"There's a new way to look at fear. Maybe we don't have to see it as something that stands in the way, something that has to be avoided, but maybe there's something that we can live with this. We don't have to get it off ourselves and get it away from us. We can accept its existence and then find ways to embrace it even."
There are two sides to every coin — a gray to every black and white. In this episode, we challenge ourselves to think differently about fear, seeing it as something to be embraced, rather than overcome. As a vitamin instead of a virus. We pick apart the lie of “fearlessness,” recognizing that by choosing courage, our eyes can be opened to seeing the good that fear gives back.
Joe: Hi, there. I’m Joe Dudeck, President and founder of Keyhole Marketing.
Shannon: And I’m Shannon Jirik. I work for Keyhole as the Assistant Brand Manager.
Joe: And this is Metaphorically Speaking, a podcast that explores the mysterious side of marketing.
Joe: Welcome back to season two of Metaphorically Speaking, where we’re still talking about fear and how it impacts in the ways we live and the ways we work and the ways we play. At this point in the conversation, we’ve kind of framed up fear, we look at how it affects us physically and explore how we tend to respond to fear. So again, feel free to go back if you didn’t get a chance to listen to any of those episodes. So today, we’re going to really take the next step in this conversation and talk about the value of fear. I mean, does it play a available spot, a positive spot in our lives and if so, do we need to reframe the way we look at fear? So we’re going to kind of discuss that approach today.
Shannon: Yeah. And to kick things off, we’re going to circle back to Elizabeth Gilbert, who we actually referenced in the first episode of this season. She’s clearly becoming a role model in this conversation. But this is a quick reading from her book called Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and the quotes a little long, so stick with me. But if you really take the space to think through every line that she says, it’s really incredible. So stay with me here.
“You’re afraid you have no talent. You’re afraid you’ll be rejected or criticized or ridiculed or misunderstood or worst of all, ignored. You’re afraid there’s no market for your creativity and therefore no point in pursuing it. You’re afraid somebody else already did it better. You’re afraid everybody else did it better. You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark. You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously. You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life. You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing. You’re afraid that someday you’ll look back on your creative endeavors as having been a giant waste of time, effort, and money.
You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of discipline. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of workspace or financial freedom or empty hours in which to focus on invention or exploration. You’re afraid you don’t have the right kind of training or degree. You’re afraid of being exposed as a hack or a fool. You’re afraid of upsetting your family with what you might reveal. You’re afraid of what your peers and coworkers will say if you express your personal truth aloud. You’re afraid of unleashing your innermost demons and you really don’t want to encounter them. You’re afraid. Your best work is behind you. You’re afraid you had any best work to begin with. You’re afraid you neglected your creativity for so long that now you can never get it back. You’re afraid you’re too old to start. You’re afraid you’re too young to start. You’re afraid because something went well in your life once, so obviously nothing can ever go well again. You’re afraid because nothing has ever gone well in your life, so why bother trying? You’re afraid of being a one hit wonder. You’re afraid of being a no hit wonder.”
Shannon: There’s a lot there.
Joe: So much there, and so many times it’s hitting me right between the eyes.
Shannon: I know. Same.
Joe: It’s not just like, “Oh, that’s really cool.”
Shannon: Me, me, me.
Joe: I mean, I think it can relate to so many people. So many artists, musicians, business owners could definitely put their hand up to one of those lines. And I think this process of creating or building a business or leading staff, it’s wrought with fear in a lot of different ways, and it’s okay, and it lives around us and it’s part of that creation process.
And so I was thinking, I was looking through the survey responses, and what we’re talking about today is really, how do we define it? Is that a proper definition? Did we frame it in the right way? It’s interesting in some of these responses just kind of how people see fear sometimes like it’s only a hindrance or it’s something that only stands in the way of the good life, but kind of living through fear in my own way, I just wonder if that’s the right way to do it.
And I’m not saying those are bad thoughts and bad perspectives, but for me, it never really sat well because I just felt like maybe there’s a new way to look at fear. Maybe we don’t have to see it as something that stands in the way, something that has to be avoided, but maybe there’s something that we can live with this. We don’t have to get it off ourselves and get it away from us. We can accept its existence and then find ways to embrace it even.
I don’t know. The visual that comes to my mind is the sort of vitamin versus virus view. You have this vitamin that’s supposed to supplement your diet, give you more energy, protect maybe certain things within your system, and then you have this virus that’s something you have to get out of your system, quickly discard. And sometimes I think we definitely look at fear in the latter way. We’ve got to get it away from us. We’ve got to avoid it. We need to let it pass through as quickly as possible and fight it and try to overcome it, whereas maybe we should look at it more as something that empowers us, something that gives us a new perspective. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not the way we want to do it, but it opened up new avenues for growth and therefore, it becomes a vitamin. It becomes that supplement to nourish us and give us more strength.
Shannon: Absolutely. That’s such an interesting analogy. I think along that same line, you use words like overcome and conquer and whatever it might be, and I think the thing that has always stood out to me or always frustrated me is just this notion of being fearless, this expectation that in order to be such and such, you have to have no fear. And I hear people just always use fear in that kind of connotative sense, like, “I’ve got to confront, challenge, combat it,” and there’s no real courage brought to that statement or brought to that thought process.
And I love this word, courage, because in the dictionary, it’s defined as the ability to face and confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, and take action in spite of it. So I feel like that fear cripples so many people because they have this sense that they have to be fearless against it and they’re not. And when you feel the sense of courage, it’s, “I’m feeling the pain of this fear, but I’m doing something anyway.” So I think, too, people get courage wrong, and they assume, “Well, if I’m courageous, then that means fear is non-existent. It’s not there.” But in fact, it’s the opposite. Courage requires fear in order to show up. There’s no need to be courageous if you aren’t afraid of anything.
