I love fear because confronting my fears has allowed me to get to know parts of myself that I was denying. There is something very important about who you are based on the things that you fear. I used my fears to avoid things. That’s what we’re taught: Fear is a good thing. It keeps you away from the bad stuff.
When I really started to look at what it is I’m so afraid of — Why am I afraid of this? Why have I been avoiding these things? — I learned a lot of things about myself. One, I learned that I didn’t really understand the thing. So part of the fear was the unknown, or not liking that I didn’t know, or feeling as though it was foreign and therefore was wrong.
Then, another part of me realized that it was often about judgments that I had adopted from other people, things that had been ingrained in me from a young age, from external forces, but it wasn’t really how I felt. It wasn’t really based on my research, my discoveries. It was just these blanketed judgments about how life is supposed to be lived and what you’re supposed to avoid and what you’re supposed to aim for and optimize for.
As I started to explore certain fears, I realized that I actually wanted to do those things. The reason I was so scared of it was that I had constructed this box around it to keep me away from it because I really wanted it, and it seemed scary. It seemed dangerous. It seemed risky. I didn’t quite know how to do it. I didn’t necessarily know anyone else who had done it. So I stayed away from it because part of me deeply wanted it.
That’s why I say I love fear because of what I recognized in myself. Now I’m able to say, There is something buried in me so deeply that I’m really attracted to. I need to let myself get there.
Now, I can say all this, but it’s a lot easier said than done.
I still have the sleepless nights, I have the bad habits, and I have all of that stuff that you, kind of, distract yourself with when things get scary. I have all of that stuff, but I have recently — I’d say maybe in the last year and a half — kind of changed the whole way I live my life.
Now instead of trying to check off the check boxes of accomplishments — which is the way I lived my life for a very long time, I thought that that’s what life was. Like, let me build the résumé. Let me build the portfolio. This is the next thing I’m supposed to do, the next rung in the ladder — now, it’s a constant search for what scares me the most. That’s the thing I have to go pursue. I had to figure out why, and I’m going to go do it.
An excerpt from my dialogue with Paul McAleer on our podcast Designing Yourself, Episode #2: Too Much Future (originally aired July 16, 2013), with minimal editing for readability.