“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
I was sitting in a room full of leaders and coaches and this question was posed.
For some reason we didn’t like it. We scrunched our faces and said, ‘Afraid? Me?’.
We killed the question and moved on. I was one of the back seat murderers. I didn’t lead the charge and I was in there, happy to talk about something else.
Years later, I’m deeply curious what happened that day. I don’t know what had us walk by such a critical question (and one I use all the time with my coaching clients).
I’m curious because this year, I have realised I am afraid of SO MANY THINGS.
Which is odd because I’m pretty sure most of the world would view me as fearless.
I decided that 2018 would be my Year of Fearlessness. That I would mercilessly hunt down every fear and see what happened when I uncovered it.
Because I’m smart enough to know that most of my fears are nonsense and I’m very clear that the ONLY thing that ever holds me back in my life is me.
And this year I’m all about uncovering my true potential to find out what I’m capable of in the world. I only get one shot at being me, for one single lifetime. I want to use up every single second well.
I want to know what happens when I stop holding myself back.
Truth? So far, it’s been pretty damned exciting. I want some of that for you.
To be clear, I’m not playing with the obvious stuff, like fear of spiders (yep, I know, me too), because it’s not a fear that rears its head too often and it’s not really holding me back.
I’m talking about the fears that are truly getting in the way. The stuff I don’t even want to look at…
I want to share some of my biggest fears with you so that you get to see what might be swirling around in that amazing head of yours. Once we hunt these sneaky things down, we get to really go wild with what might be possible. Let’s dive in to my Top 5:
1. The Fear of Going All In
This one is great buddies with The Fear of Losing Everything. They hang out a lot together and have their own separate identities too. Most of the time I am energised and inspired by Going All In.
Except the 99 percent of the time I’m not.
You see, I love the IDEA of playing boldly, and at the same time, I’m deeply considered about the risks I am willing to take. I hate surprises. It’s practically impossible to surprise me. I’m ALWAYS weighing the odds.
Nic said recently about me, ‘it’s not that Danielle wouldn’t speed in her car, it’s that she would never speed recklessly. She would have calculated carefully whether this was the safest place to increase her speed and she know exactly what’s going on on the road’.
I never thought about it that way and she’s right.
What this means is I often LOOK like a rule breaker, but going all in, spontaneously in the moment? Makes me shudder.
Whilst I recognise there is much to be learned from saying, ‘I want this so much, there IS NO Plan B!’, you can rest assured, I always have other plans up my sleeve.
Most of the time, it’s actually Plan B I’m living. If not Plan C or D…
Why is this fear important to know? Because it has me play small in my mission. It has had me play small for almost all of my life. I have a calling to change millions of lives exponentially and most of the time, I’m playing at it. Argh. OK, ALL of the time.
Getting alert to this fear has me play bigger.
2. The Fear of Speaking My Truth
We all have a story that holds us back one way or another. I fundamentally believe that in my full strength, I am too much for most people. I’m too strong and too powerful. I will piss people off if I say what I really want to say. Which means I will become an outsider. I will offend people I love and I will make them angry. I am afraid of all these things too.
I dislike this fear greatly, although it has also been the source of many gifts in my life. It has taught me to be a natural Peace Ambassador. To read rooms like no-one else. To craft words that others can hear with love. And…
Why is this fear important to know? It has me avoid using my voice as a source of radical change. I am constantly editing, toning, moderating, washing down what I really think. Because really my fear is you will not like and admire me. I am so often willing to trade you liking me for my truth that it gets painful. I don’t stand up for things that are deeply important to me. Just in case it affects my reputation.
I have missed the opportunity for so many things I DEEPLY wanted in my life, because I didn’t want you to know you could hurt me. There is a consistent self-created pattern of people choosing others instead of me, not because I wasn’t the best candidate for the opportunity, but because I was unwilling to LET PEOPLE KNOW my deepest desires, just in case it made me seem arrogant or cocky, or like I thought I was better than other people.
The Fear of Speaking my Truth has created the most gracious loser in the world. Alongside a lot of anger about not getting what I want for me and others.
I’ve made it very easy for people to award me second place. And for the power of my voice as a loudspeaker for others to be diminished.
3. The Fear of Losing Everything
Over ten years ago, my husband and I came close to losing everything. We gave up lucrative careers to set up our own business. We did a terrible job of it. When the business eventually and painfully folded, we spent about a year starting conversations with, ‘the MOST STUPID thing we did was…’. It was a different thing every time.
We lost our status, our money (all of it and then some), our confidence and in different ways, we both lost our minds for a time. It was devastating. It took us years to build our lives back up. When we recovered our previous salaried status, we found ourselves handing almost everything to the banks. It took even longer to heal from the emotional wound.
You never do heal completely of course. If I had, I’m guessing The Fear of Losing Everything wouldn’t feature so prominently in my mind now.
It’s not there all the time. I know how to watch for this one. And it still rears up sometimes. Reminding me that I have track record for Screwing Up Everything.
Why is this fear important to know? Because it’s another way I hold back. It has me create doom and gloom scenarios where I am literally out on the street. It has me dial back my dreams in favour of the ultimate safety.
It has me not live into my dreams and has the high potential to make my life very boring indeed.
4. The Fear of Eating Myself to Death
I’m not kidding. I genuinely have this fear. From my Eating Psychology Coaching, I know I’m not alone.
My fear is grounded in some truth. For the last five years I’ve been inexplicably gaining weight. There isn’t a diet or Doctor in the land (and beyond) so far who has any clue what’s wrong with me. I’ve gained three dress sizes in two years and it doesn’t matter what I eat, the dial only moves upwards. Scary stuff.
Except also this.
This fear of eating myself to death paralyses me if I let it. It has me turn my attention inward only and become self-absorbed. Losing sight of all the differences I make in the world every single day. It has me forget that all of my health indicators, bar weight are absolutely excellent.
It has me forget there are people living EVERY SINGLE DAY with challenging health issues. In fact, I’m guessing there are more people with health challenges than those without. I happen to have mine and you have yours, as do friends and family. If we let them, they can overtake absolutely everything.
Why is this fear important to know? If the fear of eating myself to death had its way, I would be invisible in the world. You would never see me in the world sharing my message because I’d be way too busy attacking myself.
Any fear that makes us want to be invisible is insidious and deprives us of our very vitality in the world.
5. The Fear of Not Becoming who I am Destined to Be
I went to see Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love and the brilliant Big Magic) in London a month or so ago. She had us write a letter from our Fear to us. I was surprised to find myself writing about this final fear. I wrote, ‘My greatest fear is that you will die not having fulfilled your purpose in the world. You have many fears, and you must listen to this one’.
It shocked me to my core. Invited to read my full letter to my neighbour, I found myself unable to complete even the first sentence. She read it to me while I let the tears flow down my face.
My version of hell is meeting who I could have been.
Why is this fear important to know? Because I’m supposed to be out in the world changing lives on a big scale. Far bigger than I can ever do if I allow all those other fears to get the better of me.
Now I’ve tapped into it, I realise that there is gold in this one. Gold that powers me up and allows me to push through the other fears in a way I might have missed had I not been alert to this single fear.
This fear has me choosing to step up and be bold. That’s why I saved it till last. Who’d have thought there would be such gold to be found?
Friends, you’ll have different fears to me. And me, I’m just learning how those I’ve mentioned drive my thoughts and actions every single day.
I do know this. That uncovering and investigating each one has opened up new possibilities for me, new excitement and inspiration and new ways to be in the world. I want that for you too.
What if the next 12 months represented YOUR Year of Fearlessness? What would you uncover then?
There you go. Amazing.