Wednesday, August 10, 2011

To Be Fearless

By Susan

What makes a person skydive, or change careers, or stand up for justice when the world tells us to look the other way? Where does confidence come from, enabling us to be fearless?

Confidence can be infused in us, by parents, by peers. When we receive praise for a job well done, or are paid a high salary, or are loved by those around us, we are confident. Yet true poise comes from within. It is a combination of the head, which tells us we are right, and the heart, which makes sure we feel right. It is more than validation from others. It is a self-belief and assurance we know deep in our core. I am a good writer. I can do this. I am fearless.

In my past life as a sales and marketing executive, I never walked into a meeting thinking that there was anyone in the room who knew their stuff better than I. I carried myself that way, because I believed it- even when I was wrong. After the devastating financial crisis of 2008, when markets crashed and jobs disappeared and I was left unemployed, I admit: I lost some mojo. I stepped into non-profit work, hoping to give back. To serve others. To find myself. I also decided to do what I loved: to write.

Yet I found in the immersion into the world of words that I didn’t know anything about being an author, and my lack of confidence showed. I spewed out sentences and paragraphs and chapters on paper. I threw them away. I panicked if anyone wanted to read them. I cowered, hiding, hoping no one could see my inadequacies. I was not the same woman who walked brazenly into an executive meeting. I was like a child, stumbling into a new world that I knew nothing about. I was full of fear. I lacked confidence in my work, in my research, and in my purpose.

Somehow, I pushed forward, made friends, and put myself in the company of other writers. I gained a little mojo back. A little voice inside my heart told me you’re really not that bad. I could finish a passage and not only feel that it was good, but know that it was. Confidence. It was coming back, and it was coming from within. Then I passed it on to trusted readers and got that external feed that tells me I’m okay. It kept me going. It gave me purpose.
Now that I have completed the manuscript (I use the word ‘completed’ here loosely) I am thrust into another world riddled with fear. Agents and editors. Publishing houses. Contracts and business negotiations (or at least, the hopes for that). The end goal is to have my book sit on a shelf in a public place for others to judge, to buy, to read, and to love. What are you thinking? That familiar internal voice tells me. You can’t do this, it’s too scary. My old friend Fear has returned.

But this time, it’s different. It is a motivator. What is there to lose? Fear is transforming into Courage, and Courage feels good. Moving forward never felt so scary, but I press on. Is there still Fear crouching behind my Courage in the attempt? Of course. But for me-- and for you too—we won’t know the outcome until we try. It's not a matter of if, only when.


  1. You've so eloquently shared an experience universal to writers. I think we all feel that tug between courage and fear. When I find myself in this tug, I remember that old Indian legend about the 2 wolves. A sage Indian tells a little boy that there is a good wolf and a dark wolf fighting inside all of us. He tells the boy that only one wolf can really grow. "How do you know which one will grow?" the boy asks. "The one that grows is the one I feed," the sage replies. Feed your courage!

  2. Thanks, Karen, you are so right!


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