Understanding the many faces of fear…

Understanding the many faces of fear on Geoffrey & Grace

We have all heard the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway”, but what happens when your fear pretends to be something else? Unhelpfully fear can take many different guises, so how do we recognise that stealth fear that lurks within and pretends not to be fear at all? Then once we have established it is fear, how do we begin to move past it?

I am used to that strong lurch of a sensation I get in my tummy when I think about doing something I am afraid of. Public speaking does that to me, organising an event makes me ‘feel the fear’. As scary as that fear is though, at least it is a tangible feeling. I know that fear, and I know it well. When it rises up, it’s recognisable to me and its familiarity makes it easier to handle.

Sometimes a certain situation calls for us to do something we are afraid of, and sometimes we set ourselves a scary challenge in order to grow and develop. As we get older we figure out ways to cope with this obvious feeling of anxiety, and simply acknowledging it, and labelling it ‘fear’ is the first step. We also become aware of our own triggers, things we know that will set off that ascending panic.

Of course it’s natural to feel fear, it’s an emotional response that exists to keep us alive. Long gone are our hunter gatherer days that made it necessary to have that ‘fight or flight’ response to run from wild animals, so we need to work out how to manage our fear in a 21st century world.

A couple of things I have done over the last year that have pushed me out of my comfort zone, were organising the Instameet for Earth Day, and presenting at the Mollie Makes Handmade Awards. Particularly with the presentation I was prepared to feel incredibly nervous, but also kept in mind that other folk speak in public with relative ease. On the day I just had to ride my nerves and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’.

Confronting a fear like that actually brings a great sense of satisfaction, and helps you begin to move past the thing you were afraid of. I am not magically cured, and am still scared of public speaking, but equally I would talk in public again, and next time would feel far more comfortable doing so.

Recently though, I have got to know how multifaceted fear can be. What is much harder to cope with, is that stealth fear, because the first challenge is identifying that it is fear at all. If you can’t point at it, and call it out to be fear, then what are you even dealing with. I am sure there are have been many times in my life where anxiety has stopped me doing something, and I wasn’t even aware of it. Since about early March I have realised I am holding myself back from several things, and after months of pondering, I have finally figured out it is down to fear.

I don’t know what is different this time round that helped me recognise the face off fear hiding in the shadows, and to be completely honest I am not quite sure where to go from here.

My fear has taken the guise of; imposter syndrome, a whole barrage of negative thoughts, procrastination – doing anything else on my list as opposed to the thing I know deep in my heart I should be focusing on – and anything else my mind wants to throw at me to make me think I will fail, and shouldn’t even try.

It’s pretty common to have anxiety over failure, so I have tried to break it down and think what ‘failing’ looks like to me… but I’m not even sure that is what I am scared of. I know there will be disappointments and knock backs and I’m okay with that, because there will also be achievements, and surprises.

There is of course the fear of success as much as the fear of failure. I think it’s hard for some people to comprehend why anyone would be afraid of success. I guess it’s all probably wrapped up in a big messy bundle with self worth for me, and actually believing I deserve success.

Like anything in life having an understanding of where you are is a great place to start from. Accepting that failure, and success are just a part of life, and that you will probably experience both at some point or another, and remembering also not to place such importance on either of them. It’s really easy to have a mental picture of success as a magical ‘finish line’, that once you reach, you suddenly become enlightened, and I am pretty sure that success doesn’t even feel like that.

Lastly, to acknowledge that instinctively my body wants to keep me safe and secure, surrounding myself with things that are familiar, and things that make me feel comfortable. However, my creativity wants to drive me into places that make me feel vulnerable and are unknown, and this is where the fear lives. Alongside that though, follows the possibility for spontaneous collaboration, the chance to create something beautiful and inspirational and share it with the world. I have come to realise that for creative opportunity I will risk feeling the fear any day of the week. The temptation of what could be created is just too great to resist.

I would love to hear how you recognise and cope with any hidden fears. Does your creativity push you to do things you are afraid off, and how do you cope with that?

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  • The Maker Place

    Such a great post and very timely for me as I will be presenting at this year’s Mollie Makes awards and public speaking has never been my favourite thing! Since launching my own business a few months ago my mantra has definitely become ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ and it’s been great to confront things which, as you say, I didn’t even recognise as fears initially! It’s an ongoing process so thanks for sharing your thoughts as it helps to know others are in the same boat! Philippa X

    • Best of luck with your presentation at the awards Philippa. They were a friendly supportive bunch last year. It’s funny because you can be aware that the people listening want you to relax, enjoy it and do well, but fear isn’t always rational, so that thought didn’t actually help me much. So glad the post helped you a little. Enjoy the day, Melanie x

  • Really interesting post Melanie (sorry it’s taken me a while to get to it!). I know fear well. My chronic fatigue has left me very afraid of many things – when you can no longer trust your body to do the basic things, you become rather scared of going far, particularly on your own.. I know I have a lot to work on, I miss out on things all the time – but it’s a hard call to make in terms of what I can physically cope with…. On a brighter note, I love your new blog design – suits you perfectly. And I love how your photo matches the colour in your logo 🙂