Monday Confessional: Far from Fearless

Welcome to Monday Confessional, where I spill the beans about something in my life, funny or serious. Because it's good to fess up every once in a while.


There was an instance this past year in which a good friend of mine described me as "fearless." He said that's what he liked about me the most--I'm fearless.

I have to confess I'm uncomfortable with that label. The truth is, I don't think I'm all that fearless. It's a bit misleading to suggest I possess some kind of trait that makes me more willing than anyone else to walk over a bed of coals (no thanks, by the way) or square off against some figurative or literal giant.

I'm pretty fearful, actually, which is to say I'm pretty human. I'm afraid of deep water. Who knows what could be swimming around or stalking me from below. I have FOMO hardcore--I don't want to close my eyes, don't want to fall asleep, 'cause I'd miss SOMETHING, surely. I'm afraid you didn't get my Aerosmith reference and I wasted a whole sentence of this paragraph.

It doesn't stop there. I'm afraid of plenty more:

I'm afraid of dolls. I'm afraid of talking to people I don't know. I'm afraid that baggy clothes will become popular again. I'm afraid of developing lactose intolerance and having to abstain from ice cream. I'm afraid of losing my hair. I'm afraid I won't be near a set of nail clippers the moment I realize my nails are too long. I'm afraid of bad breath (mine and yours). I'm afraid there's something hanging from my nose and you're not telling me. I'm afraid of asking girls out on dates. I'm afraid of asking girls out on dates because I'm afraid of screwing things up. I'm afraid of screwing things up there because I'm afraid of mistakes in general. I'm afraid of rejection. I'm afraid I'll do too little too late. I'm afraid I'll do too much too soon. I'm afraid I won't make the cut--in a million different areas. I'm afraid of coming up short. I'm afraid of death.

I have a much longer list of fears I keep tucked away from everyone's view. I'm sure, if you're being honest with yourself, that you have a similarly long list. Maybe you don't have the same exact fears, but you have nearly the same amount of fears. I'm not sure anyone, especially not me, can don the title of "fearless."

We probably will never fully escape fear. And sometimes, in some cases, that's okay.

My fear of bad breath is good for the world, in my opinion. It's why I'm obsessive about mouthwash and gum. You can all thank that fear. My fear of dolls? Other than it being the constant inspiration for my coworkers' pranks, my aversion to creepy porcelain humanoids isn't going to keep me from anything important in life. It's fairly inconsequential. No harm done.

My fear of mistakes? My fear of rejection? My fear of not being enough? Now we're in "consequential" territory. Those fears can keep me stuck in life. Those are the types of fears I have to do something about.

Every once in a while, I like to jump off a waterfall, or I'll climb a tall building or bridge or cliff and peer over the edge at all the tiny objects far below. Don't mistake that for fearless. There's a very acute sense of fear involved when I'm hanging from some ledge a hundred feet above the ground. The reason I go ahead and do it anyway is, for some reason, I get some kind of weird enjoyment out of charging straight into that fear. There's a conscious decision to ignore the fear and do it anyway. It gives me a rush. I enjoy it. 

I don't enjoy rushing into rejection. That's not fun for me at all. I'd rather avoid it the same way I avoid the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney World because it's a hellish, inescapable nightmare come to life. At some point, though, my life suffers if I don't face my fear that someone will say "no" to my ideas or my requests or to me as a friend/person/whatever. There are fears we must face if we want a fuller life.

I'm trying to learn how to tackle those fears the same way I approach anything I climb: one careful move at a time.

The awareness of how high I am and how far I have to fall might start to work its way through my nervous system. My legs might start to shake a little. My fingers might start to cramp as they cling to a branch or ledge. I need to take a second, breathe deep, gather up my confidence, and make the next move I know I can make. Sometimes it's a big step or a long reach. But sometimes, all I can do is make a tiny shimmy or slight shift in my weight. And that's enough to get me closer to the top.

One move at time.

A bit higher.

A bit farther.

I don't have to be fearless. All I need is to make the next tiny move.