Leaving fear behind
Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear.
- George Addair
Let’s talk about some things that scare the daylights out of us. I’ll go first.
So, I’ve spent the last several weeks preparing content to lead a workshop called Leaving Fear Behind. Presenting this kind of workshop is a first for me. As the saying goes, we teach what we need to learn.
I have a long relationship with a generalized, free-floating fear. I think it’s safe to assume anyone with a pulse experiences fear. But some of us have a way of letting fear take over. We often allow fear to make nearly all of our choices, which I’ve come to find is an extraordinarily unfulfilling way to live. And, living a fear-fueled life is not a legacy I want to leave behind for my kids.
Since entering into life coaching, I spend a lot of days living outside my comfort zone – a place that’s easier on some days than on others in which to reside.
When I was going through the process of becoming certified as a life coach, the year-long training included a four-day intensive in which my classmates and I did back-breaking emotional work as well as participate in experiential learning.
The weeks leading up to the intensive were fraught with anxiety and dread. The morning I woke to catch my Detroit to Miami flight, I boarded that plane with a suitcase full of terror. I could hardly breathe.
At the start of the intensive, when it was my turn to step to the front of the room and introduce myself, I shoved my hands deep into the pockets of my cutoffs and with a shaking voice said, “In case you can’t tell, I’m nervous.”
The room laughed, which momentarily cut through my nerves, but in reality, the reason I was in Miami was no joke. During my intro, I talked for a couple minutes about fear and showed my teacher my bracelet with the words “fuck fear and fly” stamped into the metal (you can buy it here). It was my war cry for the weekend.
Honestly, I hardly remember that first day of the intensive. It was a blur of nerves, willing self-revelation, and some emotional vomiting.
But day two is clear in my mind’s eye. I recall sitting on the balcony across from Sailboat Bay, my roommate smoking, and me eating raspberries and roast chicken for lunch. I declared to my roommate that I was ready for some sort of breakthrough. I was flagging, and wondered if I was going to receive from my work at the intensive what I had set out for, which was more than learning the professional in’s and out’s of coaching.
After lunch, back in the over air-conditioned conference room, my classmates and I were taking turns going to the front of the room to say our “I am” statements. The “I am” statements were individual to each student – it was a quality or characteristic that came to each of us through a guided meditation (this might sound wonky, but stay with me here).
As each coach trainee said her statement, my classmates and the training staff offered feedback on how we came across. I remembered raising my hand fairly early on in this exercise because I needed to get it over with. My anxiety kept me from focusing on the others’ experiences. I couldn’t participate as part of the collective because I was out of my head with fear.
So there I was, standing in my Chuck Taylors and black running pants, arms wrapped around myself because I was both cold and scared, and choked out, “I am free.”
Not even for a second did I believe what I stated, so of course no one else bought it. My teacher told me to sit back down. She’d had a couple of other students do this so I wasn’t surprised by her instruction. I think the return to our seat was supposed to serve as a clean start – we were to shake off the nerves and try again. I took a step to go to my chair when she told me to wait; she redirected me to take her seat – the teacher’s seat – at the front of the room.
I did as I was told, and as I did I felt my interest pique. Plus, my legs were shaking and taking a seat sounded just fine to me. It occurred to me that of the handful of times I’d been in front of the class I’d gravitated toward my teacher’s seat, but never sat in it. It seemed somehow disrespectful to sit in her chair. I felt as if I hadn’t earned the right to sit in the teacher’s seat.
So, with this new view from the front of the room, sitting slighter taller than everyone else, I repeated my statement.
“I am free.”
“Free from what?” my teacher wanted to know, her eyes on me.
My breath was shallow; I was practically panting. Tears spilled over.
“Free from the fear, free from my body,” I said. “Free from the rules.”
She nodded and asked, “What would be possible if you were free?”
As I write this, I can still feel how fast my heart was beating during those moments in the teacher’s seat. I recall that I was positively shaking with the enormity of that question – and with the enormity of the answer that had yet to appear in my awareness. I wondered to myself what answer could possibly satisfy this process? What answer could satisfy me?
But of course, I knew the answer. That’s the thing , right? If we take time to listen, the answers are right there. So I sat still for a couple beats and the answer rose above the roar of my ever-present fear.
“Love,” I said, pressed my lips together for a nano-second, then added, “So much love.”
My teacher nodded again, smiled. She looked me in the eye, in the heart, as she said something to the effect of fuck everyone else and their rules.
“That chair is yours,” she finished.
Because I couldn’t speak, it was my turn to nod. I was overcome. I moved from this teacher’s seat and headed to the hall to catch my breath.
The concepts of freedom and fearlessness followed me home from Miami. I still wear the bracelet that I wore to that intensive. I constantly have to remind myself that I know how to be confident, courageous, and strong. Fuck fear and fly remains my war cry, my mantra, my promise.
The other idea that followed me home was that of teaching. I moved through the rest of my coaching practicum with fear and confidence brawling in the background. I worked hard; I was certified as an integrative life coach. I continued to study, and I began mentoring incoming students at The Ford Institute. I write and I coach. Still the thought of teaching won’t let me be.
So, I made the conscious choice to choose from faith, rather than from a place of fear. My workshop content is complete. My class is on the schedule. Registration is open. I am ready.
Are you ready?