Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Fear

fear

In all my years of blogging, I have never written anything with the aim of inspiring you. It’s not my style.  I’m not a teacher or an advocate.  I don’t consider myself inspirational.

But that changes today.

The night started with my own search for inspiration. I’ve been feeling scared lately, fearful, unable to take steps that could improve my life.   I searched online for advice. Through Google, I found all sorts of gurus, wannabe gurus, psychologists, happiness experts, and thought leaders who were eager to help me.  These articles were written by two categories of authors — those who never faced fear, and those who learned to overcome it.   Whether written as  longform or Buzzfeed listicle, on an academic website or online women’s magazine, the advice was always remarkable similar, pretty much expanding on Nike’s advertising copy of  “Just Do It.”

“You can’t succeed without failure.

You will never know until you try.

Change your way of thinking.

Fight the fear and do it anyway.

Twelve Ways Successful Entrepreneurs Win at Business.

Get the Love You Deserve By Risking it All.”

All night I read articles that felt cold against my skin, clichés tossed at me to sell e-books or writers promoting themselves. I was not inspired by someone who once feared air travel and now jumps out of an airplane every day at lunch.  What if you’re still finding it hard to call up American Airlines to change a flight?

These articles just made me feel inept.

“Just do it,” they said.   That sells stuff.

“Fuck you.  I can’t do it yet,” I answered.   That will never sell anything.

So, I am here to talk to those who fear change, risk, or rejection. I cannot tell you to fight that fear, because I have not done so myself. I give you no tips on how to overcome obstacles because I frequently falter.

My only inspirational message is this — if you fear something, you should feel it. That’s it. Save fighting it for another day.  Just feel the fear.  And know that others feel it too.  That’s my inspirational message.  It’s the only way I can help you.

That is what I was searching for tonight. And since I could not find that inspirational article on any website, I wrote it myself.

15 Comments

  1. Solid advice. Much better than inspirational quotes in boxes, laid over a photo of a sunset. I don’t want to fight my fears – I want to embrace them and acknowledge them, so maybe they’ll work with me in moving past them.

  2. I often question those articles, all that so-called helpful advice. Each one of our experiences is so unique in its own that addressing it in one simple and cliche phrase is pointless at best. The “Just do it” advice doesn’t work for someone so racked with fear they’re damn near paralyzed by it. It’s hollow. Empty.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head (oh shit, damn cliches) by saying we should allow ourselves to feel that fear. Maybe in doing so we can address why we fear something and then figure out how to fight it. If we don’t know the why then I believe it becomes next to impossible to fight it.

  3. oh, Neil. I so agree. I don’t like change, and I don’t do well overcoming fear. But I do know avoiding the fear, running from it, or constructing long lists of things to do instead don’t move life along nearly as much as sitting with the fear, completely, for ten minutes.

    Avoiding fear feels much worse than just feelng fear. Fear doesn’t actually break us or even hurt us. It informs.

    Good on you, Neil. Feel that fear. Notice it and name it. And let it be.

    I raise my beverage to you, dear.

  4. The thing I’ve personally learned about fear is that you have to feel it — dissect it, learn about it, truly understand it — before you can overcome it. Let it sit with you for a while, make friends with it, and then figure out how to move beyond it. Eventually you’ll get tired of it, the way one tires of an old comfortable sweater.

    Just wear that sweater for a while. Eventually you’ll be ready for something a little more sleek and fashionable.

  5. Cognitive behavioral therapy would probably work well for this

    What helps me is to stare down the fear and consider how I would survive or manage the “worst case scenario” that my brain is dishing up. It isn’t until I face that scenario and come up with a coping strategy that I’m able to (hopefully) move on by telling myself I have a plan and can do it. That’s how I soothe myself.

    You’re right that running from fear is not the answer.

    One more thought: I think sometimes we manufacture small fears to distract us from the real issues in our lives. That’s a much bigger and more complicated problem.

    I hope you find a path to a life that isn’t dominated by anxiety.

  6. OH, yes yes yes. Feeling that fear, acknowledging it? So good. Even when you’re not ready to do anything about it yet. I actually think it’s kind of a bravery. It helps.

  7. Very interesting.

    Being told to simply “overcome your fear” is not helpful for a lot of people. The phrase “crippled by fear” exists for a reason: sometimes the fear is a reasonable response to a difficult situation and maybe you can navigate it with reason. Other times, though, it is simply unreasonable and your ability to handle it is compromised.

    A lovely point you make: the sort of just do it advice one sees has an underlying sneering judgement. But it’s not that simple. Don’t have to wallow in it but it can be helpful to acknowledge it and sit with it a bit.

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and meant to blog about it. And haven’t. I will consider your point a kick in the pants and I thank you for it….

  8. Just facing it is doing something. Admitting your fear is a step.

  9. “What if you’re still finding it hard to call up American Airlines to change a flight?”
    That. Is me.
    I don’t know, Neil. As I grow older it seems to me that I’m finding it easier and easier to just allow myself to be constrained by my fears, my anxieties, my neuroses, my habits. In some ways this is good. I am far more fully present in this smaller world. In some ways, of course, it is not good- I limit myself in many ways, daily.
    But what if- WHAT IF- some of us are meant to fly without restraint, to find no problem in making the phone calls, the appointments, to in fact “Just do it!” while some of us were meant to live in a smaller world? And when I say “meant to be” I don’t mean ordained by our fate or our god but simply as how we are, just as some of us are right-handed, some left. Some of us love books and some of us love the open trail, the lure of the bend in the river. Perhaps I am rationalizing. I probably am. But there is something to an essential nature and learning to live it.

  10. I think people, in general, have an issue with any emotion other than happiness. All self-help books are pointed in the direction of happiness or inner peace. (Please, show me the book about how to make yourself miserable.) Think about how much money we pay to try to funnel us toward this one emotion.

    And happiness is certainly nice, and no one wants to feel like shit, but when did it become the destination whereas all other emotions are no more important than airports or train stations? The unremarkable part of your journey?

  11. This really speaks to me. I’m a shouter from the rooftops when it comes to my fears and my baggage – people think it means I’m brave but it’s quite the opposite – when I yell loudly about all my shortcomings then I don’t have to fear people whispering about them.

    Acknowledging fears and sitting quietly in a hideyhole with them is quite often the only viable choice and a brave one at that.

    I like you, Neil. You have no idea how inspiring you are because, let me tell you, authenticity like yours is Nir something most people have.

  12. What Veronica said, especially the last line.

  13. Fear is a safety mechanism. It reminds us to buckle our seatbelt, hold on tight, trust but verify. I am afraid of pretty much everything. I tell myself that as long as it’s not drastically altering my daily life then I’m handling it ok. I don’t know if it’s right but I’ve lived this far.

  14. Is this about iOs 8? Because I’m a little leery of it, too….

  15. Sometimes we do need to feel the fear in order to do anything to overcome it. I’m still stuck in feeling the fear of rejection, but maybe there will be a day when I take the steps to overcome.

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