Naked & Afraid: Conquering Fear
There are going to be times when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing or what you want to do, and I can’t tell you that it’s going to be okay, however I can tell you, in fact, promise you… You are not alone.
Anxiety, dear old friend, who only sneaks up on me the very moment I need the most rest. My thoughts and to-do lists run on repeat in my head over and over as if sleep is a luxury not a necessity. I’m fairly certain lack of sleep causes anxiety, however, anxiety is precisely the cause of my lack of sleep (well aside from the nights when my roommate and his flock of friends man pile on top of me at 3am after returning home from the bars). Should I be backpacking across Europe? Attending an ayahuasca retreat in South American? Learning a foreign language? Reading a book on business? Learning how to cook efficiently? Obviously, those may not be your exact 4am thoughts, but those are, indeed, several of mine. Some days it takes only a cold shower to calm my mind, but others, these thoughts continue to linger throughout the day into the following night.
“What the hell am I doing?” Now that.. That is a question I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, even if you’re on a neatly designed, clear cut path to your destination (the future). Just because you’re taking 15 credits this semester that count towards your major, does not mean you’re not going to feel lost. Get this: You’re allowed to get lost, you’re allowed to be confused or even scared… but you’re not allowed to let it inhibit the goal in mind. Only you control the pursuit, so you choose. Fight or flight?
Maybe this will give you some comfort: We all get lost. We’re trained from a young age to put up a strong front, don’t show weakness… but, who’s to say getting lost along the way is a sign of weakness? Heck, I think it’s brave! Venture into the wilderness, go off the beaten path, take a few wrong turns, a few right turns, maybe get wild and take a left! This isn’t being said as person who has reached their end goal and is now reflecting on the trials leading up to success, it’s said as someone just like you, someone who is afraid, but isn’t giving up. So hear me now, again, you are not alone.
I’ve realized the days I am the most fearful of the future, are the days I’m doing the least for it. I tend to sidetrack my main goals with unrelated pipe dreams I have no intention of completing because I’m deathly afraid of the alternative. What if I put my all into this and still fail? What then? This is when I spout out a phrase we’ve all heard before, and is quite literally the least motivating in the moment you need to hear it most: “Never know til ya try!,” because damn right! I fear something I’ll never finish because I’m too busy fearing it... This is my twisted truth, and I’m forced to look it dead in the ugly face when those anxious thoughts drown my conscious at night. I am the cause of my own stress, because I am the only person capable of letting ‘me’ down. I’m not fearful of failure for me, it’s for the people around me whose acceptance I yearn for, as if they validate my success. Don’t give anyone else that power, let go of your ego. I am my own responsibility, I am in control. Solution: Do more. Try harder. Fear less.
An alternative solution: Get comfortable with failure, then what’s left to fear? We’re gonna fail, a lot more than we don’t, but it only takes one success to set your world aflame. Power through, redefine failures as lessons, because that’s what they are - positive. Learn...try again.
As much as we’d prefer to play victim to our daily struggles, it’s no excuse. You’re not special, we’re all going through it, we can’t compare our roadblocks to anyone else’s. This is the deck you were dealt, like it or not, you can’t trade with anyone else, but you can reshuffle your cards, play a new game. We fear what we are not in control of, so take control over what can, and allow the rest to follow. Let go. Loosen your grip on security (note to self)
Recognize who you’re surrounded by when you’re afraid, and those around you when you’re fearless. Confidence attracts a new crowd; Lean into it. If you’re struggling to find it within yourself, find it within friends or family, observe it, learn from it, manifest it; It’s a conscious choice. Remember, we are in control. There will be push back, not everyone is rooting for you, in fact, more are probably rooting against, because your success validates their fears. But this isn’t about envy, we do this for us, not them. We don’t wear chips on our shoulders for experiences and struggles that are familiar to everyone, yet suddenly impressive conquests once we’ve made it. We don’t need a grand story to explain our successes, nor do we require support along the way, and finally, but most importantly, we don’t seek validation from anyone other than ourselves.
The ‘unknown’ isn’t this vast, dark, mysterious place; it’s rather common, in fact, we live in the ‘unknown’ everyday. We spend more time not knowing than we do knowing. We don’t let the slim chances of getting struck by a bus stop us from crossing the street, so why let it stop us from pursuing our dreams? Embrace it… and then do every single thing (big or small) in your power to get to where you want to go, or at least to the places that might help you find where to go next. You don’t have to have a destination in mind, you just have to know you want to go somewhere. I’m not telling you to do anything drastic (i.e. dropout of college and move to Atlanta), but I am telling you to grind hard at the coffee shop you work at, pay attention in the classes you love... and even the ones you despise, finish your mini goals (they count as victories too), stay up late to apply to all those insanely competitive positions you’ve only dreamt about, skip one night out this weekend to get much needed rest. Treat every seemingly small job you encounter along the way, with the same respect you’ll treat the goal once you’ve arrived. We’re going to miss out on some things, but we’re also going to see so much more than the inside of a 2am packed sweaty bar. Worth it?
An ayahuasca retreat could be really enlightening but you could learn much of the same things from a hard look in the mirror, moving to a new city won’t cure your insecurities or procrastination problems (I promise), and learning a new language surely won’t allow you to justify giving up on yourself, so let’s do what we can today; Tomorrow, we’ll do our best again. And when the unavoidable anxieties hit, take a breath, refocus - you know what you could be doing. Take it one day at a time, but inching towards the places you want to go, that’s all the direction you need.
So go to sleep baby, we have work to do tomorrow.
“Don’t confuse thinking about the grind, with actually grinding.” - K.K.
Subnote: Landing far from the road I intended to be on, is exactly where I need to end up to realize how badly I want what I came for. We can always get back to the main drag, but not if we’re relying on life’s inevitable trials as a safety net for our failures - in other words, security. The big picture: We can make it there, but not without trying. So here I am, trying, this is my fight, this is my future, my life. I’m back - and this time, in Atlanta.