The Things That Scare You

I'm afraid of everything.Silhouette_woman_body_229243_l

At least that is how it seems some days.  Most days. 

Most people, looking at me, assume that I'm brimming with self confidence.  I travel alone, I speak and present workshops, I talk to strangers wherever I go. And maybe, if self confidence means constantly pushing at barriers, I am overflowing with it.  Because, the fact is, most of the time I'm either terrified or feel like an idiot because I don't know what I'm doing.  The only difference between me and others is that I'm out there doing it.  

Because to not to do it is to let fear win.

Recently, I did something I've always especially feared.  This is going to sound really silly to most people, but I've always been afraid to eat out alone, especially at a nice restaurant.  On Monday, my dinner plans got canceled.  No problem, I thought, I'll have a quiet evening home alone.  Except while I was out doing errands the thought hit me like a brilliant epiphany that I should go eat at the bar at J. Alexander's.  It is a nice big bar, with attentive bartenders and singletons eat dinner there all the time.  I know, because I've been there with a friend.

I argued.  The thought persisted.  I texted one friend, called another.  Perhaps they wanted to join me?  One was unavailable, one was sick.

I argued more.  Wouldn't it be best just to stay home and eat leftovers?

The thought grew louder: do the things that scare you.

And so I did.

I loaded up my armor of  journal and book and screwed up my courage and off I went.  And I had a fabulous time.  Struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me and never even had to pull out my armor.  Drank one glass of wine too many and ate a delicious burger and fries.

The next day, even though I was just the wee-est bit hungover, I felt fabulous.  Why?  Because I had felt a deep thrill of exhilaration while I was at the bar–I was successfully facing one of my deepest fears!–and afterward, an even deeper sense of satisfaction for having done it.

But here's the deal.  Fear is a sneaky demon and it shifts and shakes and siphons off our energy in unexpected ways.  Facing down one fear doesn't mean all the rest of your fears are now dealt with.  Not by a long shot.   You have to keep facing them, one by one, and then when you think you've gotten through the whole entire list some new ones will appear.  And fear can masquerade as boredom, or laziness, or telling yourself it just wasn't meant to be.  What I fear is not the same thing that you fear.  What you fear today may morph into something else tomorrow.

And so, my challenge to you is the same as my challenge to myself: do the things that scare you.  The only way out is through.  The only way to conquer fear is to walk through it, one step at a time.

What does this have to do with writing?  You know exactly why talking about fear relates to writing.  You know exactly.

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11 Comments on "The Things That Scare You"

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janet
Guest
01/22/2010 13:53

that cancelled dinner date was me. 🙁 but i’m so glad that you went out anyway. and can i just say, that i LOVE J. Alexander’s. Oh man, we are so going there next time you’re in town. Armor be damned.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/22/2010 13:59

I’m so sad I missed you this time. But at least we have a definite plan to visit our buddy J. Alexander next time I am here! I know a few folks at the bar now….

RennyBA's Terella
Guest
01/22/2010 17:55

Yea I do – understand you; it’s hard to start – what is there to tell? will it be readable? does anybody want to listen? how long will it take? is this the right time – am I in the right mood, or should I wait until tomorrow?

So I decided to comment anyway – and while I’m at it: Happy Weekend 🙂

Derek
Guest
Derek
01/23/2010 01:15
Hi Charlotte, Yes, I believe the topic of your post has everything to do with writing. There is so much of ourselves in what we write, even a fictional piece is based on our own experiences and this is where I find writing so therapeutic. I really get to examine my fears. When I get writer’s block, I often realize that it is a cleverly disguised fear. Oh the wiliness of the ego! The block often occurs as I scrap potential blog posts for fear I will not sound “Zen” enough! My Zen experience tells me however, that I am… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/23/2010 09:26

Renny, Glad you kept going–you write such great posts, you must be an expert at writing through fear. And Happy Weekend to you, too.

Derek, I’m also glad that you had the courage to post your great comment. I’m always in awe of your Zen writing, like many others.

mmSeason
Guest
01/26/2010 10:27
Just arrived here from mousebert, and i said there that i don’t share your fear of eating alone in public. Then i realised, however many lunches i’ve eaten out on my own, i’d be scared silly of a restaurant for an evening meal by myself. And yes, of course this is more closely related to writing than many things people write about writing ;0) and it reminds me of the Molière quote ‘Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.’ At least, if taking off your clothes… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/26/2010 10:36

Mand, Thanks for visiting. And thanks for the Moliere quote, I love it! I believe that writing and fear go hand in hand for many people.

I’ve met people who were so fearful of putting words on the page that they’ve turned away from their joy of writing. So I think every time we do something that scares us, it only strengthens our ability to write.

Dani H
Guest
Dani H
01/29/2010 18:37

“Bravery is not the absence of fear, but rather being afraid and doing it anyway.” I can never remember where I heard the original quote or who said it. I’m sure I’ve quite mangled it. But the meaning has stuck with me since I was a teenager. Bravo to you for facing your fears and walking through them. Dani ddh77

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/30/2010 08:05

I love that quote! It is definitely one to remember. Thanks, Dani.

judy
Guest
01/30/2010 23:05

What a wonderful post! I keep coming back to this subject of fear in my writing, on and off blog. I love your story. I’ve never eaten alone in a restaurant. I’ll put in my list and hope it goes as well for me. 🙂

Charlotte Dixon
Guest
01/31/2010 15:41

Judy, I do think that fear in our writing is a huge issue, so much so that I probably ought to write a follow-up to this post. And do let me know how your solo eating trip goes!

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