In the spirit of full disclosure, as I write this, I’m supposed to be at the gym.
Ever had that dream where you’re scared by something and you try to scream but can’t? If anything, it’s a very literal manifestation of the paralytic nature of fear. It stops you dead in your tracks. You were about to go somewhere or do something, and fear stopped you. Well, let’s be fair: you stopped you. And I’m not excluding myself from this scenario.
In my circle, I’m definitely the reliable friend. I come through on things like organizing a potluck, remembering to bring that thing someone wants to borrow, or forwarding a buddy’s CV to the right HR department. However, when it comes to my own projects, I lose some of that dependability.
For years, I’ve been working on different scripts. It sometimes takes months for me to wrap up a photo project. And I’m still fine-tuning that Beethoven sonata; any day now.
And why? The first excuse is always the day job. But you know, that’s not completely unfair. It takes time and commitment to do the day job well. While I do have artistic aspirations, I also have a gi-normous student loan to repay, and even if I sold every painting I’d ever made at an equitable price, I’d still have about $10K to figure out. So it’s in my better interest to invest in the day job.
The second reason is fear. What am I afraid of? All sorts of things. To name a few: failing to please anyone with my work; succeeding, but not being able to repeat the stroke of brilliance (apparently Yann Martel felt the same way before publishing Life of Pi); not making enough money (see above comment on student loan); etc.
This also applies to relationships (fears include getting good and close and getting hurt anyway; missing out on other “opportunities” with other people; realizing that real love won’t fulfill your romantic ideals), weight loss (fears include going to the gym; never eating some of your favourite foods again; failing to lose weight), and career (fears include not wanting to make the hard decisions one has to make when they reach top-level jobs; schmoozing; always being “on”; never being able to relax; getting fired for doing poorly; getting fired because you’re scaring your competition).
This doesn’t always work, but when I can see that I’m experiencing fear-related paralysis, I do the following:
- Promise myself an incentive if I plow through my own irrationality (e.g. shoes, chocolate, lots of magazines)
- Challenge myself to commit, since I can’t resist a challenge (it’s true; I sometimes respond well to a certain level of martial harshness)
- Remind myself that fear is stoopid
- Admit to someone else that I’m being stoopid because I’m afraid (sometimes it helps to verbalize it; it’s the best way I know to rationalize anything)
- Accept the possibility of failure, the biggest monster of all, by giving it a maybe-makeover (e.g. maybe people will like it; maybe it’ll work; maybe I’m not that bad)
Right now, I’ve made a commitment to develop webisodes with a friend, and to work on an art exhibit with another friend. I fully intend to come through on both, but I’m scared witless. Still, knowing that I’m involved in a partnership in both cases makes me not want to let anyone down, which could be a good exercise. To be honest, both partners are kind of partnering with me for similar reasons.
Maybe this time…