Joe: So true. Yeah, I think there’s so much, this unattainable expectation that we put on other people to achieve this state of fearlessness or this absence of fear, and yet I think part of that is just even fear of if we’re seen as not fearless, then we’re weak and we can’t live our full potential or we’re held back from taking action or living a life of contentment or adventure, fulfillment. But we talked about this a couple episodes. It’s really just a lie because fear is not necessarily weakness. It’s, for one, a biological response to a stimulus, physically, but it also just opens up doors to explore and we just don’t have to think only those who are fearless or the bold or the brave or the adventurous, and if you do have fear, then you’re sort of quiet, and I don’t know, you just don’t have success in life.
And I think it puts us quite a bad light on those who are quiet and humble and who are facing fears kind of in their own ways and not dealing with them in this loud way. So I think that also leads to this idea of fearlessness leads into that, and then of course, it leads us to paint this picture like we are fearless. We’re not being honest with ourselves, of course, to begin, but then we’re also not being honest on social media or in real conversation with our friends. We’re kind of always striving or posturing to show how much we’ve got it together. And again, that fearlessness, this idea of this just bleeds into so many different spaces.
Shannon: Yeah. What I love about the conversation is that one of the things we’re trying to do for ourselves and talk about is just that awareness, that recognition, that fear does exist within us all, and it always will. And instead of deciding, “I have to be fearless,” it could be healthiest to even stop and ask, “Why am I afraid? What is it specifically that I’m afraid of in this moment?” And that goes back to that conversation on taking space and time to just think through, “Why are these fears real for me?”
I love kind of breaking it down between a logical and an emotional approach. For some people, processing fear emotionally might actually be more healthy. They need to be the ones to just say, “I’m afraid right now. I’m feeling anxious. I’m feeling this. It makes me sad. It makes me angry,” and that’s maybe their better response for handling fear. And then on the flip side, somebody who’s very emotional about it may need to look at it in more of a logical way, just giving themselves that time and space to say, “Hold on, why am I afraid?” back to that kind of exercise, “I feel this way but my body still can do it.”
Joe: Yeah, I think taking that whole idea of feeling fear maybe one step further and thinking about it of how do we embrace fear even, not just acknowledge its existence, but see the value and see the things that fear gives to us, things like … I think about humor. I think fear results and sometimes is a technique to maybe deal with it, but it gives us humor, which of course can be a very positive experience within our body. A lot of research on the power and benefits of that. It creates creativity. It makes us more vulnerable, helps us put stories out there, things that we didn’t even know were underneath the surface and we put those out in poems or songs or blogs or books or all kinds of things we can create that isn’t as possible when we’re numb to some of these things or just not acknowledging they exist, and also not embracing them.
It also just kind of creates a better opportunity to connect with people. Again, we can tend to live on our own and try to be an island, but this is a great way, just a stepping stone for a relationship and a connection with somebody else. And then it also opens up the opportunity to love and be loved and sort of just take that next step in a relationship, whether again, feeling some of that, that we need to feel more of that love or if we can extend that to somebody else. And then even just gives us more some of that tenacity. Those are the things that makes us stronger and gives us that backbone or that kind of strength we need to move forward. So sometimes without that push against us, without that tension, we wouldn’t be pushing back, so it’s good.
Shannon: So along that same sense of motion, we’re going to kind of close out the episode with that last piece and just offer up another way to kind of sit and be with your fear. Like we’ve mentioned many times today, it’s not going away. I think at this point, if we haven’t said it enough times, we recognize everybody deals with fear. It’s not necessarily something that we should even try to fully eliminate. And like Joe was saying, how do we find some healthy ways to live with it and to embrace it?
We’re going to go back to something that we’ve even mentioned before, but just taking time for five minutes to just sit still and be present with your fear or fears. We’ve talked about writing a letter. We’ve talked about having a conversation with your fear across the table. In this exercise, we’re just sitting with it. There’s no action, there’s no talking needed, there’s no responding. In this moment, we think it’s healthy to just acknowledge that fear exists. And in that moment, just bring yourself back to rhythmic breathing. Inhale through your nose and through your mouth. And after doing that for five minutes, just see if you notice any changes from the beginning to the end. How does fear look after five minutes of sitting with it?
Joe: Sitting with it. Yeah. I know for myself, there’s always like, “What are you supposed to do with this? What’s this thing that’s happening?” The hard part in that exercise is just letting it be.
Shannon: That could be even more scary than the other two. Just the mind is anywhere it wants to be.
Joe: Yeah, that’s the hard part of just sitting with it. And I think just thinking about your breathing, bringing it back to that, because sometimes we want to let our minds wander and try to fix it, try to do something with it, and I love that part of the exercise you shared of just thinking about coming back to our breathing, our inhales through our nose, our exhales through our mouth and just being okay with it. And five minutes we’ll probably feel like a long time.
Shannon: I know. I’m like, “Ooh, that’s intimidating.” Yeah. But just along that line, just that breathing, I want to go back to biologically, just that awareness of what’s happening to your body, and how do you have a say over that?
Hopefully you found some good, just actionable items here. We know that we talked about a lot, but we think that people deal with fear very differently, and for that reason, there needs to be a lot of different healthy approaches to it. If you have questions or comments related to today’s conversation, the topic of fear, or really anything we can do for you at Keyhole Marketing, as always, send us an email at hi, H-I, at keyholemarketing.us.
Joe: Cool. Thanks so much. We’ll talk to you in the final episode, next.