Lights Out

Lights Out: Where the Fear Lies

How many times have you let fear stop you? Think about it for a minute. For myself, I can say that I’ve let it stop me dead in my tracks quite a few times. In retrospect, the only reason I had to not reach that next goal was that I was scared. So yes, you could say that fear has quite the hold on me. In my last post, I explored the concept of failure, and found that it isn’t failure itself that’s the problem. Rather, it’s fear.

The first instance that I can remember my own fear controlling and frustrating me to no end was when I was a competitive gymnast. I had always been a bit in my head, but for the most part I pushed through it and learned the new skills required of me to keep moving up to the next level. However, as the levels got higher, the skills got harder, and the more difficult it was to wrap my head around the concept of actually doing them. I remember there being a few skills on the uneven bars and balance beam, in particular, that really tripped me up. Being so in my head about them either stopped me from progressing the way I had hoped, or it caused me a very stressful competition season. But here’s the thing: it was very physically easy for me to do these skills. Capability wasn’t even a question. I was plenty strong enough to do the dismount off bars or the series of elements on beam. I had all the necessary lead up skills and had done drills upon drills. Physically, I was prepared. Mentally, I couldn’t make myself do them. I constantly thought about the worst-case scenario possibilities of injuries or scary falls I could take. I loved gymnastics like nothing else, and wanted nothing more than to be in that gym training. But the mental game held me back. I can honestly say I was never the best gymnast I could have been, and for that reason alone.

That general mindset has trickled down into other areas of my life as I’ve continued. I started to become fearful of writing Caspertown, my novel-in- progress that has been in-progress for way too long. The fear that the story won’t be unique enough, or that the writing won’t flow well enough, or that the project will be a giant failure in the end (note: failure) has kept me from getting the story itself down in full over the years. I have pages upon pages of ideas written up for the frame of the story, but an entire, fleshed-out piece of writing? Not yet. And I’m getting really sick of that. Couple that with a more recent fear of applying for jobs in the professional writing field, and I get extremely frustrated with myself. I want a job in writing so badly, but because of being scared of rejection I often don’t apply at all, and then what can I expect? I can’t get the jobs I don’t apply for, but maybe in my head it’s the fact that I controlled the outcome that makes it okay.

Ah, control. All of these instances (gymnastics, Caspertown, and career growth) require at least some, if not a lot of, risk. Risk indicates an outcome that I can’t control whether I want to or not (and hello, I definitely want to). But in the end, the only way I control my path is by remaining in places that are strictly comfortable, familiar, and inviting. No risk required. No turning the bend. I keep turning around instead. But you know what they say about that; that means the reward will be scarce, as well.

What all of this comes down to is that through fear, I allow myself to immediately reject my own success as even a possibility. Instantly, the outcome through the lens of fear has to be failure or rejection in some capacity. I don’t so much as acknowledge the fact that I could somehow succeed. And even if failure is the outcome, haven’t we already discussed that? It’s a learning experience if nothing else. Fear tends to make me doubt my own skills and abilities, and I’m the one who knows them best. If I have no level of confidence in my success through what I am capable of, then no one else will, either. It’s like dousing my own fire.

At the end of the day, fear is going to exist. Especially for someone like me with a bit of a paranoid personality, fear is going to be a natural part of life. And it exists in us all; it is our imminent response to danger to keep us safe if need be. But, what we all need to assess is whether or not the risk we’re going to take has actual danger involved, or only the possibility of failure. If it’s the former, by all means listen to that fear and make a wise choice for your safety. But if it’s the latter, then the fear itself may be doing more harm than good. Fear can lie just as convincingly as a conman sometimes.

Fear is built on the phrase “what if” and it only continues to grow. By allowing “what if” to enter my mind in my gymnastics days, I gave it license to stop me with Caspertown, and applying for jobs, and so on. Fear carries over and builds on itself, but the reality is, so does regret. Complacency is cozy, but it hardly results in satisfaction.

Whatever that means to you.

And now I turn the question back to you: how many times have you let fear stop you?

Much Love, Quinn

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