Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do”
What a powerful, motivating statement this is! Doesn’t it just make you want to grab the bull by the horns and DO THAT THING?
If you are thinking “Oh hell yes”, but a little voice has popped into your head with thoughts of “Well yes, that’s a lovely idea but you haven’t considered all these things that could go wrong…….” then say hello to your fear gremlin (with love and thanks to Brene Brown for giving me this phrase)
My fear gremlin looks less like the pointy haired critters in the film, and more like this girl.
14 year old me was very anxious about anything that brought attention to her, and tried to hide the light that she shone into the world.
Your gremlin might look a lot like your younger self as well. Mine is also my inner critic, and chief saboteur. She’s a lovely kid, but she’s a pain in the backside to live with! I’m learning how not to let her control my life too much (but you know what teenagers can be like!)
In those moments that the fear gremlin starts to pipe up, you have a choice.
You can listen to the fears and act accordingly. This will mean not stepping out of the comfort zone, not risking mistakes, embarrassment, rejection, failure, disappointment, criticism and all the other things we fear when stepping into the unknown. It will keep you safe.
This is a vital survival mechanism that ensured the survival of our species for many thousands of years. Primitive man relied heavily on social bonds for actual survival, rejection from the tribe meant death. Babies need human connection to survive and thrive.
But you and I are neither Neanderthals nor babies. Most risks we take are unlikely to result in death. Yes, there are risks, yes, it is scary, but what are the potential gains? What are you risking by staying in your comfort zone?
You might hate your job and desperately want to be able to put all your energy into becoming a writer.
Maybe you want to be able to pick up the phone and repair a damaged relationship
Perhaps you feel a burning desire to stand up in front of a room full of people and sing your favourite song.
You might feel that you need to end a relationship that is draining you.
Maybe you know you have to share your story to inspire others.
You might want to share your art with other people. Maybe you want to allow yourself to create some art!
Maybe you just want to be able to say no to your children sometimes. Or to say yes more.
All of these things can really trigger the fear gremlins.
Fear brings out the inner critic to help in the battle to keep you safe, between them they are a formidable team.
They will make compelling arguments.
You *need* the security of the job, no one wants to read what you write, you can barely string a sentence together, you can’t sing, how will you survive without that person, who do you think you are, people will think you are a terrible person, stay safe, stay here, stay quiet, people will laugh at you, what WILL your mother say?
And on it goes. These are powerful thoughts that can leave you feeling helpless and stuck.
But they are just thoughts. Thoughts that are created in your mind. The same mind that can create the thought that you CAN do it!
Unless there is a legal or moral reason to not do it, or it will actually hurt you or someone else, (sometimes fear does serve a very valuable purpose, and should be listened to!) why hold back? What *could* you gain if you do it and it goes well? How much could your life improve if you ask for that raise, write that email, start that business, tell that person how you feel?
Do you know the best way to beat the fear gremlins and the thoughts they create in your head?
DO THE THING THEY ARE TRYING TO STOP YOU DOING.
Yes, you might fail. Yes, it might make you squirm. Yes, people might laugh and criticise. Yes, you might get rejected. Yes, it might go spectacularly wrong.
But it might go right. You might get the answer you want. People might love it. You might be stepping into the greatest adventure of your life!
And whatever the result, you WILL grow as a result of facing that fear, and doing the thing you dread. So don’t worry about what will happen. If you know in your heart that you need to do it, then do it. It is better to know than drive yourself mad wondering and regretting!
There are excellent books out there that will inspire you if you want to be inspired to quash those gremlins and step up to be your best self.
The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins are some very helpful contemporary books on the subject of pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone and beating your resistance. If you would like a more classical approach, The Bhagavad Gita is a masterclass in rising above fear and self doubt to be who you were born to be, and will teach you a great many other powerful lessons along the way.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
What can you do today to kick your fear gremlins into touch and step forwards towards the life you know you should be living? Share in the comments, and please share this post to help others beat their gremlins too.
Disclaimer. A lot of the blog posts I am writing at the moment are classic ‘healer, heal thyself’ moments. I am not writing from the perspective of one who lives a truly fearless life, far from it! I am still very much on my own journey with this fear busting stuff. Addiction is a lot to do with hiding from the things that scare you, and there is still a lot of stuff I need to work on. I am trying to follow Owen’s example, and do at least one thing every day that scares me. My heart is racing and my palms are sweaty a lot of the time, but it is a great experience! My dog has given me a great lesson in the powerful and harmful effects of fear, which you can read about here