A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending a senior art show featuring art created by my very talented student intern, Jamie. Her art is very cool, very street-art inspired, and has incredible meaning. Though I loved all of her work, there’s one piece in particular that I can’t get out of my mind. It’s a black-and-white painting of a faceless person bound by strips of cloth. Showing behind the person’s head are the words
“What’s Holding You Back?”
That’s a great question for any time, but is especially appropriate to think about as we prepare to enter a new year. 2016 will arrive in just a few hours, and it brings a perfect opportunity to begin anew, to start with a fresh, clean slate. But to get there, I have a few things that I need to say goodbye to as I bid farewell to 2015, but at the top of the list is one thing:
— Fear —
I’ve been learning a lot about myself through my writing adventures, including The Pink Typewriter Project and my personal writing challenge called #366Days. One thing I’ve learned? I’m a big chicken.
I am literally terrified at times to tackle writing assignments. I’ve built enough bravery that I can write a blog post or two a day, but I will do anything to avoid working on revising my book. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at writing poetry, too, but I can give you a thousand reasons why I can’t or shouldn’t. Behind them all is fear. Fear of failing, fear of putting myself out there in a vulnerable way, fear of not being the best at something, fear of what you’ll think.
I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago on choosing a word for the year. Dana and I have teamed up and chosen the word BELIEVE.
Belief is the opposite of fear. Dana gave me a Christmas card that I have hung just above my computer. It reminds me:
This year needs to be a year of belief. We need to
believe in our talents,
believe in our vision,
believe in our plans,
believe in our dreams,
believe we deserve to shine,
believe we are good enough,
believe we can make it happen,
believe in the journey,
believe in our writing, and
believe we can make a difference.
I share her words with you because I think that’s a great plan for a new year. I am approaching 2016 with belief in the future and belief in the One who holds the future.
The Oxford Dictionary defines fear as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” There are things we need to be afraid of. Fear is a natural, even healthy part of life. I’m not advocating abandoning good sense, but I do believe that not all fear is healthy. Sometimes it is irrational. And fear that holds you back from doing something you want to do or from being your most authentic self is something that needs to be recognized and dealt with.
One thing I want to do in the new year is attend a writer’s conference I read about before Christmas. The registration fee was my Christmas gift from my parents, so there goes my ability to use the fear that I can’t afford it as an excuse. But the thought of signing up is terrifying because it requires me to do something that puts me well outside my comfort zone. So, I’ve identified four steps I want to take to deal with my fear.
1. Recognize the Difference between Fear and Good Sense
To decide if my fear is really something I should be afraid of, it is important to ask myself a few questions. Why does this make me afraid? What is it I’m afraid will happen? Is that really likely to happen? Will somebody or something harm me? Will someone embarrass me in some way? Even if that happens, will it truly hurt me? If I say the wrong thing to someone, does that mean my dreams of a writing career are forever dashed? What is at stake?
2. Value Courage Over Comfort
On personality tests, I score exactly down the middle on the introvert/extrovert scale. That means I can put myself out there, but it costs me a lot of energy to do so. I know this about myself. I also know that I want to do more with my writing than I have done. That’s going to require me to stretch myself out of my comfort zone, to take risks, to — sorry to nerd out for a sec — boldly go where I haven’t gone before. I have to decide that the courage is worth the risk and then act on that belief (there’s that word again!).
3. Develop a Plan to Confront My Fear
Having a plan is an important part of facing fear — even when what we fear is beyond our control. Write down the steps you’d take if the worst happened. Think through how you’d handle this situation or that one. Put it on paper or in your favorite electronic device, where you can get to it easily. That way, if your worst fears materialize, you’re not caught flat-footed; you’re able to move smoothly and quickly in the direction of your dreams.
4. Decide to be Excited rather than Afraid
Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Do one thing every day that scares you.” What if I applied that principle to my writing? What if I committed to taking a forward step in my writing journey on a daily basis? What if you decided to do the same to achieve your dream and to overcome your fear? Even promising to do something once a week that moves you closer to your goal is an awesome step in the right direction.
What about you? What do you most need to let go of to be happier in the new year? What is holding you back? Share your journey with us in the comments below; we’re here to cheer for you.
Coming in 2016
Dana and I are excited about helping people be happier. For me, that means tackling my fear and writing. But your journey is a different one. We’d like to help you Tap into Happiness. Our email subscribers have access to our 2016 Planner, and in January, we’ll be launching a series of weekly prompts to get you thinking about what happy looks like to you. Watch for them beginning Monday, January 4.