People aren’t so scary, really. For the most part, they’re just like our favorite animals. They run around, eating things and thinking of ways to cover up the smell of their poop.
Sure, every once in awhile they stab you in the back, break your heart, or call you a name that sears itself onto your heart with a branding iron forged from disrespect and self-hate…
Okay, so maybe people are a little scary.
The important thing to remember is that every year, some old lady gets eaten by her cats and hermits in forgotten forests spontaneously-combust.*
Life is a funny place and terrible things happen, whether or not you have people in your life. But wonderful things only happen when you are part of a larger, connected network.
Fear is a big topic, like love. It isn’t as simple as saying, don’t be afraid. That’s like saying, don’t be in love with adorable kittens. Nonsense! Everyone is in love with adorable kittens. Everyone has fear.
Some people, like me, suffer from debilitating fear called anxiety. It’s a very real, very suffocating pain– a beautiful chemical explosion of every nightmare and every shrinking secret you’ve ever kept.
But even then, fear doesn’t have to stop you.
I’ve read a few books and essays on overcoming fear and anxiety and many start with the idea that you have to define when you are scared in order to determine why you are scared.
I’m not sure if that matters. Fear is powerful, and outside of avoiding the things that scare me, the only thing I can do to overcome it is find something more powerful that also lives inside of me.
For me, that something is always love, no matter how it manifests– sometimes as pride, sometimes as fellowship, sometimes as beauty and truth.
In my day to day life, just to throw in a personal example– I am paralyzed by fear every time I make a personal statement or claim. I can talk about the universe all day long, fearlessly– but ask me why I don’t wear lipstick, and I’m a bumbling mess. It’s all about me and my very real opinions. I am guarded in those because, no matter how small they may appear to others, my preferences are a byproduct of my entire life. Criticism of them feels like criticism of my entire life.
So I freeze up, even before doing something as simple as posting a post, which is a highly passive form of social engagement. I think to myself: someone will surely respond with something hateful or I’ll be silently shunned. My body tenses and I wonder if I should press the publish button at all. I stay up, sometimes for hours through the night, staring at an unblinking alert until someone replies.
That’s anxiety for you. If someone told me to stop being afraid— in that moment– I’d probably bite them.
I can’t stop being afraid on a whim, because the fear knows me. It knows I am terrified that something might happen.
But I can stop being stopped by fear.
I can concentrate on the more powerful elements of myself, and take action. Any action stifles fear. It’s why we fight, it’s why we flight– because movement shakes the stillness of fear.
It’s why I post and how I wave at strangers. I focus on love, and I hope that taking action and continuing forward will put me on the pathway of people.
Fear says… Don’t do it. Something might happen.
My brain fills in the blanks with the all the terrifying things that could occur, until Love whispers in…
Something good might happen.
Someone good might happen.
The possibility of something good is the hope that pushes the fear to the side.
So push. Move. Act.
Be as fearful as you want, but
stop being stopped.
if you move towards it.
BASIC HOW TO
- Reward yourself when you do something that pushes past fear. The universe sometimes forgets to hand out stickers. Sometimes, you have to give yourself the sticker badge of success.
- Challenge yourself in small measurements. Do one thing every day that scares you a little, that you don’t have to do.
- Coco Channel used to say that everyone should get dressed, and then– just before walking out the door– remove one accessory. This was her tip for a sleeker look. I say, everyone should know their own stories– but just before sharing it with someone else– add in an extra detail or a personal thought on it. This is my own personal tip for a more robust life.
ADVANCED HOW TO
- Go to that thing that everyone wants you to go to. The one that will have so many people that your chances of running into something terrible are exponentially increased. Just go.
- Do the right thing for the world, or for you. Write a personal review or send a thank you note, pick up that piece of litter– express your feelings about a current even if it feels silly.
- Remember that everyone is a little bit scared all the time. Find someone who is pushing through it and reward them, too. If someone waves at you, wave back– or at least smile. Who knows. They could be #Peopling.