Stay Afraid. Do It Anyway.

January 8, 2017 | Filed Under Uncategorized 

carriefisher_stayafraidAlong with the rest of the world. I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Carrie Fisher in the last weeks of 2016. With her passing, I learned so much more about her that I hadn’t known, most significantly of her struggle with mental illness and her honesty in her attempts to shine a light into the darkened corner that is the mental health stigma in our society.

There was a quote that started circulating shortly after her death from her 2008 special “Wishful Drinking”:

““Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

As someone social anxiety, this quote impacted me profoundly. What’s powerful about it to me is the permission it gives to be afraid. My impression of the way society treats anxiety has always been “well, stop feeling anxious”. I myself have attempted to “turn it off” numerous times, with predictable levels of success.

But Carrie is telling us that it’s ok to be afraid, to be anxious, but you have to do it anyway. Do the thing you’re afraid of. Don’t let it stop you. And when I read this, it’s like something clicked over in my brain.

Tomorrow night, I’m competing in a social dance competition for the first time in my life. About 18 months ago, I got back into Lindy Hop after a 12 year hiatus (long enough to lose all of my technique and relearn all the bad habits). It’s a very low-key competition compared to many of them, encouraging folks of all levels to sign up, making allowances for the fact it’s not all going to be the Best Dancers in the World up there, and yet I’m scared out of my mind. The format is that they partner you up with a stranger, and you dance and are judged.

There’s a lot of things I’m afraid of:
-I’m afraid my assigned partner is going to be disappointed.
-I’m afraid the judges are going to wonder why I thought I could do this.
-I’m afraid the audience will wonder why I thought I could do this.
-I’m afraid that for the rest of my life everyone will whisper about that girl who thought she could do this.
-The above 4 repeat in various forms.
-You get the picture.

But see, my Anxiety and I have been together for a long time, and I’ve found some ways to trick my way around her.

First of all, I’ve been talking about this. I talked to my friends in dance, I talked to Facebook, so EVERYONE knows what I’m doing. Which means if I don’t, I have to awkwardly explain to EVERYONE about how I chickened out. A few minutes of anonymous and potentially embarrassing is way easier than explaining to 500 of my closest friends why I didn’t go through with it.

Secondly, I’ve lowered my expectations. The ONLY thing I hope to accomplish here is to get my first Jack and Jill competition out of the way. As soon as the music starts, I’ve accomplished my goal, regardless of the outcome.

Lastly, I know why I’m doing it. I have spent a lot of time obsessing over this since I decided to go through with it, and a lot of that has been asking myself what I’m hoping to get out of it. Because of that, I know I am not expecting to place. At ALL.

But here’s the thing – Jack and Jills terrify me. And I refuse to accept that something in the world can intimidate me that much. So I will take action to remove its power.

And that starts tomorrow night, at my first Jack and Jill competition.

WIsh me luck.

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