fear

Getting over fear

A wise man once said, (I´m paraphrasing here) ¨If you´re afraid of being poor, walk around for a day in threadbare clothes and only drink water and eat a crust of bread. At the end, say to yourself, is this what I´ve been so afraid of?¨

How many times have you done something that you were really afraid of and then laughed at yourself because it really wasn´t hard at all? It´s insane how much we let fear control our lives. If you think of all the things you´ve ever wanted to do, and then asked yourself why you didn´t do it the answer is probably fear.

Here are the three fears that have inhibited me the most:

Fear of poverty

Fear of criticism

Fear of being alone

In the past, I have prioritzed avoiding these fears over fully embracing life . For instance, I didn´t like my last job, but I worked there for three years because I made lots of money, and I wouldn´t have to face the fear of being poor. I have kept my mouth shut when I had something important to say, because I was afraid that I would sound stupid. I didn´t even want to have a blog because I was so afraid of exposing my terrible spelling and grammar to the world. Gasp what would they say! Since I´ve been in Spain, the computer I´ve been using doesn´t have spell check set up for English, so I have certainly had to get over my fear of criticism to write these posts. In High School and College I befriended people  who I didn´t like or respect because I didn´t want to sit alone.

Before coming here I decided to face the fear of being alone head on. First of all I came here alone. Besides for the first day, I have had every lunch and dinner by myself. Don´t worry I´m making friends, but I made a conscious decision to grow comfortable with being alone. Before, even just the thought of eating alone in a restaurant  would have made my skin crawl. In the past if I went to a restaurant with a friend and they got up to go to the bathroom, I would immediately feel like everyone was looking at me, and thinking oh poor girl, she has no friends.

A funny thing starts to happen when you´re alone for so long.  Instead of feeling like everyone´s looking at you, you start to look at everyone else. I have become more observant. I noticed how the old men here have made an art out of stirring their coffee. They slip their spoons in and out of the cup very slowly, and they do this for 20 minutes or so. It´s almost like a meditation. I noticed how people touch their wine glasses differently when they´re talking to someone they like. I can predict if a couple´s going to have sex or a fight after dinner just by the way they drink their wine!

To be perfectly honest I don´t like being alone. I miss talking to my boyfriend/friends/family. I miss having common references and inside jokes. But I have met interesting people who I probably never would have met if I was with a friend. And I´ve had time to get lost in the streets and do exactly what I want to do. At the end of every meal I´ve made of point of saying, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨

The point is as soon as you face your fears they can no longer control you.  If you´re in a relationship with someone who isn´t right for you maybe you should spend the day alone and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨ Sometimes when we face what we fear the most it´s better than what we´ve been accepting in the past.

So as a challenge, I ask you to do what scares you the most. Don´t go skydiving today. I´m talking about emotional fears. Face your emotional fears and then ask yourself, ¨Is this what I´ve been afraid of?¨If you can laugh after asking yourself that question then it´s time to start changing.

The importance of being vulnerable

You can decide how a conversation will go. Seems obvious, but as a recovering introvert, I have slowly realized this fact. I never thought I had the power to control a conversation, I usually just add on to a subject someone else brings up. But since I am at a school, meeting lots of new people, I have had the opportunity to answer the same questions over and over again. Surprise suprise the more information I volunteer, the more interesting the conversation gets.

Everyone asks me what I do for a living (actually first they ask me if I´m in college which is really flattering, but then it just reminds me of how old I´m getting). At first I was answering,

¨I just quite my job.¨

And their  natural response would be, ¨What do you plan to do next?¨ And I would say, ¨I´m not sure, just looking around.¨

I figured if they were really interested they would ask further. Or I will tell them more when we get closer. Afterall, they´re strangers – they don´t really care.

Writing this blog has helped me realize that strangers really do care. I can´t believe how many strangers have subscribed, or sent me comments (I really appreciate it, by the way (and I really appreciate my friends subscribing too!)). And the reason why people are interested is because I´m sharing something interesting. If I had a blog that said ¨ I quit my job and I´m not sure what I´ll do next,¨ (insert shrug here) there wouldn´t be much to relate to.

