Facing Our Fears and Slaying Dragons

facing our fears

“Our greatest fears are dragons blocking our deepest treasures.”

For most of us, this quote strikes a chord. Sadly though, too often we have that “ah-ha moment,” then inwardly shudder while we outwardly sigh. Facing our fears takes courage… and a lot of energy. Pass the Tums and an espresso… scary and exhausting. Heavens.

On a daily basis, women reveal their deepest fears to me. No, I’m not a therapist. I’m a personal shopper and “wardrobe fixer.” When a woman is standing in her undies, she somehow feels free to be honest. We women have an ability that most men lack: we bond easily with each other. Heck, even fully-clothed we are much more straightforward about our psychological Achilles heels than 90% of the men walking around out there. Just think: at the very least, that gives us a head start on this Greatest Fears stuff.

NOT facing our fears robs us of much more – the juiciest parts of our daily lives, on and on and on… until we fix it. Avoiding that temporary discomfort and maintaining our status quo is what turns us into all-too-frequent hot messes.

This quote really gets it into gear for me: “Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”

Studies have been done on the differences in the reactions of male and female graduate students majoring in the sciences. When facing a failed experiment, there was a striking difference in the way the majority of the men reacted compared to the women. While frustrated, the men simply moved on to look for another solution. In many cases, the women “catastrophized” the situation by projecting the impact of their current failure as having a far-reaching impact on their future career prospects.

Are you saying, “I’m not that bad off. I just get mad and want to find a solution?” Good for you. You’re ahead of some of the smartest, most accomplished women I know. Well, then, do you feel you “get there” as quickly as you want? How about a couple more “Get Happier Hacks” to add to your skill set?

Grab your swords, ladies. Here are some basic moves to use when you feel your dragon’s hot breath at the back of your neck. Let’s break this down and start facing our fears.

Step #1:  What’s your Greatest Fear Dragon’s mocking battle cry?

  • “If you had just been prettier/more fun/smarter/richer/younger, your love wouldn’t have dumped you.” This little gem is often partnered with…
  • “I’d be a fool to allow myself to be as vulnerable and honest as I did in my last relationship.”
  • “You don’t have a good education, so you’ll never really reach your dreams.”
  • “You have a great education, but you just don’t have what it takes to reach your dreams.”
  • “You’ll never lose weight and get in shape. You’re just a mess.”
  • “I’ll never get out of this negative financial hole I’ve dug for myself.”
  • “If you were smarter, you’d be richer. You’ll never learn what you need to know to fix this.”

Yep. Or, they ALL can be summed up this way: “I’m Doomed To Be a Big, Fat (Permanent) Failure.”

Most of us have heard the phrase “Stay in The Now.” Or, maybe, “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” My reply used to be, “Yeah, but what if ‘The Now’ sucks?” Nowadays, I’ve adopted this mantra as my first step: “It’s better to only ‘Stay in The Sucky Now’ while it’s here than bring in ‘The Sucky Past’ and ‘The You-Don’t-Know-If-It’s-Going-To-Be-Sucky Future,’ too.”

Step #2:  What is the first thing I can start to do immediately to have a better experience next time?

So, you just had a “failed experiment.” After you get over your initial panic and/or anger (whether at yourself or someone else), ask yourself, “What can you (now, finally) learn?” What works for me is asking, “Are you currently taking actions to change your situation, even if it seems REALLY stalled currently?”

At times like this I use what I call my Greatest Fears Quotes Arsenal. Here are some of my faves:

“Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path cannot be substituted for putting one foot in front of the other.”  ~ American female poet, potter, philosopher C. Richards.

(In other words: “Keep moving, girl.”)

“I missed 100% of the shots I didn’t take.”   ~ Hockey great Wayne Gretzky

(Or, “She who does not risk, guarantees she will not succeed.”)

An interviewer asked Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert if it was scary to write another book after the phenomenal success of Eat, Pray, Love. Her terrific answer was, “No, not really. Fortunately, I’m from a family who believes, ‘Done is better than good.’”

(Thanks, Elizabeth, you are once again an inspiration to us all.)

Step #3:  What back-up can I use to keep-on-keeping-on?

Take those quotes and set daily cell phone alarms to read them. This means: YOU REALLY DO THIS. DO NOT press “Stop” instead of “Snooze” if you’re unavoidably occupied when it goes off. If you do read them, it will eventually become one of the strongest emotional muscles you need to “get encouraged” again.

Indulge me to offer another quote which, while it uses the unfortunate term “suffer,” gives me comfort and much-needed energy each day. Muhammed Ali said, “I hated every minute of my training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.” Like me, I’m pretty sure you’re interested in thinking of yourself as a champion, not just to impress those around you.

Step #4:  Give yourself some credit.

You’re working to get yourself on a new, better path. Blazing a new trail for yourself is gifting yourself with a healthy helping of self-esteem. Congrats.

Step #5:  (Optional “Extra Credit” Help and My Personal Greatest Fear Revelation)

Watch internationally-famous Austin, Texas speaker Brene’ Brown’s TED Talk. This funny, smart woman studies vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She advises major corporations on these topics AND was my “reminder inspiration” for this article. Brene’s TED podcast gave me the perseverance to finish this article. Whether it’s fashion trends or something more important to women’s well-being, my greatest wish is to bring practical, hopeful advice in a fun manner… always.

Facing our fears. We can do this, ladies. We really, really can.


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