In my last few days in Baltimore before my highly anticipated cross-country move to Los Angeles, I felt only one thing: sheer terror. What if I don’t get a job? What if I can’t make connections? What if I don’t find friends? What if I run out of money and have to come home in six months?!
This fear caused me to retract a bit, despite many months of confidence in my decision to relocate to the West Coast. What was this “fear,” and why did it decide to take hold of me now, three days before my departure?
I still don’t know the reason. I guess people might say “it’s natural,” and I’ll probably never quite understand why emotions show face when they do.
But I decided that knowing the answer to everything is not important. Acknowledging and embracing that fear was my path to self-growth and expansion.
The other day in my acting class, my teacher called us up to the front of the room one by one to have us dispel our deepest fears and anxieties to the rest of the group. Many responses were along the lines of “failure” or “making a fool out of myself.”
But he proposed a question that really got me thinking. He then asked, “and what does that look like?” Most of us get sick to our stomachs when we think about rejection and failure, but I challenge you to ask yourself, why?
What does it look like to make a fool of yourself? And why do you run away from that? I have learned (and am still learning) a critical lesson in fear and anxiety: They are essential to growth.
I use the term “growth” in a spiritual sense, although one can also use this lesson for muscle growth. Fear is something we must look in the face. We mustn’t turn away from this uncomfortable feeling.
We must not simply dismiss the feeling we might fail, we might mess up and we might look dumb. Embrace that fear; look it in the eye and say “screw it.”
There is a door from which you will emerge as a stronger, more confident person if you look at that fear and conquer it. Discomfort is such a misleading feeling. We want it to go away, but if you pay attention to it, you realize that it actually makes you feel very alive.
Your greatest achievements will come because you felt that fear and pushed through it regardless. It does not control you, and you are not a slave to it.
We are conditioned to think that anxiety or a rapid heart rate is a negative thing, and we should steer clear of any activities that cause this, but I challenge you to question that conditioning because you are capable of feeling and experiencing so much more.
Every morning, I wake up and feel scared. I know that feeling, and it is very close to my heart, but that is where I keep it, and that is where I want it.
If I am familiar with it, then I can learn it and control it. I understand now that the fast heart rate, the dry mouth and the butterflies are tremendously strong for a reason.
They are there because whatever you are thinking about or doing makes you feel most alive. This should not be ignored; this is your calling! So, the answer to “what are you so afraid of?” should be “every damn thing” because there is no better indication that you're alive.
Photo Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/The Sandlot