I’ve got a one-way ticket to Mexico City. I leave today.
Am I ready? Nope.
Am I scared of traveling alone in a foreign place? Absolutely.
But I’m not going to let being afraid stop me from taking this journey.
About once a week, someone tells me this:
I wish I could be as fearless as you are.
I want to let you in on a little secret: I am far from fearless.
Quite the opposite, actually. Everything scares me.
As a person with chronic illness and mental health issues, fear is ever-present in my life. Since I watched my younger brother die of cancer, my paranoia of illness and death has become so acute that I often need cannabis to sleep and wake up in a panic from horrible nightmares. I am constantly afraid of getting sick, hurt, humiliated, or triggered.
I am a big, giant, humungous scaredy cat. A kitten, really. A child, learning to navigate this world, afraid of every loud noise or large obstacle.
You probably don’t believe me right now, and that’s ok. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them I’m a fearful, fretting person. And I get why you’d think that, considering I live the life of someone brave.
I stand on stages in front of thousands of people (sometimes half-naked). I travel the world alone (sometimes to not-so-safe locations). I audaciously follow my dreams (sometimes overhauling my whole life to do it).
And through it all, I am scared shitless.
I never overcome the fear. The fear is always there.
In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about fear as an important passenger on the road trip of your life.
Fear keeps you alive.
When you neglect fear, it becomes a petulant child, throwing temper tantrums and putting its hands over your eyes while you try to drive.
But fear also can’t sit shotgun. It doesn’t even get to choose what’s on the radio. It just has to sit in the back seat and occasionally remind you to not to drive into oncoming traffic or go off a cliff-ledge.
How do you overcome fear?
You don’t. Instead, you give fear somewhere to live and something to do.
Give your fear somewhere to live.
A journal is the perfect place for your fear to live.
Fear is primal, so I like to think of it as an animal, especially a puppy. When I first got my dog Albus Weasley Potter (Albee), a trainer told me that it’s really important to take him to a dog park so he can run wild and free. Letting him have that time makes it easier for him to be calm and quiet the rest of the day.
Think of your notebook like a dog park. Let your fear to be its wild and free self while you’re journaling so it can be calm and quiet the rest of the day.
To run your fear out, try free flow journaling on these topics:
- What am I afraid of? What am I worried will happen?
- Where is this fear coming from? What’s happened in the past to validate this fear?
- How am I afraid I’m going to mess this up? How have I messed up before?
- What’s the worst that could happen if I fail? What’s the worst that could happen if I succeed?
Fear of success can be just as overwhelming and paralyzing as fear of failure, so remember to include that in your journaling.
Give your fear something to do.
My dog Albee needs a task to do, something to feel useful, otherwise he’ll destroy the house. Your fear is animalistic, so it too needs a task to keep it from destroying things.
Try giving your fear the job of coming up with what to put in the “can’t” column of a need, want, can’t list. Or let it fill up the “cons” section of a pros and cons list.
Fear loves these kinds of lists. That’s where it shines. Give your fear the task of coming up with all of your boundaries and limitations. Let it list out everything that could be a threat.
Once the list is made, thank your fear and then tell it to rest. I literally say out loud, “Thanks fear! You did a great job! Now you can rest, I’ll take it from here.”
Then, with your fear exhausted, you can sort through what’s a real threat or limitation and what’s only perceived as one through fear.
You know what comes up for me time and time again, whenever I journal about my fear?
The fear of letting fear stop me.
That common phrase “the only thing to fear is fear itself” is bullshit. There are a lot of things out there to be afraid of. But you can’t let that stop you from living your life, from achieving your goals, from making your dreams a reality.
Stop trying to overcome fear and start working with it.
Get to know it. Make it your pet, a companion on this journey of life. Give it a place to run and a task to do, then let it sleep at your feet while you boldly and audaciously live your life to the fullest.
With fear and excitement,
P.S. Want to know more about journaling through your fear? Check out my free week-long course on journaling.