discovery, about 30 years late.

Seriously, this would have been useful a long time ago.

Now, when I say Nothing Happened, I suppose I mean I didn't die of embarrassment or the earth did not abandon its orbit. This isn't the first time I failed at something, but I have always gone to great lengths to avoid the feeling (someone give me an Amen). But that which I had been dreading, the real and very public failure, and anticipated criticism and condemnation (because isn't that what I was truly afraid of?) that I had about people seeing me fail...it was not as bad as I had imagined. I had supporters and detractors during the campaign. When you stand up for something, some people will like it and some won't. It's okay.

In this epiphany I discovered that this a worthwhile experience that stretched me, and gave me new perspective. The thing I was afraid of did happen. And it did hurt. But I didn't have Any time we try something new our brain pathways rewrite--we are changed, more prepared, perhaps, for what can come next. We grow. Life keeps on.

If we let fear win out and don't take the risks, we don't leave room for these failures to push us to grow and change. We don't usually learn the poignant lessons without a little bit of pain. That's for another post, but that's just how it works. I discovered that fear is fine, as long as it isn't in the driver seat. Feeling the "feeling" of fear was really uncomfortable, but I made it through, and you will make it though, too.

What is fear holding you back from? Take courage and do it anyway.

xo, Ann Marie

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