This where I did my reflection before writing this post. The Casa del Sal

So recently when people ask me what I do for a living I answer, ¨I quit my job because it wasn´t making me happy and I wasn´t living up to my potential. Now I´m taking some time to reflect on what I want to do with my time on earth. How can I contribute to society, but also make my happiness a priority.¨ Well you can´t believe the difference that makes. People´s eyes just widen. They´ve been given so many hooks. The conversation has been layed out.

This felt like a risky thing to say at first. What if they shrug their shoulders and say, ¨well that´s nice,¨and move on to someone else? Or they can roll their eyes and say,  You must think you´re real special. Just get a job and pay your bills.¨ But no one says this. Usually they tell me how they completly understand what I´m going through. Then all of a sudden complete strangers are sharing with me about how they are unhappy with their job, but they are afraid of quiting, or how they were unhappy but were afraid to start over again, but they´re so glad they did.

I find that the more I share the more other´s feel comfortable sharing their fears, regrets and life lessons.  I always  hated small talk, but that´s because I was the one making it boring. You don´t have to play small when small talking.

The other night I sat down with an older woman from England. We struggled with small talk for a bit, finding that we really had nothing in common, but then she asked me what I do for a living. I gave her my new and improved response. Suddenly her eyes lit up. ¨I went through exactly the same thing after my divorce.¨ She then told me how she worked in HR for years, but after she got divorced she quit her job and had lots of time to do some self-reflection. That´s when she realized how much she liked art, and she began taking continuing education classes in art, until she got her masters, and now she has a studio, and is a quite successful sculptress. She told me she wished she had taken that break to look at her life when she was younger because she felt that she wasted years just going through the motions.

Me at the aqueduct of Segovia. Hope this wall never comes down!

In a matter of minutes we realized how similar we are, and I really appreciated hearing an older perspective on what I´m going through and hearing her afirmation of the HeSo project. None of this would have happened if I just shrugged my shoulders and said ¨I´m not sure what I´m doing next.¨ I´m giving the same information, but now I´m revealing my emotions about it, and that makes all the difference.

If you´re making small talk today I encourage you to share more than you normally would. You´ll be surprised how quickly the walls  come down!

Gettin’ back to basics…

I love painting. I was known as the artist in Middle School and High School. My textbooks were marked up with doodles. I went to art camp. I went to an art college. I even got my Masters in art education. However, as soon as I graduated I dropped the brush. Why the sudden change? Did I get into a terrible car accident and lose all feeling in my hand? Did I develop an allergic reaction to paint? Am I still searching for my long lost muse? Nope. The problem is I became too smart. Yep. Too smart.

I studied art criticism, minored in art history, and became a huge art-snob. I never wore all black or a beret, but I did visit lots of galleries with my arms crossed and my eyes rolled over. Once I knew what was good, it was impossible to live up to it. Anything I made felt trivial, derivative, juvenile (and not in a good Debuffet sense (See! I’m already sounding like an art-snob again)). I could already hear the critics voices before making a single mark.

The problem is that I knew I wasn’t the best. Not technically nor conceptually. But here’s the catch. I buy lots of art, and it’s not the best, but I still love it. If there was only one artist who was the best, there would only be one museum in the world. If every band stopped making albums because they’re not as good the Beatles, who would I listen to when I’m cleaning the toilet? The point is we have to accept not being the best, and not letting that stop us. Average is pretty darn good. I’ve been inspired by lots of average people. If you have even a drop of talent, then your average is probably going to seem great to someone else.

Which leads me to my first painting in four years. I love cats. Can’t get enough of their furry little faces, and twitchy little ears. I never wanted to paint cats before, because, well, that’s stupid. Cat’s are not a serious subject matter. How’s that going to challenge my viewer? It’s too cute (the worst adjective you can possibly use when talking to a serious artist about their work). But whatever. I like looking at this painting of my cat, Reilly. It makes me smile when I walk past it in the hallway. My HeSo is feeling pretty darn good. So what if it’s not going to hang in the Moma. At least I’m doing something.

I did this in about an hour and a half. I didn’t put much thought into it before starting, and I stopped when I was tired of looking at it. I posted it on Facebook thinking no one would really notice.  I was blown away by people’s responses. People I haven’t spoken to in years were telling me that the painting brightened their day. No one said “Oh Tracy, you can’t paint cats. That’s stupid.” Which leads me to these two conclusions:

No one is as hard on you as yourself.

People love creativity and want you to succeed.

