As actors, we were always told to turn pre-performance nerves into butterflies of excitement. Moving on from this –I’ve gone one better and always dive straight in and start swimming away before the fear catches up with me. Beating Fear by running like a manic or distracting doesn’t do much to build confidence –really because the monster is still lurking in the corners and if you don’t stand and address this monster guess what? He brings his pals with him!
Who are Fear’s pals? Fear himself is quite small but has a long shadow. His friends Guilt, Worry, Terror, Doubt, Resentment and Regret make up the substance of his shadow. They who choke, freeze, suffocate, grind, trap and paralyses you. Mesmerizing you with pain. Crippling you with restriction. The feeling of isolation compliments and complicates this state as Fear is not very social –for all he has friends. His past is a mystery and he warns us not to talk to each other about him—as there is nowhere we could go that he does not hear us. So we keep quiet. Stopped in our tracks; Fear literally takes our breath away. We writhe and twist and haul the weight of his enormous heavy smothering shadow cape along peeping out from underneath to a distorted view, strained, halting movement. He has catches us up as we crawl slowly along each step an effort. Like those dreams where you cannot run or cannot scream or fall…then catch yourself as you wake up drenched in sweat.
I’ve had to acknowledge Fear. I’ve had a talk with him this week. It is amazing how really very frail he is. He will try to tell you stories that are full of deception and illusion –do not be fooled. He will try to make you believe you are the puppet and he is the master. For years I was seen as confident. I was. But Self Confidence and Self Esteem are actually two different things.
Professor Robert Winston, who’s work with children has been featured on BBC series Child of Our Times recently, explored this in an episode looking at competence and confidence in children. Children were asked to evaluate their work. The ones who did beautiful work and were naturally very able were the most critical of themselves; whereas the children who didn’t particularly excel at the task thought it was fine and some of them even expressed that it was the best! Seeds of doubt are sown early…root and grow. We’ve all become familiar now with the ‘Impostor Syndrome’?
So, what to do? Breath deep and break its bonds. Speak out boldly and look him in the eye, startle him. Don’t give up. Win his respect so he will stop bothering you with small matters. Know that you can reach into the treasure trove of other emotions and pull out a few pals of your own…Courage whose roots go deeper. She isn’t afraid to weep and look Fear straight in the eye. Honesty. He says if you are totally vulnerable you cannot be hurt and the darkness becomes deep and comforting. The more you practice with these two friends Fear becomes just this prickly shadow a petty announce to spur us on to greater things like Creativity and Freedom!