You stand facing a forest of impassive faces, clutching tightly the edges of the podium to keep it from flying from you. Your palms are sweaty, your throat is tight, the poundings of your heart are throbbing in your ears. A voice in your head suggests that you should just run off stage and not bother making a fool of yourself, and it makes a compelling case. And you’re somehow expected to make loud sounds that make sense when you are having a hard time even breathing.
This is a common fear. Scientists claim that more people are afraid of public speaking than are afraid of dying. Go figure.
Or often we’ll be afraid of the sketchy stranger, or the attractive stranger, or the boss, or failure, or success, or change, or spiders, or bhaoos in horror movies, or growth. We’ll peg these fears down as parts of who we are, make mental notes to stay away from those situations, and move on with our lives.
Fundamentally, aside from the obvious existential fear of premature demise, human beings fear sudden loud noises. That’s about it. All others have been crafted in our individual noggins, which is why the set of phobias which people possess vary so much. Fears are created by the reptilian part of our brain, the lazy horny part that wants desperately to live. This is that annoying little voice in your head telling you not to overexert on that treadmill, not to make a public joke of yourself, not to do that new thing which will require you to grow and change, not to disrupt the comfortable, safe status quo, not to ever try a project beyond your means, and to look with disdain at people who do. That voice wants nothing more than for you to lounge around and stuff your face and watch TV. That asshole is responsible for most of your fears, self-doubt, and self sabotage.
How do you keep your fears from overcoming your life? You literally have to embody the cliche and ‘face your fears’.
But this doesn’t mean what people think it means. There is no grand battle, no dragon to slay, no victorious war cry once you smite your enemy and place your foot upon his twitching chest, looking forward to a future without that voice in your head.
That isn’t how it works. The hard truth is that Bitchvoice will stick with you till the end. Questioning, niggling, doubting. You just have to get used to him. Henry Fonda was throwing up before each stage performance even at age 75, yet he went out there anyway. Walt Disney was afraid of mice, yet giant ones roam his theme parks and feature in his cartoons. Steven King fears the macabre, the gory, the demons in the darkness, yet he built a career confronting those fears. The most successful people in the world aren’t fearless. They just know to go on in spite of their fears.
At it’s basics, this is what one needs to know about phattuness:
Fear Never Goes Away. Accept and embrace your fears, and move on in spite of them. Study and understand them and then ignore them. All of us have fears and anxieties, some have just done a better job of overcoming their effects. We can all do this, but we first have to understand what those effects are. Calmly, impartially, objectively observe the rapid heart beating, sweaty palmness, nebulous sense of dread, whatever other symptoms present themselves. Observe them, understand that you are separate from them, realize that they are hardly life threatening, and keep on moving.
Do the work anyway. The only way to overcome your fear is to keep on moving. Keep going to the gym even if Bitchvoice says not to, keep speaking in public, keep talking to strangers, keep shooting for your dreams, keep confronting crooked policemen, keep on and on, in spite of the physical symptoms you are facing. The war never ends. You must keep showing up, day after day, ready to battle.
Accept that you suck. May as well. That’s what Bitchvoice wants you to believe and he won’t let up. No matter how much you have and how much you do, he will always find a way to prove your suckiness to you. It’s his greatest trick; you suck, so just stop doing that thing you’re doing. You’ll hear this not only from yourself but from others too, even loved ones and family. It’s just their reptile bitchvoices talking. We all have one. Accept what it says, but don’t believe it. And then show up and do the work anyway.
If you are thinking it, you aren’t doing it. We can sit around and think up a thousand different scenarios, but all that means is we aren’t taking action. We can sit around and dream up a thousand different fears as well, but that means the same thing. If you’re sitting around afraid, you’re not working. If you’re working, you don’t have time to be afraid. So get off your ass and get to work.
Keep yourself in the battle. Bitchvoice will never let up because he is a part of your being. There will be times in your battle where you’ll feel like giving in, letting up, not fighting. Do whatever it takes to keep this from happening. Inspire yourself externally by reading autobiographies of people who pulled through, quotes, anecdotes, stories. Surround yourself with brave, positive people. Cut out the people who hold you down. Keep rising, keep trying, keep fighting.
The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity,
which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.” – Steven Pressfield
There was a time where I used to look at seemingly fearless people with awe. But there is no such thing as true fearlessness. The trick is that you have to have the balls to keep on going regardless. I have a long way to go still. I’m running into Bitchvoice over and over again in different forms, in unexpected places. But I’ve learned to identify him and drag him along with me, kicking and screaming and bitching, and it’s made a world of good to my life.
Because the truth is that fear is a good thing. It lets you know where your character is lacking. It lets you know the direction you have to move in next. That direction is often towards and in to the thing you fear, but that is the direction in which growth lies. You just have to sack up, take a deep breath, and push through. Always do what you are afraid to do, says R.W. Emerson. Whenever I feel the symptoms – the pounding heart and pit of the stomach hollowness and overwhelming urge to turn back, I know now that it’s nothing more than a new battle that awaits me.
Bitchvoice and I tangle practically every day. A simple example is pressing ‘publish’ on each new blog post here. Bitchvoice gives me a thousand reasons not to do this foolish thing, based on my utter inadequacy and the ridicule my thoughts will face by whoever happens to read this. My counterattack is a counteroffensive; I don’t press publish until I’m sure I’ve honestly, completely, wholly expressed myself and held nothing back. By doing the exact thing Bitchvoice tells me to fear, I’m able to overcome the fear. At least for today.
Tomorrow we’ll battle again.