Some Nerve

Lessons Learned While Becoming Brave

Which Fear to Face First?

Stuck picking a Some Nerve Challenge? Try creating your Index of Fears.

Last month I launched the Some Nerve blog here at PsychologyToday.com with the #SomeNerve Challenge, inviting you to declare an end to shrinking comfort zones by facing a fear.

Pictures and stories have been pouring in since. For inspiration:

Watch Becky Saletan face her fear of heights on a ropes course here.

Linda running Hamptons Marathon
Linda Cowen running the Hamptons Marathon, at age 50. And she qualified for Boston!
Or read about Linda Cowen running her first marathon at age 50 here

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Or marvel at the literary scout trying Zumba, a singer conquering stage fright, and the latest batch of reader mail which includes everything from a simple declaration to go on a hike to an online editor flying on a trapeze (okay, that’s ALOTTA nerve), to a 56 year old woman taking Red Cross Lifeguard training. Just think of the lives that could change from that.

But for many, questions remain.

I have so many fears. Where do I begin? Which fear is worth facing? Which one can I handle? What if it isn’t worth the effort? What if I fail?

I Will Face My Fear of __________
It looks simple, but maybe we need more room.
 Readers have told me the simple fill-in-the-blank is not so simple. “I’d need all the pages in the notebook to hold all my fears,” one person said.

I’m with you. In the back of Some Nerve is my Index of Fears – 3 pages of tiny type listing many (not even all!) of the things I worry about; it is a landscape of my brain that traverses from Aging to Ax Murderers to Riptides to Wedgies.

  

Index of Fears
My Index of Fears. And that's just A - Dr!

So here’s where you can start too: create your Index of Fears. Don’t worry if it’s long. The longer it is, the more HUMAN you are. Laugh at yourself with the silly ones. Take a deep breath for the harder ones. You may notice trends (fear of failure, and of pain, were behind most of mine) - ask if those underlying fears are keeping you from living a full life. Circle the fears that have you imagining good times if you were able to conquer them.

Pick something small, if a lower pressure approach will help: Go dancing with a friend.

Or something big. I will learn to drive to my mother’s.

Pick something that will help your kids, if that’s good motivation. Or that will help your own sense of self.

Whatever works for you. But pick, and soon (aren’t we all motivated by the fear of death? We don’t know how much time we’ve got, why delay?) 

You don’t have to do it alone - spread the word, write to us, look for classes, tell a friend.

What if I fail? Anything can happen when you set out to do something you don’t know if you can do. Accept that possibility. Understand that it might be difficult. But you are stronger than you think. And whatever happens, you get to say that you tried, rather than the alternative: that you didn’t.

You may feel excited! You may feel sick! Both are normal, when you’re venturing into new territory. It’s what happens right before becoming brave.

For more advice on facing fears, see "3 Steps to Overcoming Your Greatest Fears," my Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Blog post.

 Looking forward to hearing your stories. Write to us here, trumpet it on Twitter (#SomeNerve, @PattyChangAnker), Facebook (@PattyChangAnker), Instagram (@PattyChangAnker), let the world know so you can inspire others as well.

 

#SomeNerve Challenge Badge
#SomeNerve Challenge Badge - Just posting it makes me feel more brave.

 

  

Patty Chang Anker is the author of Some Nerve and blogs at Facing Forty Upside Down.

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