Facing up to fear

Facing up to fear

This weekend I did something that absolutely terrified me.

At the Problogger event I stood in front of a roomful of (mostly) strangers and spoke to them for an hour. By myself.

As I watched them file in to the room and take their seats, I realised I had nothing and no-one to hide behind. It was me, my words, my ideas, some slides on a screen and about 300 eyes.

After 6 months of preparing and 284 potential excuses to not do this, I was doing it.

So I took the stage, got my notes prepared and just started.

(Can I preface this by saying that I am a blusher. I get red when I’m nervous. Then I know I’m getting red so I get more nervous. I then get flustered because I know I’m nervous and I’m red.)

I was nervous. I went red. My voice wavered as I began to speak. But I was doing it.

And as I continued doing it, the nerves disappeared just a little. People were interested, they were taking notes and no-one stood up and pointed at me, shrieking, “She has no right to be here!”

Which, of course, they wouldn’t. But that didn’t stop me from fearing it.

When I finished, people clapped. Someone made a joke about drinking vodka. I laughed and thought, “No. Seriously. Where is it?”

I won’t lie. I was utterly overcome with emotion at having done this thing I was so scared of. I was initially terrified, then it started and it finished and I found myself crying weird adrenaline-fuelled tears when it was over and I had retreated to the bathroom.

But after all that, I was proud.

At any one point, the fear could have stopped me. It could have caused me to give one of those 284 excuses and opt out. But I didn’t. Instead, I actually faced up and did the thing I was fearing the most. And I’ve grown as a result.

Recognise, feel and do.

You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”

Yes, it’s cliche. Yes, it over-simplifies. (If you come face to face with a bear while hiking, I’d personally suggest you feel the fear and get the hell out of Dodge.) But it also applies to a lot of those fears that hold us back.

You know those fears? They’re insidious, internal fears that tell us we’re not good enough. They sneer at our dreams. They make us doubt ourselves and our abilities. Those particular fears deserved to be brought out into the light, examined and then cast aside.

Much like any emotion or reaction that tries to hold us back – be it anxiety, cravings or something else – I think we need to recognise our fears, examine them, feel them and continue on our intended path anyway.

You can still:

  • Feel the emotional pull of decluttering sentimental stuff, but don’t let it stop you from simplifying.
  • Feel the desire to stay in bed, but don’t let it stop you from getting up and going for a run.
  • Feel the need to buy clothes to keep up with fashion, but don’t let it stop you from living a more mindful, less materialistic life.
  • Feel the hankering to watch another hour of TV, but don’t let it stop you from getting 7 hours sleep.
  • Feel the cravings for junk food, but don’t let it stop you from eating well.
  • Feel the anxiety of trying something new, but don’t let it stop you from moving forward.

Have you allowed yourself to really feel or do something uncomfortable? How did you react? Did you try to run away? Did you ignore the feelings? Or did you meet them head-on?


20 Responses to Facing up to fear

  1. You ask a number of great questions in this post, Brooke. But I’m not here to answer questions today.

    I’m here to say, “Oh, heck yes, my friend! Way to rock the heck out of your talk and have 150 brains so much better off because of it.”

    Oh, I have a question for you, though. When do I get to watch the recording?

    • Joel, you’re an amazing person to have in my corner. Thank you so much! As for the recording, I’m not sure if they’re going to be available this year or not, it was a different setup to past years. :)

  2. You are so right.

    Many years ago I decided to do (at least) one thing a year that absolutely terrifies me. And it has been one of the best decisions I ever made.

    Some of the things I’ve done scare most people (skydiving); others scare only introverts (spending 3 days and 2 nights with a group of 20 spinners I didn’t know).

    The only problem is I’m running out of things that scare me (well, not including ridiculously dangerous things I don’t want to do anyway).

    Not because I’ve done so many, but because conquering specific fears seems to lead to a huge reduction in fear in general.

    • I LOVE this, Christy. “conquering specific fears seems to lead to a huge reduction in fear in general.” If that’s not motivation enough to continue pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, then I don’t know what is.

  3. Wow, I have to say I really needed this today. There’s something I’d like to do that absolutely terrifies me (out of comfort zone, not meeting a bear :) ), your post has given me the extra prod I need to give it a go.
    And well done to you for rocking your presentation! I’m a blusher too and hate it – when embarrassed I turn red, then get embarrassed about going red and become even redder! So I really feel for you there.

    • Alex, that’s me in a nutshell. The embarrassment-red-embarrassed-red cycle is a vicious one! And cheers to you for deciding to push yourself out of your comfort zone too. x

  4. My evening walk involves going across a very large, empty parking lot. I deliberately close my eyes and challenge myself to walk that part of the journey blind. It scares me to death every darn time even through there is no chance I will ever run into anything! But I do it, dumb as it may seem.

  5. I’m 66 years old from Québec,Canada.i don’t speak in English but I read it.You are an example for me.Thank you.

  6. Thank you Brooke that really spoke to me today. Well done for facing your own fear and thank you for inspiring the rest of us to do the same x

  7. Atta-girl Brooke, proud of you! I too am a ‘blusher’ (and also a shy introverted kind of guy) so I can identify. I once had to speak at my company’s global conference in front of (what seemed like a jillion) people from 16 global locations. I wasn’t thrilled about having to speak (CEO made me do it) but I definitely felt a huge sense of accomplishment after having faced those fears and gotten the whole experience behind me. Congratulations on stepping out and courageously standing toe to toe with fear.

  8. What timing you have. Just two nights ago I had to face my fear of speaking. I’m a writer, not a speaker! I was giving a presentation as a breakout session at a nonprofit training night, and was assigned to give the same 20 minute presentation three times in a row. Fifty attendees could select three of the six presentations to go to, so it was unknown how many would be at each of my sessions. I laugh at how the night went. I had no one at my first one, so I happily attended a co-leader’s presentation across the hall. Then six people showed up for the second one, so it was a cozy discussion around a table. Then I looked up and saw a big group waiting to attend my third session. I was amazed. Sixteen people filed in and I had to use the podium and speak for the next 20 minutes. But I did it. It’s the silence at the start when they stare at you… that’s what gets me every time. But I lived to tell the story. I like your advice of knowing something scares you but doing it anyway. I will incorporate that into my life!!

  9. I love the bit about the adrenaline tears during the “bathroom moment” – I can sooooo relate to that feeling. What I have come to realise is that it is that feeling and the adrenaline tears that give you the courage to get up and face your fears next time. Thanks for your words, they are inspiring.

  10. Oh, I WISH I hadn’t missed your talk Brooke. Because everything you’re saying here is resonating with me. Plus, Pip said it was one of her faves at ProBlogger!! Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway. Isn’t that the key mantra to living a fulfilling life? I’m scared of public speaking too – but I think that I’ll have to just try it one of these days.

    Looking forward to following your blog from here in. And hopefully seeing you speak again!

    Amber at Adventures of a Rainbow Mama x

  11. Truly great advise, one to live by!

    I used to be scared of so many things it was keeping me back to be happy in life. For example, I was afraid of cars as we never had one when growing up. When I finally started to get a bit more comfortable (after turning 25) I signed up for a driving lesson. Before daring to, my Love took me for a test drive. It took me an half hour, sitting at the drivers seat, before turning the key. I cried because of how scared I was, but kept on. Now, three years later I am driving around on my own, just finished my first big roadtrip! I’m so proud that I did I could cry again.