Overcoming Fear
I fear I have made a mistake c. 1907, image by David Henry Souter (1862-1935). Eve Pryor Collection of Comic Postcards, La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria.

One of the 2019 Emerging Writers Festival workshops I enjoyed was Madeleine Dore’s Reaching the Finish Line, but it was mainly about overcoming fear.

Overcoming Fear of What?

I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that procrastination is all about Fear. Fear is like cancer; it’s not just one thing. Big F Fear is a word that covers of range of small f fears.

Madeleine was struggling to set up her own creative routine, so she decided it would be useful to interview other creatives to see how they managed the doubts she was feeling.

And what she found, was that all of the reasons we use not to knuckle down and get to work are one or another variety of fear.

Overcoming Fear of Missing Out

When you’re afraid of missing out, you tend to get involved in everything. Problem is, that you don’t have the time or energy to go deep, let alone all in on anything.

So try working out what you want. What are your vision, mission and virtues?

When you know what you want, you can stop wasting time and energy, and put those savings into pursuing what it is you truly want.

Fear of Better Options

Except sometimes you don’t want to commit to fewer things, because you’re afraid there’s something better out there.

So imagine yourself a year from now, are you any happier?

A little progress towards something will either get you closer to where you want to be or give you the information you need to abandon a path that isn’t working out for you. Either way, this small investment will reduce the confusion and make you happier

of Imperfection

If you were walking down the street, and you overheard someone berating someone else about how stupid, fat and ugly they were, you’d correctly assume they were a bullying arsehole. And no one needs friends or family like that.

And you’d be right.

Yet you talk to yourself like that all the time. You call yourself stupid and tell yourself to tear up your work and start all over again. There are plenty of people out there who are ready and willing to do that for you.

Done is more achievable and useful than never finishing. You have the satisfaction of completing something. Your second something will be quicker and easier and better than the first. And the third than the second. And so on.

of Failure

It is human nature to plan big. Too big in fact. And too far ahead. And then you look at your plan and think you can’t do it, and you’ll fall flat on your face, and everyone will laugh at you.

But there are more than 7.7 billion people on the planet, and there’s probably 7.699999 (recurring) billion of them that don’t know who you are. Or care.

So take one small step – if you stuff it up, a small step is only going to be a small mistake in front of a small audience. Who’s not even looking right now.

of Success

I’m not sure about you, but when I think about success, I think of the big Hollywood stars who seemingly can’t leave their homes or live normal lives. The ones who can’t tell who their friends are and get heaps of letters from strangers begging for money.

That’s not the kind of success I’m looking for.

But what if success was a small thing? Like having enough money to pay the extortionate gas bill when it comes in? I could deal with that.

And like fear, there are many different types of success between paying the gas bill and paparazzi parked outside. So, I can plan and adjust as my success gets bigger, and so can you. Because we’re still talking about 7.7 billion people on the planet. Overnight success rarely happens without a decade’s hard work before it.

of Being Found Out

You are an individual who has lived through a unique set of circumstances. Even if it’s just surviving, you have achieved something unique. Your experiences have given you a valuable perspective and capacity to help others.

Those things you think make you weak, in fact, make you strong. No one can tell a story quite like you.

When I look at the postcard above, my unique experience of life shows me an older man attempting to sexually harass a younger woman and being surprised and revolted by an elderly lady. And that’s a story that will resonate with some people.

My young friend Katy simply sees it as a case of mistaken identity, as will many others. At worst, a missed lunch date, at best, a new friendship. And I hope that her experience of life continues to give her the ability to roll her eyes at my interpretation of this story.

But they are equally valid stories for different audiences – for someone somewhere one version is right and the other wrong. One version created by an idiot, and the other a genius.

No matter what you say or do, you will be correct and incorrect at the same time.

The Beginning

Overcoming fear has a beginning, but no end.

As I discovered at the Festival, fear, confidence and presence are contextual. Comfort within ourselves isn’t necessarily as transportable as we’d like to believe.

But without fear, and the attempt to face it and grow beyond it, your life will get smaller and less significant as your fears get larger and more powerful.

So start at the microscopic end of the spectrum. Tackle one tiny fear after another. Grow your experience and confidence, but be prepared to take a step back now and again as you move ahead.


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