Truth be told, I’m very scared. I’m scared of speaking up. I’m scared of standing out. I’m afraid of putting myself out there and letting myself truly be seen. When opportunities present themselves, too often I have listened to my fear and run the other way. I’m scared of what Lacy will think when I send this over. I’m scared of what you’ll think when you read this. I’m afraid that what I’m trying to say and what I believe to be good and true will not be heard as good and true.
My fear comes from somewhere. There are reasons that I feel this way. It’s because I’ve taken risks before and they haven’t always turned out well.
One of those was about ten year ago…
He invited me into his office and closed the door behind us. Stating the obvious, I told him that I just wanted to check in and see what he thought about the choir pieces I had dropped off a week prior. He said that he had taken a look at them as he stepped over to the piano. My pieces were on the music rack above the keyboard. He said, “I played through them, and there’s nothing here that we can use. I don’t know why your composition instructor is even letting you write like this. Has he seen these?” I said yes, a bit shocked. He continued, “Look at this: I would never let you write like this!” And he played a section and proceeded to tell me how bad it was.
And then measure by measure, piece by piece, he picked apart everything that I had poured so much of myself into.
It felt like he was cutting me open, and twisting the knife deeper and deeper as he went. I stopped writing music for a long time after that.
There are other stories connected to my fear that I could tell you. But my stories aren’t the point here—your stories are.
Your fear comes from somewhere. When you feel afraid, there are reasons for it. Your fear is telling you, “We’ve been here before, and it didn’t work out well.”
The problem is that if you run away, as your fear wants you to, you will be letting those painful moments keep you from some of your greatest moments of growth, risk, and transformation. Your fear is an indicator of those moments, and a signifier of pain that you’ve experienced, but she is not the best judge of what’s best for you right now.
The temptation is to say that you should then ignore, fix, resolve, or silence your fear. But that’s not entirely helpful either. Your fear deserves more respect than that.
I’d like to suggest a different path: gratitude. I’m grateful for my fear. I’m thankful for that part of myself that is trying to protect me from pain. I’m grateful she’s here with me asking me questions as I write:
“Are you sure you want to tell that story? What will people think?”
Gratitude allows me listen to her and wonder when I should follow her desire to protect myself and when not to. Gratitude allows me to engage my fear with intentionality, and say: “That was indeed painful. But things are different now. I’m older. I know more of who I am. Thank you for your warning; I’m continuing on.”
My fear tells me when I’m risking and being vulnerable. My music wasn’t perfect. But it was mine. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was a piece of me that I risked letting loose into the world. My fear tells me when I’m risking. The more I know the stories that inform it, the more freedom I have to be grateful, say thank you, and decide whether or not to continue on.
What are the stories that your fear tells you? How aware are you of the moments that shape your fear?