“Who am I to lead a group discussion about overcoming fear?” I thought as drove towards Starbucks. I was full of fear. Fear no one would show up. Fear someone would show up. Fear my voice would shake like it sometimes had during my public speaking class last semester. Fear, fear, fear. I felt more like I was swimming in it than overcoming it.
I arrived 20 minutes early, and began reading a collection of pages I’d printed without really reading. First was a series of quotes about fear. The first hit me like a cool breeze, “It’s okay to be scared. Being scared means you’re about to do something really, really brave. -Mandy Hale” I took a deep breath. By the end of the first page my heart had stopped palpitating.
Next was an article by Psychology Today, which could be summed up by one statement. “Exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to way past them.” That’s a powerful statement. In a way that is what I’ve been doing only half consciously.
Last, but not least, was a scholarly article titled “Defining Courage” by Ben Dean which I found on a University of Pennsylvania website. It’s opening quote, “The secret of life is this: When you hear the sound of the cannons, walk toward them.” (by Marcel France) rang true to my ears. Full of great insight, its greatest revelation to me was that fear is a necessary component of courage.
All of this seems very pertinent to me. Last week I returned to a challenging university after a 17-year hiatus. Not to advance my position in the technology field, where I worked, mostly unhappily, for a decade and a half, but to pursue my original interest in psychology.
Being back on campus has been an emotional roller-coaster, not always a pleasant one. But as I sat there I knew I was qualified to lead this discussion, realizing I was more courageous than I first thought. I thought next about what I would ask a client who felt fearful.
What is your biggest fear? How does fear hold you back from your goals? Who do you consider courageous? Why? What small step can you take towards your goals that you do have the courage to take? How can you create an environment where your courage would flourish?
In the end, no one would show up, likely scared off by the rain. It didn’t matter. I had heard the cannons and walked towards them.