“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”—Dorothy Bernard
Here’s my theory. Fear is the unconscious belief that we are not good enough. It is the subliminal act of rejecting ourselves before anyone else has a chance to weigh in one way or another. Fear says, “You can’t, you won’t, so why even bother?” And I believe that fear is relational: We position ourselves as inferior to something or someone—usually imagined or wildly exaggerated. And compared to this “other” we don’t measure up in our own eyes.
Who, exactly is holding this measuring stick? (We are.) Why do we give our power away like this to our inner meanie? (Habit.) Working with fear is a matter of taking your power back, to stop preempting yourself before you even figure out where your wings are and what their machinery might be. You can break this cycle right now.
Tip #1: Think Like a Dog
When I am working with my own fear, I refer to my dog Henry, who looks like a dwarf Lab, a thick, black bullet of a midsized dog on basset hound–sized legs. Due to his unusual proportions, he faces some unique ambulatory challenges. But Henry wrestles and fetches and begs with just as much passion and delight as the next dog. He doesn’t seem bogged down with the burden of comparison—whether or not his normally proportioned canine sister performs better or worse than he does, for example. Rather, Henry focuses exclusively on what he wants and how to get it.
In my writing life, I try to think like Henry. I dive in because it’s joyful to do so. I stay focused on the end goal without self-consciousness. And I don’t worry about what anyone else is doing or how it might compare to how I’m doing—unless I see a strategy that’s working well at serving up treats or tennis balls—those are worthy of cataloging and imitating.
(Stay tuned for seven more tips on transforming fear to courage in the coming weeks.)