Tag Archives: destroy the fear that forms you

Fear Isn’t a Reason to Quit

In “Why Do We Teach Girls That It’s Cute to Be Scared,” Caroline Paul writes about being one of the first women in the San Francisco Fire Department.

“I expected people to question whether I had the physical ability to do the job (even though I was a 5-foot-10, 150-pound ex-college athlete). What I didn’t expect was the question I heard more than any other: ‘Aren’t you scared?’”

Read the rest of Paul’s piece in The New York Times here.

As Paul points out, women are raised to be afraid, of well, many things. Things that are gross, things that could hurt us, things that are physically intimidating, etc. Some fear is healthy, of course. Fear keeps us from acting completely irrationally or taking unnecessary risks.

But what about risks that are scary because we could possibly fail? Possibly be humiliated? I mean, let’s be real. What the hell is scarier than failure? Paul writes,

“When a girl learns that the chance of skinning her knee is an acceptable reason not to attempt the fire pole, she learns to avoid activities outside her comfort zone.”

Here lies the problem. As Paul states,

“We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.”

When we treat young girls as more fragile, they come to think of themselves that way. They are less likely to take risks because they might bruise their knees or their egos. Paul writes,

“When girls become women, this fear manifests as deference and timid decision making.”

I fear failure, probably a little too much. It has made me timid in my decision making, opting to stay the course, and wait for better things to come along.

It’s not like parents raised me to be this timid girl. My mother raised me to a feminist. To have opinions. To try new things. I mean, my parents let me travel to another continent (without them) when I was in junior high.

Did they treat me different than my brothers? Yes. Some different treatment is necessary. Girls have to learn how to navigate the world we live in, after all. And that’s the point really.

Girls need to learn to look fear in the eye and try it anyway, knowing they might tumble, bloody their knees, and fail. Failure builds character. It makes us stronger. It makes us brave. Paul writes,

“When I worked as a firefighter, I was often scared. Of course I was. So were the men. But fear wasn’t a reason to quit. I put my fear where it belonged, behind my feelings of focus, confidence and courage. Then I headed, with my crew, into the burning building.”

I was talking to a friend of mine about this piece. My friend has two daughters. Her take was she doesn’t want to raise her girls to be fearless, she wants to raise them to be smart and brave.

Sounds good to me. We could use more smart and BRAVE women out there in the world.

So this week, I thought I would try something different. I created a Spotify Playlist. It is my Fearless Mix. You may recognize a lot of these songs from earlier posts. 🙂


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How to Destroy the Fear That Forms You

I wouldn’t say I suffer from anxiety, not like a lot of people suffer from anxiety. But I have had three full-fledged panic attacks.

One of attacks occurred while I was driving, which was a terrifying experience.

I have never been particularly fond of driving. While I lived in New York, I didn’t have a car. I never drove.

A few years ago, I was going through a stressful time in my life, and I was rear-ended driving back from Des Moines, IA. In my brother’s car. Which was totaled.

I shook most of the way home.

Physically, I was fine, but my fear of driving really took root then.

A few months later, I was driving down the same stretch of road. I was following a semi, and something blew out of the window.

It was just a small thing really, probably not anything that would’ve caused an accident. But I was already on edge.

I started breathing heavily and sweating. I heard a rushing sound in my ears.

I managed to drive to the next exit and pull over. I was shaking. I tried to take deep breaths. I sat there until I calmed down.

I found out later the sound was blood rushing to my head because I was having a fight-or-flight response. My body was gearing up for a confrontation.

My driving nervousness has improved, though I still am not fond of making that drive down 35W. I much prefer driving in stop-and-go traffic around the cities. Strange, I know.

My fear manifests itself in other ways. I am afraid of rejection. I am afraid of failure. I am afraid of disappointing my family. I am afraid of disappointing myself, of wasting my life away.

The thing about fear or anxiety is that if you let it, it controls you. It stops you from doing things you want to do.

My fear of failure and rejection prevented me from submitting stories for publication.

My fear of disappointing my family prevented me from writing about certain things.

And these fears did control me. These doubts prevented me from working toward becoming a writer.

I can’t point to one clear moment when I decided to let go. And let’s be honest, I still have these fears, but these fears no longer control me.

There is no way my mom is going to love everything I write. I can live with that.

Part of being a writer is facing rejection. Not everything I write is going to be good or worthy of being published.

I have just decided that not trying to get my work published is far worse than trying and failing. I know if I never submit my work, it will never be published. And that is the one kind of failure I am no longer willing to accept.

This week’s video is “Rather Be Here” from my friend James’ former musical incarnation, Frightened Cellar. It is off the album Destroy The Fear That Forms You, which inspired my headline. I have included the lyrics below because maybe his words will resonate with you, like his words did for me.

“Rather Be Here”

It’s not time you’ve wasted
I’m sure you’ve come fairly far
From complaining about the past and spending all day in the bar
You might have been a punch card
It’s something they’d have been proud of
Don’t let your doubts stain everything you stand for

When the past is the past and the song comes undone
I’ll still be here waiting for you to grow up
When you start looking forward and seeing your worth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth

So get out of that painting and don’t be so sad
Sure you took things for granted and often looked back
Just keep moving forward you might be a star
Or love yourself someday, that’d be the best fate by far

When the past is the past and the song comes undone
I’ll still be here waiting for you to grow up
When you start looking forward and seeing your worth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth

When the days are growing tired and nothing seems right
When hope’s a distant memory and you can’t leave the night
Just keep moving forward it’s the only way you can go
You’ll have your time yet, this life is your show

When the past is the past and the song comes undone
I’ll still be here waiting for you to grow up
When you start looking forward and seeing your worth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth
I’ll be right here waiting for you to come back to earth

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