We’ve chatted about fear here many times before, but I’m always inspired to write more about it because of the limiting effect it has on most of us every single day. To break through fear takes an extraordinary amount of courage. Like any skill, acting in the face of fear takes practice, and if you fall out of that routine, it gets harder.
That was the case for me this past year. Today, I’m letting you in on how I came back to courage after a few months as a deer in headlights.
After I attended Gabrielle Bernstein’s Spirit Junkie Masterclass in June, a few things became crystal clear, the heaviest of which was this: I was being called to be a speaker, not just a writer.
This realization scared me to death. Writing was safer; I could edit as long as I wanted before putting my words out there. Speaking? Well, I’ve always been a little awkward. Add thousands of people’s eyes staring right into mine to the mix, and the risk for awkward moments reaches an all-time high.
While I could feel this pull and I longed to bring hope in other ways, I was honestly afraid of the effort it would take to do something new. Putting together 20-minute talks (or longer) was some serious commitment! I’d have to practice and practice… but really I just wasn’t sure I was ready to be vulnerable every time I said my story out loud.
The fear of rejection has been strong in me ever since I left the world of acting. I didn’t want to be told, “no,” so I didn’t take any action to heed the calling right away. I just sat in it, procrastinating, thinking of all the ways it could go wrong and explode my life, ignoring everything that would go right.
The universe has a funny way of showing us it’s time.
In August, I ran into my friend, Ali, at my favorite coffee shop here in San Diego. We hadn’t seen each other in a long time so we spent 20 minutes or so just catching each other up on recent events.
She told me she had been doing some work for The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and that they were looking for new speakers for their In Our Own Voice (IOOV) program. I was familiar with NAMI and their stigma-breaking mission that helps thousands across the country to accept mental illness in a real, honest and empowering way.
“You have to reach out to them about speaking, Amy,” she said. “You’d be perfect!”
Immediately, I felt a sense of belonging; that this was being sent to me for a reason. I recognized that this wasn’t a coincidence that I ran into her; the universe had brought us together.
But I didn’t know if I was courageous enough to break through fear. What if they didn’t want me? What if I didn’t have enough experience? What if I wasn’t good enough? What if the work this would take drained me so much that I couldn’t concentrate on the work I do here on Strong Inside Out?
After considering both the fear and the longing for a period of time, I took a risk: I emailed the head of NAMI’s speaker program to let her know I was interested in speaking for them.
I didn’t hear back for 2 months.
It hurt. The fear I’d had of being rejected (even worse: not being responded to at all) had come true.
That’s how I came to realize: I was still breathing. I still felt this pull to the cause. It didn’t kill the fire inside me.
I was still alive.
Instead of letting the silence paralyze me, I considered that initial risk of emailing NAMI my ice breaker. I broke through the wall that was keeping me from achieving this dream I had of public speaking. Now that I knew I could survive one rejection, the possibility of more to come didn’t seem so life-threatening.
I kept reaching out to different sources about speaking for them. I got plenty of “no”s, but each one made the next “no” a little easier.
I went to Spirit Junkie Masterclass Level 2 to hone my speaking skills. Even though my presentation wasn’t as spot on as I’d hoped, I learned a ton about myself and how to make my speaking even better.
I brought my speaking into my fitness classes, teaching every class as if I were on a stage in front of thousands of people. I could see the affect it had on my students: they were opening up and driving harder than ever before, then leaving with huge smiles on their faces.
I brought the message with me into every area of my life. I began to BE the speaker I wanted to be, and with that, opportunities started to come my way…
In October, I got an email from NAMI San Diego. They had held my submission for the last few months because they loved my enthusiasm for hope and the message that Strong Inside Out stands for. They invited me to be a part of their annual In Our Own Voice speaker training.
In November, I spent the weekend in training with 10 amazingly inspiring angels. I stood alongside a caregiver, two professional speakers, a man who had gone to prison before he found recovery and a student who had had a psychotic break to name a few; people who defeated the odds of their situation. Their stories inspired me to tears, but beyond that, the lives they’ve since created through recovery stand as beacons of light in the darkness of stigma and low societal expectations.
I’ve spoken only twice for NAMI so far, but I can say that working with this organization has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.
As IOOV presenters, we share our stories to provide hope for people in recovery. I’ve spoken to families of people with mental illness and brave women who have chosen recovery over addiction.
To be able to speak to people directly who have been dragged through rock bottom – sometimes more than once – and to see them nod in recognition at my story, and then having the courage to share their own stories with me is beyond healing.
If I hadn’t made that one choice to break through fear, I never would have had these experiences. I wouldn’t feel this “right”-ness of speaking to people who are on the brink of change.
I know you might think that since I’m here, publishing my story for all to see, that I don’t get hit with gut-wrenching fear. That I’m some fear-resistant machine after all the inner strength-building I’ve gone through. It’s my responsibility to tell you that I sure do, and sometimes it wins.
But when it doesn’t, and I’m able to see first-hand that what I fear won’t kill me, I become stronger for it.
When we’re hit with the calling to bring whatever gift we have to the world, it can be terrifying. There are all the reasons in the world for why it would shatter your life. And maybe it will.
Maybe you’ll lose something. But what can you gain?
Maybe your world would turn upside down. But what if that side of the world is even more beautiful than you can imagine?
The evolution of our lives (or lack thereof) is determined by the actions we take in the face of fear. [tweet it]
When we act, we evolve, making way for the lives we want. When we freeze or run, we stunt ourselves, standing in slow-sinking sand, watching that which pulls us to greatness loosen its grip for a little while until again, it can’t stand the distance and begins to pull harder. Our repeated refusal doesn’t make the call go away; it just shifts it from opportunity to regret.
Instead of viewing fear as a faceless monster that’s here to defeat me at every turn, I’m committing to look it in the face this year. I’m committing to stop freezing or running away from what scares me. I choose to speak to it, ask it why it’s here, address the need in myself that might be summoning fear in to protect me, and then walking through it if I determine the reward outweighs the risk.
It’s gonna suck. I’m gonna get hurt for sure. I might even overwhelm myself.
I’ll still be breathing. I’ll still be here. Nothing can break me unless I let it.
And that above all else, is the reason why I need to keep going. For you – the hopeful – to see that my life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I’m still living it (in the fullest sense). To show that life isn’t a series of “right times” or “right places;” it’s the decision you make to stop waiting, one terrifying choice after the next.
Are you with me?
P.S. If one of your fears is of starting a workout program and you struggle with depression or anxiety, I invite you to join our very first round of The Strong Inside Out Bootcamp in 2016. Doors will open for enrollment on February 1st! Strong Inside Out subscribers and The Bootcamp Waiting List will get a special 24-hour discount on opening day. Click here for more information and to sign up for the waiting list! >>