My “secret” weapon for fighting fear

Fears. We all have them. As writers, we can experience the fear of failure, the unknown, rejection, and criticism all in a few minutes or maybe even seconds. It’s okay to be afraid, but not okay if we let our fears stop us in our tracks.

I had a big fear not long ago that I’m almost afraid of talking about (isn’t that ironic?). I fired a client and he threatened to sue me for damages—not small claims court, but the big stuff. He said he would make my life difficult by damaging my reputation if I didn’t pay him back his deposit (I had spent 20+ hours on his project and had finished the edits AND had even redone the work) and I told him no. No. I held my ground, but I still felt scared about what could happen. And nothing did happen.

We left for our Colorado vacation and I felt miserable and full of fear. On the plane to Colorado I started reading Napoleon Hill’s Outwitting the Devil which was written in 1938, but only published in 2011 because Hill’s wife was afraid of what might happen to her husband’s reputation if he published it seventy-three years ago. The book is an extended dialogue between Napoleon Hill and the Devil. The Devil explains that most people drift and don’t boldly take action in their lives because that’s hard. People drift because they are scared of what society or what people might think of them. Sadly, I think of my mother who told me a few years ago that she didn’t want children, but had me and my brother because it was socially dictated—I know I’m glad I was born, but what if she had decided to be single or get married and not have kids? That would have rocked the boat back in the 70s and would have been very scary. The Devil is FEAR and is that voice in your head when you’d rather curl up and die rather than take action or say yes to someone rather than be good to yourself and tell them no.

In Colorado, my husband and I hiked up the 12,720 feet to Hallett Peak, near Estes Park in the Northern Rockies. The day was gorgeous and very cold as we ascended. Also, I felt so sleepy and lethargic thanks to the thinner air. I was mad at myself for not being in better shape and I was mad at myself for not bringing gloves. Damn, it was a bitter wind! I got my hands and neck sunburned (I was also mad at myself for not putting enough sunscreen on). My husband didn’t think I was going to make it, but the hiking poles helped as I cursed and cried my way up the rocks. I got angry and didn’t want to let fear win. It didn’t. At the summit we were rewarded by the cutest creatures—marmots and pikas (mountain mice), who jumped all around us, probably hoping we’d drop a crumb or two. The hike back down was actually fun.Summer Trip 2015 Rockies 037

But my fears kept coming. I was afraid of checking email due to the bad client situation and I was also afraid of what my guitar repair bill was going to be. When we arrived back in Raleigh, I had agreed to take our son to Boy Scout camp two and a half hours away at Camp Raven Knob in Mt. Airy because we had missed the Scout van the day before. The way there was great—no rain, but on the way back I drove through a horrible lightning storm, rain bombs, water coursing over the road and trees down on the shoulder. I plodded my way to the Best Western in Greensboro by the airport and sat out the worst of the storm, which I found out had taken out a lot of electricity. I wanted to quit, but I didn’t. I drove the rest of the way home with my flashers on in the right lane, getting passed by everyone and a herd of turtles. You know it’s bad when you need lightning to help you see the white lines. After I got home at 11:15, I didn’t go to sleep till 3 a.m.

I’m no expert at fighting fear, but this is what I learned from my recent fear experiences:

Five Ways to Fight Fear

  1. Stay in the present. Breathe. As I was driving home in the storm, I listened to country music, stayed hydrated and concentrated on moving forward. Fear is story we tell ourselves. Make up a new story!
  2. Get angry. Now I know that anger leads to the Dark Side, but a little anger is okay. If someone is trying to step over you, get angry and get assertive. I wasn’t going to let that client get the best of me and I also wasn’t going to let thin air, wind and tired legs stop my chance at seeing the summit and marmots. And when Luke Skywalker got angry while he was fighting Darth Vader, it led him to stop fighting and proudly tell the very scary Emperor, “I am a Jedi, like my father!” Okay, I digress.
  3. Volunteer. When you’re feeling down and afraid, give back to someone. Help a child, serve food at church, help someone with directions.
  4. Call a friend. Tell your friend or significant other about your fears. This helps and gives you perspective. I told a friend and realized a lot of my confidence crisis was really pre-menstrual when she mentioned it could be hormones. Good to know, right?
  5. Write your fears down. Fears that get light thrown on them stop being so scary. By writing this post, I’m tackling a lot of my own fears by talking to you! Thanks, readers!

Our fears never go away, but the more we practice our courage muscles, the easier the fight will be. Life isn’t meant to be lived scared—so let’s do something about it!