I’ve been afraid my whole life.
Which is not to say that I haven’t lived, or that my fear has stopped me.
But I’ve been afraid, because we all feel afraid, if we’re humans. Which we are.
I felt afraid when I was an eight year old skiing double black diamonds (and really not wanting to, thankyouverymuch).
I felt afraid when I moved to New York by myself, only having been there once before in my life.
I felt afraid when I applied for a job as a grant writer at a youth services nonprofit, never having written a grant, ever.
I felt afraid when I scheduled my first-ever paid portrait photography session.
And now? Now I feel afraid when I start with a new client, when I send an email, when I check to see if any of the photos I took are going to work. I feel afraid every day. And it’s okay. Feeling afraid doesn’t mean I don’t take action.
I’m an empowerment coach and portrait photographer, which means that I spend a lot of time with people who are feeling afraid to some degree. The ways I work with that fear might seem unconventional to some, because my work is radically gentle.
What does that mean? I let people know that their fears are universal and that they’re not alone. I help them to ease up and feel comfortable — comfortable enough to move forward toward their dreams or relax into their most genuine smiles in front of the camera. Instead of forcing them to banish their fear (and all the other messy emotions they have), I lead them toward awareness and acceptance of it. With lots of support, forward motion happens, even in the presence of fear.
That’s what I’ll be talking about over the next couple months here at Roots of She: fear. It’ll be messy and curious, and it won’t wrap into a pretty package, bow and all. Ideally, you’ll come away from this series with more questions than when you arrived. You might even come away with a heart that feels tender, squishy. I can’t think of anything I’d hope for more than that.
It’s lovely to meet you. Here’s to squishy hearts, being seen, and supporting each other, especially through the messy spots.
What I’m Afraid of
I’m afraid I might be getting a cavity in that one spot where it’s sensitive when my toothbrush hits it.
I’m afraid that my friends like me less than I like them.
I’m afraid I’m the only person on Earth who feels like this.
I’m afraid I’ll fall into another bottomless depression and won’t be able to do the work I love.
I’m afraid of getting higher than six feet up the rock climbing wall.
I’m afraid that I’ll set lofty goals and then be disappointed if I don’t reach them.
I’m afraid if I get too relaxed around new people, I’ll say something that makes them think I’m weird.
I’m afraid of people thinking I’m not responsible.
I’m afraid I’m not making the most of each moment.
I’m afraid my doctor will tell me I need to lose weight the next time I go in for a checkup.
I’m afraid that the things my harshest inner critics say are the truth, and that I’m just deluding myself thinking otherwise.
I’m afraid of seeming pushy when I ask for things.
I’m afraid this makes me a bad feminist.
I’m afraid that if I buy myself things that make me comfortable, my bank account will dwindle to empty.
I’m afraid that people will say no to me.
I’m afraid of what will happen when I say no.
I’m afraid that I’m losing touch with my oldest friends.
I’m afraid that my parents are getting older.
I’m afraid that you’ll think I’m not a good life coach because I’m telling you my fears.
. . .
These really are my fears. I didn’t make them up for this post, or list fears I think other people might have. I’m afraid of lots of things, and these are some of them. (Another one? Climbing Everest. I’m never gonna do it. Nope.) There are a bunch more fears I have that I can’t think of right now, I’m sure. The well in which fear resides is endless, and always overflowing.
Why am I telling you what I’m afraid of?
Because I think it’s fine to be afraid. I think it’s good, actually. Because if you’re never afraid, you’re probably either dead or lying to yourself. (And if the latter is the case, I don’t blame you. Fear is scary. That’s why we so often pretend it doesn’t exist.)
I’m telling you what I’m afraid of because I don’t just want to tell you that fear is okay, and that you should face it and hold it gently and work through it and take action anyway, and then send you off on your own. I’m telling you my fears because, yes, I believe in facing years and holding them gently and working through them. I believe in taking action anyway. And I also believe that you don’t have to do that alone.
In fact, I don’t want you to do it alone.
I want you to know that lots of the fears you have are the same as mine. And that billions of people in our world have felt the way you do, even if you don’t know them and will never meet them. I want you to know that you probably have friends or family or therapists or coaches or mentors who know just how it feels to be scared like you are, and that they can help you meet fear in a less-scary way.
And that’s what I’ll be talking about here on Roots of She for the next couple of months: how to work with fear kindly, and gently. How to maybe even, possibly, have fun with it. (I know; shocking, eh?)
We all have fear. Might as well pull up a chair and get to know it better.