Once your internalize these two truths, it makes everything a lot easier. I challenge you to make something today that you think is stupid, and then post it somewhere for the world to see. You’ll be surprised how much people will support you.

How do we let fear stop us?

I’m a coward. I wrote the first post about a month ago and it took me that long to make it public.  Was it hard to start a blog? No, that took about three minutes. Was I editing, and fine-crafting my writing? Definitely not. The truth is I made it very clear what my goals are, and by making them public I stand to make myself a public failure if I don’t achieve those goals. Isn’t it enough to have a good idea! Why can’t I just stop there?

I made plenty of excuses. Here are some of them:

Maybe I should try making money before pretending to be an expert.

I’m going to Spain for a month. How am I going to blog while I’m there? It’s not like they have the internet way over in Europe, right?

My computer’s really old, I should wait until I get a new one.

I can’t spell, and I get comma happy,,,

I need to dust under the couch. In fact my apartment is so dirty I’ll never have time to maintain a blog.

It’s a (insert day of the week here) and everyone knows it’s bad luck to start a blog on a (insert same day here).

BUT my boyfriend kept at it, and I couldn’t stand him coming home every night with that expectant look. “Did you start your blog yet???” He would ask EVERY day. Sometimes twice a day. So really I just started it to get him to stop bugging me.  If I ever make money from this, I will owe him a huge chunk. Shoot! Did I just put that in writing?

Well, let’s take a look at why we are ruled by our fears. And, yes, I know I’m not the only one. I am currently reading How to Do What You Love for a Living by Nancy Anderson. Ignore the cheesy cover, it’s actually really insightful. In addition to the great exercises and anecdotes she gives, she analyzes why we stay in jobs that we hate. Here are some of the basic fears that control our lives:

1. Fear of poverty

2. Fear of Criticism

3. Fear of loss of love

4. Fear of old age

5. Fear of death

If you think those fears don’t effect you think again. When I first read the list I didn’t think they applied to me. After all, I’m not poor, I’m pretty confident, I’m surrounded by unconditional love, I’m young, and I’m not dying anytime soon (knock on wood). However, when I read over the descriptions again with an open mind my head was bobbing up and down so much I hurt my neck. I’m just going to go over the first two. If you want more info read the book yourself. Click on the picture of the book to connect to Amazon.

When considering a new job, or a big change have you ever been slowed down by  indifference, worry, indecision, overcaution, and/or procrastination? These are all symptoms of a fear of poverty. And this fear can effect people with money even more than people without. When you know what’s at stake it’s a lot more scary. What does money mean for you? For me, it means control, independence, and freedom. Remember the first time you went to a store with your own money? Remember how good it felt to get exactly what you want and not have to beg your parents for it? When I was 12 I won a $100 and I spent it all on candy at CVS. I got what I wanted and didn’t have to ask for it. If I don’t have money, how will I ever get what I want? I will be at the mercy of other people’s charity. How would you feel without money? Bad enough to continue doing something you don’t like?

Have you experienced self-consciousness, lack of initiative , lack of ambition, and an inferiority complex? I can hear you saying yes. Well then you have suffered from a fear of criticism. I remember going to a brainstorming meeting with my brother. After hearing the initial pitch, I had some ideas but I thought they were pretty lame. I decided I would observe for a while, let my ideas mature, and then maybe share them. As the meeting went on people kept sharing the ideas I had but never vocalized, and everyone would applaud and say, “that’s brilliant!” At first I thought those people were just idiots, and I shared this with my brother afterward. He then said something that shook me to the core. “Are they idiots, or are you just under-estimating yourself?” That’s one point for my brother. How often do you hold back what you’re thinking because you’re afraid someone will think it’s dumb, unoriginal, or not funny? The more successful, powerful people I meet the more I realize they are not smarter, more talented, or hard-working than the rest of us underlings. They just speak up. In middle school I was upset that I didn’t get a solo in chorus and I asked my teacher why she choose another girl instead of me. My teacher told me that I had a better voice, but that the other girl was louder. I probably would have gotten a lot further in life if I just learned that lesson back then.

And so, I am going to finish this post with a wonderful quote from Nancy Anderson. A sentiment that is guiding my entire HeSo project. “When you know exactly what you want and have the emotional strength to go after it, your mind and heart work together as you give your plan enough time to come into being.”