I love you, I really do. I know there are a lot of folks out there who want to overcome you, squash you, get past you, and rid you completely from their psyche, but I'm not one of them.
Fear you, my friend, have kept me safe more times than I can count. You've kept me from touching hot stoves, driving too fast, and from getting in cars with people I should not be getting in cars with. You've kept me from getting close to cliff's edges, walking down dark alleys, and you probably partly fueled the beginnings of my career. Who isn't afraid of having a life full of dysfunctional relationships? Truly, you have served me well in so many ways.
Here's the thing though...I've noticed that when it comes to following dreams, or taking exciting next best steps, and stepping fully into who I am and what I want, I can hear you screaming loudly, using all your might to protect me from failure.
I think there was a time when my tender heart needed that...like when a baby first learns to walk and needs that big hand to steady herself.
I think there was a time when I needed to grow my supports, inside and out, to have the mindsets and resources to handle big growth and the change, criticism, praise, cheering, and booing that occur when all people do big things.
Remember the times when it felt like you took over every cell in my body as I decided to leave unhealthy relationships...and I created boundaries anyway?
Remember that time you were screaming so loud right before I was to walk down the aisle ...and I married him anyway?
Remember that time I was hired to teach at the University and you showed up immediately after I accepted the position with your stack of evidence for all of the reasons I shouldn't do it...and I did it anyway.
Fear, I'm not ignoring you. I've just noticed that sometimes when you're here it doesn't mean I'm in danger, it means I'm on the exact right track...because doing whatever is before me MEANS something to me.
But Fear, I've learned that failing at something that is important to me doesn't mean I'm a failure. It means I took the risk involved in loving and creating, which is always: I might get nothing in return. I am not owed anything, and what I get in return for doing and being what I love is nothing I have control over and is none of my business.
What some people call failure, other people call growth opportunities. I'm not sure I've been clear with you that I'm one of those other people now, and I'm sorry about that.
The pieces I do have control over are how I spend my time and how I feel: either doing and being things that I love or not.
No amount of praise, likes, dollars in my bank account, boos, hisses, people not liking me, or criticism can change my worth. I believe, deep down, that my worth is based on something much bigger than that. So, it's not that I don't value your input anymore, but I have the supports in place to operate on a whole new system.
Fear, I think maybe you've noticed that you don't have access to all the controls in this new system and that perhaps (I hope this doesn't sound accusatory) you've been showing up in disguise as Indecision.
While I understand that you love me, want to protect me, and want your voice to be heard I want to be clear that your input will no longer be considered in matters of perceived failure or depreciation of worth as a person.
I also want to be clear that your input in other matters like physical safety (dark alleys and approaching saber-toothed tigers, for instance) is so valuable to me and that I could not live with out it...literally. THIS, Fear, is your genius work.
We are in this together and I don't want to do this without you. I hope you understand your new role.
P.S. This letter was inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear which, I just saw on the interwebs, comes out in paperback today! If you're a creative person in ANY capacity this book is SO fascinating, inspiring, and helpful. Also, I just can't get enough of Liz's (this is what I'll call her when we're BFFs and eat tacos together) podcast Magic Lessons. Try it out :) Write your very own letter to fear.
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ARTICLES by Mika Ross