On Fear and Action

Thanks for all of your supportive comments on my last two posts. One of the trends through the comments was the suggestion that I was being “brave” by putting it all out there. While I appreciate the recognition, I don’t feel like I am a particularly brave person. Generally, I just go about my business (loudly, to the dismay of some) and try and learn while I’m doing it.

(Coincidentally the motto of the college that I dropped out of was “Learn By Doing,” so hey — those two years weren’t a total waste. :))

Anyway, the point is I’m not patting myself of the back for how brave I am on a daily basis. But it did remind me of this great quote I came across c/o Cassie Boorn on Monday that made me realize that this is exactly how I operate:

“I am afraid too. I am frightened all the time, but I do not let the fears determine my behavior. How I act and whether or not I am afraid are two separate things in my process. I think questions such as, is this doable, reasonable, and morally sound? What are the consequences going to be when I do this? I know I will make some people mad but can I actually achieve something positive? If I think I can be effective, I allow myself to feel afraid.

The problem is when people act because they are afraid. These two things need to be separated. It is okay to feel uncomfortable. If you are going to create anything worthy, you are going to feel uncomfortable and other people are going to make you feel uncomfortable, and that has to be accepted as part of life. If you want to feel safe all the time, you will never be able to do anything.”

-Sarah Schulman interviewed by Carlos Motto for We Who Feel Differently.

I find, that for me, one of the only things that actually help alleviate my fears is taking self-directed action. Yes, it’s sometimes hard to get started on something when you are scared, but often times getting started actually makes the fear go away. When you take no self-directed action you are just standing there, stroking fear’s ego.

So I sat down and thought: what do I do about that fear when I am trying to separate it from action? And as Schulman suggests above, I think asking questions helps. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable I find these questions tend to clarify where my energy is being tied up:

Has someone before me done this?
Will someone after me do this?
What is the worst thing that could happen?
If the worst case scenario happened, what would I do?

And usually by then I have talked myself out of using my fear as a crutch to avoid action.  Of course it’s always nice to hear the encouraging words of others, but I think that should be the icing on the cake, not the filling.


So let me ask you…is fear holding you back from anything fabulous?

Is there anything you can do about it today?

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4 Responses to On Fear and Action

  1. Cassie Boorn says:

    I too, struggle with fear a lot and ask myself a similar set of questions. I never let myself ask “whats the worse that could happen” because my imagination can go to dark places.

    Such a great post.

  2. Well put! I was incredibly introspective growing up and through college, but I’ve found that since I started working I stopped concentrating on myself or thinking about my wants, needs, desires. There’s no fear if you’re not paying attention! Part of my motivation for starting my blog was to give myself a platform to persue my passions and to get my writing out there in the hopes that eventually I’d realize my major life goal of publishing my writing. 🙂

  3. Amy says:

    What an amazing quote.