Let’s talk about fear for a moment, shall we? Fear and I are very well acquainted. VERY well acquainted.

I credit fear with some of my most epic decisions – leaving field hockey in high school, not auditioning for the community theater roles, not learning how to sing or dance, not studying abroad, my decisions to cut back on blogging, not pitching myself as a professional speaker at a local conference and on and on.

Regrets? I have a few.

I’ve been reading a book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert these past few days and there is a chapter on fear that gave me pause. You see, so many of the fears she listed I also have let limit me. Reading them knowing that another human being shares the same ridiculous thoughts gave me tremendous comfort. Suddenly I wasn’t alone. There were all of my private thoughts printed in front of me in all of their embarrassing glory. And because of that I was able to recognize them for exactly what they were – RIDICULOUS.

Below are a few fears from the book that you may identify with. I’m sure you could even add a few of your own to the list. (Feel free to do so in the comments. There’s comfort in community.)

  • Afraid you don’t have any talent
  • Afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood
  • Afraid somebody else did it better
  • Afraid everybody else did it better
  • Afraid your best work is behind you
  • Afraid you never had any best work to begin with
  • Afraid of being exposed as a hack, or a fool, or a dilettante, or a narcissist
  • Afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud
  • Afraid you’re to old (or young) to start
  • Afraid your dreams are embarrassing
  • Afraid your wok is politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life
  • Afraid you won’t be taken seriously
  • And on and on and on….

Without bravery, you will never know the world as richly as it longs to be known. Without bravery, your lives will remain far smaller than you probably want them to be. – Elizabeth Gilbert

Perhaps it is because I am older and have more perspective, I see clearly now how much I’ve let my frenemy fear control my life. I was too scared to take those risks. What a shame.

The good news is that once you recognize the limits you’ve set on your life, you’re less likely to indulge in the behavior again. Amirite?

Next time you find yourself shying away from the hard choices, think back on the list above and take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. THEN GO DO THE THING.