Speaking of fear, just recently something exceptional just happened to me: I had the absolutely worst fundraising meeting I’ve had since starting my job at Acumen Fund three years ago. It’s not worth going into the specifics…suffice it to say it was unpleasant and transactional in the worst way. Paint your worst picture of what a fundraising meeting could be, and that was this meeting.
I admit, I was a little shaken for a little while. I had to vent some to a couple of folks to clear the air.
And then, almost right away, it was done. The feeling was gone, the meeting was in the past. And no real harm was done. The actual experience of the thing I feared – the thing that can keep me and you from picking up the phone or putting yourself out there or standing in front of an audience or pitching a new, crazy idea or going with your gut – was exposed. And it was so much less powerful or meaningful than the picture I’d drawn over time.
There’s the lurking monster I imagined, and the reality that it had no teeth.
I recently went to a two-and-a-half hour yoga workshop with Doug Swenson. Doug teaches Ashtanga yoga, a style I don’t normally practice, and the workshop was pretty advanced.
On top of that, with a busy life and two young kids, my own yoga practice has become intermittent. So maybe I’d have been better off going to a regular class, but there I was. And by about 10 minutes into the workshop, it was clear that about half the students were very regular / advanced practitioners: handstands and crazy balances and strength, flexibility and grace abounded.
And so began a quiet, almost inaudible, pernicious voice-over in my own head, “Well, this is clearly all they do…practice yoga all day long. Don’t they have other priorities? Who does she think she is anyway, showing off like that at the start of class?” Over and over and over and over, getting louder and louder and louder.
That voice in my head is the voice of fear. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being embarrassed and of standing out. It’s the voice of adolescence. It’s the voice that worries about fitting in. It’s the voice that thinks others are judging, maybe even laughing just a little bit.
This voice is a prison.
And it’s so powerful because no one else hears it. So you can pretend that it’s not out there, that it doesn’t have you in its clutches, that it’s not directing your choices, even when it is.
In the yoga class, I kept on breathing, I acknowledged the voice and the fear, and it (mostly) lost its power. Not completely, but mostly.