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Is Fear Stealing Your Life?



Don’t Let Fear Keep You From Experience

I remember being 17 and wanting to take up dance again. I remember clearly telling myself it was too late, that I could never compete with those girls who had stayed in ballet since they were 4 years old. And so, after a couple of dance classes, I quit.

Looking back now, over 30 years later, I see how ridiculous this was. And now I want to try to deconstruct this insanity. Where does this fear come from? Who gave it to us?

The other day, a 22-year-old guitarist, who’s in a relatively unknown but excellent band, expressed his desire to play the drums. He said that, although he was quite adept at the guitar (which he is,) his real love was drumming. I asked why, then, didn’t he start playing the drums? He said it’s too late. That no matter how hard he practiced, he could never be as good as…

How many of us have a secret want, buried perhaps since childhood, to learn a skill or a sport or a language, and do nothing about it because we think it is too late or we are too old?

“We compare ourselves to someone we think is ‘good’ at it, and defeat ourselves before we even try.”

Author Bronnie Ware, who interviewed her palliative care patients and cataloged their regrets while why we’re dying, lists the top regret as follows:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Now, let’s say you want to take up the piano. You’ve always wanted to but never had the chance. Yet you hold yourself back or you quit after a few attempts because you think you will never be able to play Chopin. You can’t stand the way it sounds when you play. You feel ashamed.

What audience are you playing to? Who are the imaginary people in your head, laughing at you? How does this make any sense at all?

I honestly believe, that on our death-bed, these are things which we will truly regret. All of the things which we never tried. We’ll regret that we allowed some socialized idea that we had to be good at a thing in order to do it, stop us from doing it.

Somehow, what “others,” think of us has become synonymous with what “we” think of “ourselves.” The jury of our own minds, made up of an imaginary collection of people, is telling us that if we are not already good at something, we shouldn’t do it.

How do I know this? Because I’m learning to deal with it. I’ve always wanted to surf. My whole life, since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to surf. But I never had the chance. So, recently, I’ve taken up surfing.

I suck. I’m terrible. Every time I put my wetsuit on and carry my board to the beach, I look at all of the locals tearing up the waves and I want to run away and hide. It’s a paralyzing fear that makes no sense whatsoever.

Seriously, the local surfers don’t care whether some older female is good at surfing or not, as long as I stay out of their way!

I may sit on that board for an hour and never catch a wave, but no matter how much I suck at surfing, every time I do it, I get a little better than I was before.

Sure, my son pokes fun at me.

“Mom, you have three surfboards, but you can’t surf!”

“Ha!” I tell him. “I can surf!”

Just because I am not Robert “Wingnut” Weaver,  it doesn’t mean I’m not surfing!

Besides, as my brother, who is a really good surfer used to say,

“Surfing isn’t a sport, it’s a philosophy.”

-David Cameron

So I can’t “walk the board” or “hang ten,” yet, I don’t care. I’m doing something I’ve always wanted to do before I die.

So, go ahead. Make the bucket list. Don’t let your fear of the imaginary jury in your head stop you from doing what you want.

We didn’t care when we were kids. We fell down, got up, and tried again. It wasn’t until puberty, when the terror of being judged by our peers infected our motivation, that we started to care what people thought about us.

No one cares. Everyone is too worried about how well they are doing and how they are perceived by others, to worry about you!

My biggest fear is that, when I am dying, I’ll regret not at least trying the things I’ve always wanted to do. And believe me, there are a lot.

I bought a guitar. I suck at that. I don’t care, I still try.

I’m learning Japanese, I REALLY suck at that. I don’t care. I’m not giving up.

We need to get rid of this socialized idea of “perfection.” Turn off the damn TV. That’s fantasy. Stop comparing yourself to your idea of the best of the best of the best and enjoy the process.

Live your life. Nobody cares except you. And that’s the first person whose opinion you should respect.