I am not a brave person. I never was one. After connecting the dots at six years old, I grew up with an ubiquitous anxiety of being discovered and ostracized – powerlessness I would have no chance of enduring any storm that blew my way.  In Jungian terms, I lack “Warrior” energy; I have to make do with ‘Magician’ and “Clown”. *  I’ve gone through life (and analysis) learning how to deal with this lack thereof. Despite my constant conscious nurturing of ‘Warrior’, this energy has never thrived. However, ‘Magician’ has taught me tricks to deal with it. The main lesson:

Thinking does not dispel fear, but action does. 

In my office is an Emerson quote framed on my counter:

“Always do what you are afraid to do”

I can instantly identify the feeling of an anxious avoidance when it arises. When this happens, I’ve learned to go directly into it without delay. As I jump into the dark, I remember no matter what I fear, what will happen will not be as bad as I had imagined it, and I will feel good for doing something.  Courage is not the lack of fear, but action in the face of fear.

My life has a catalog of regrets, the result of inactions from fear. Most of life is not major decisions but countless small ones – the devil is in the details. By practicing the small fears, I do better at handling the big ones when they pop up.**  The most enduring regrets in life result from decisions that move you further from the ideal person you want to be.

Research shows the chief regrets in life are what you would imagine:

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

“I wish I had the courage to express myself.”

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

“I wish I had left myself be happier”

Now in my late 50s, I tolerate less and less my decisions influenced by fear. I suppose this is my greatest act of courage for which all my inner-archetypes applaud my efforts. ***

I still ‘live in fear’ about being sued, losing all, the fall of civilization, and finding a large hairy spider in the house, but I no longer avoid making decisions that violate my personal values.  I would like to go back in time to tell my 6yo self not to fearful of anything, it all turns out OK enough.  Succumbing to fear is my chief regret, but no more it’s not.

 

*Lily Tomlin was asked once why she went into comedy. She replied: ‘I realized at an early age people were laughing at me so I figured, look, I may as well be funny.”

**Another tip: consider all fears small ones until proven otherwise.

***Except ‘The Martyr’. He’s not at all happy with it.