Fear: The Dream’s Greatest Opponent

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear lately.

At this point in a person’s life (i.e. anyone in their thirties), it’s easy to look back on what you’ve accomplished and ask “what if?” What if I had thrown caution to the wind and tried law school? What if I had chosen a different college? What if I had had kids sooner? Or later? What if I hadn’t let money dictate various decisions? What if I had written that book?

Don’t get me wrong; I love the life I have! And I am proud of what I have accomplished. But, I can definitely look back and see moments when I let fear govern my decisions. Fear of failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of retribution. Fear of disappointment.

What if fear hadn’t gotten in the way?

A cautious person by nature, I have often settled on things simply because there was less risk involved. Less chance for heartache or failure. Sure, the payoff wasn’t that great and the adventure was limited, but I wasn’t left burned and scarred either. My argument was, “Hey! No big. I can live with it.” So, I kept my opinions to myself. I let opportunities drift by. I chose the safe choice. I did my dead-level best to please people more than myself–sanity be damned.

And, truth be told, I got awfully tired of that.

As I move forward in my life, I find myself being more willing to take the plunge. (After dipping a toe in first, of course.) I find I am less willing to tolerate ignorance and indifference and more likely to grab life by its metaphorical testicles. I am less afraid to speak my truth to those around me. I am seeing life with new eyes–a life full of chances to be taken rather than potholes and pitfalls to be avoided. And you know what? I am surviving.

Better yet, I am thriving.

I am desperately trying to pursue life rather than merely let life happen to me. I am in charge of my own destiny, and I have to quit letting fear be the crutch on which I lean. Trust me, it’s not easy for me. I have to wake up every day and make a choice to be brave when it would be easier to let fear dictate every decision I make. Fear is my greatest opponent. And she is always a worthy adversary.

For me, this blog is a spit in the face of fear. For so long, I have been terrified to put my writing out into the world. Fear of failure. Fear that people may not like what I have to say. Fear that people may not think I am a “good enough” writer. Fear that people will be offended by certain beliefs I may have. But, I realized that fear had completely handicapped me from pursuing something I have always dreamed of doing–spreading the great and wonderful news of education, empowering teachers in this profession, creating a space for professional learning, challenging educators to stand strong in the face of almost insurmountable odds. I am proud to say that in this battle, fear has lost.

So what battle are you fighting? What fear are you carrying around with you that is suffocating your greatness? What opportunity have you refused in order to stay safe from disappointment and failure?

How can you overcome this fear?

Be okay with failure

The first step to overcoming this fear is being humble enough to know you will fail in this life. I will say that again. YOU. WILL. FAIL. Sometimes, you will fall smack on your face. If you’re me, it will most likely be in front of a large crowd. But you know what? That’s okay. There’s freedom in that knowledge. You don’t have to be perfect all the time. So what if no one reads your blog? So what if you don’t win the award? So what if you don’t get the job? So what? Get back up and try again. And again. And again. Each time, you’ll learn something new! You can’t let the fear of failure keep you from trying.

Know that success is possible

Sure. Sometimes you will fail. But other times, you will fly. Be confident that you know what is right for you and your happiness, and know that you are capable of things far greater than your mind can envision. Don’t allow that small voice of uncertainty to creep in and douse your flame. I know; it’s easier said than done. There will always be someone out there who is smarter or more talented or more educated. But will they work harder than you? Do they want it as badly as you do? What gifts do you have that no one else does? How can you use those gifts to stand out? Everyone has something that makes them special. Let your light shine!

You will not be everyone’s cup of tea

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that some people will simply not like you. In fact, they might even despise you. Which, I’m sure, it utterly preposterous because–of course–you’re fabulous. But if you’re like me, this is something you may struggle with. I like being liked. But, in order to be my best self, I have had to learn that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. And neither are you. You will say things that people don’t agree with. You will likely offend someone, sometimes inadvertently (sometimes not so much.) If you didn’t mean it, say you’re sorry and move on. If you’re not sorry, that’s okay too. Don’t spend your life or your joy in fear of conflict. Debate and dialogue are healthy for human growth. And, at the end of the day, you do not have to carry around someone else’s dislike of you.

Find your tribe

Without my friend, Cheylyn, I’d still be sitting around and thinking about this blog instead of writing it. Without my girlfriends, I wouldn’t take a break from the demands of my job to just chill for a minute. Without my family, I wouldn’t have grown as a wife and a mother. Without my teaching friends and my administrators and my professional learning network, I couldn’t have improved my craft as an educator. There are so many amazing people in my life that challenge and encourage me. They are my tribe. You cannot beat fear alone! Find the people who inspire and stretch you far beyond what you think you can accomplish. Find the people who allow you to grow.

Most importantly, know this:

You can do this.

Be brave, my friend. Be brave.

–Bridget


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