Battling the Fear Monster a.k.a. The Reason this Website Almost Didn’t Happen

Battling the Fear Monster a.k.a. The Reason this Website Almost Didn’t Happen

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence, Featured

You are reading this now because I have (so far) been able to ward off my fears and insecurities again and again. You see, there’s a phenomenon that occurs every time you pursue a passion that really matters to you. Your fears continually try to stop you at every turn, in any way they can.

Steven Pressfield describes this phenomenon as Resistance. He also says that the more important something is to your purpose in life, the more Resistance you will face.

Many people have written about this. Some call it Resistance, others call it Lizard Brain, others refer to it as some form of homeostasis. It’s the desire to do nothing. To not change. To stay in a comfortable and familiar place. It prevents us from taking risks, putting ourselves out there, and breaking free from the status quo. And it manifests itself in a myriad of different ways: procrastination, self-doubt, fear of failure, self-medication…

Acknowledging this self-sabotaging monster inside and dealing with it over and over again is the only way to triumph. It’s the only way to create anything that you really care about.

So here I am, launching the website.

I’m going to be very honest now and tell you about some of the fears I faced while preparing to launch.

My 3 Biggest Fears:

1. Who the #!$& Am I?!

This was definitely my #1 fear. I worried that I had nothing to share. That I would just be regurgitating other people’s material and that I was by no means an expert on things like confidence.

How I dealt (and continue to deal) with it:

I remind myself that while I may not be Tony Robbins and may not have it all figured out, I am a lot more confident than I used to be. I have learned some really valuable things that I can totally share with others.

Plus, I have indeed accomplished things- Some really big things! And I think I’m pretty darn good at being the kind of person who does her own thing and pursues her interests. I mean, just look over my resumé. If there’s anything I’m an expert at, it’s being a non-expert at any one thing but really really good at many things. And that’s the point of this website right? That right there should qualify me to talk on the subject matter.

Moreover, even though there are people out there doing similar things and spreading similar ideas, nobody is quite like me. I will bring my own unique slant and personality to everything I talk about.

2. What Will People Think?

Ah yes… this fear. How this troubled me. I imagined my friends laughing at me. I imagined people I hardly know on Facebook seeing this website and judging me. I imagined my 4th grade bullies (yes, that’s plural) talking about what “that weird girl Emilie” is up to. This was a really hard one for me.

How I dealt (and continue to deal) with it:

I remind myself that every “public person” has detractors and if you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re probably doing something wrong. This just means that your message has some substance to it. You’re not just reiterating the status quo, you’re challenging it. Naturally, some people won’t like this, but that actually means that you’re doing things right.

First of all, my friends (my close friends) aren’t going to laugh at me. This fear (like most) is unfounded. The friends I’ve spoken to about Puttylike have been nothing but supportive… (I also pick awesome friends, so that helps).

As it turns out, the people whose opinions I worry about most are the people I am not close to and don’t much care for. So who cares what they think! Plus it’s always easier to criticize others than to do something yourself. Everyone knows that.

Finally, I really only need to appeal to a small group of likeminded people in order to make this work so I don’t need everyone to like me.

3. What If I Fail?

What if this website falls apart, nobody reads the blog, and I can’t keep coming up with new content. That will make me a failure!

How I dealt (and continue to deal) with it:

I remind myself that every creative or entrepreneurial type who has succeeded had a string of flops first.
There’s a great line from 30 Rock that actually never aired. (I know it because I read the original script while doing research for my spec. In the end, they replaced the dialogue in the script with a different joke on the show… which may actually mean that it’s NOT a great line… heh.. But I like it).

Right after the flop of Kenneth’s show “Gold Case” (a cross between “Who Wants to be a Milionaire” and “Deal or No Deal”), Jack turns to him and says something like:

“Congratulations on your first failure Kenneth. You’re on your way to becoming a Multimillionaire.”

(or something to that effect.)

The thing that separates those who succeed from those who fail is that people who eventually succeed have the resilience to fail and try again. They turn their failures into feedback and refine their strategy till they make it. They keep trying when almost everybody else in their position would give up. This is what separates them from the rest.

So even if this website “fails”, that’s AWESOME! :) It means I’m on my way and I will be in good company. Plus I will have learned so much that I will do it much better the second time around.

Mostly though, I know deep down that the reason these fears are arising over and over again is because Puttylike is something that matters to me. It’s something that’s important to my central purpose. And I have a responsibility to myself and to everyone who might benefit from the site to battle these fears and keep moving forward.

I must say though, the more I fight my fears, the easier it becomes and the less frequently they return. But they do always, inevitably return. It just comes with taking risks and challenging yourself.

***

So go ahead and make a list of your fears. Then come up with a response for each one. Once you have a response to your fears, you will know exactly what to tell yourself when they return.

17 Comments

  1. Diego says:

    As Ted Lindsay once said “To win you have to have a fear… a fear of not winning” (or something like that).

    what about the notion of “boom and bust” in human action? So I, too, am often fearful for many of the reasons you state, but I find that when my ass is placed directly above the flame (most notably via deadlines) my fear of fall flat on my face motivates me to get things done. So with a burst of energy, I do just that. It’s like in those moments of necessary expediency there’s no room for fear. It’s as if fear is a by-product of having time on one’s hands.

    great post, emily…

  2. Emilie says:

    I totally agree. There’s nothing like a massive deadline to get you to jump right in. The biggest problem I’ve encountered is when I’m working on one of my ‘passion projects’, because those usually have no deadlines. It’s all up to me. Sometimes I set an artificial deadline though, by telling a friend to expect something in their inbox before a certain date. It needs to be a friend who’s going to hold me accountable though.

  3. clio says:

    Dang straight EM! I love it!

    One thing about failure thought is you can’t get away from it, inevitably everything fails in the end… nothing is forever right? Just accepting that is comforting enough for me and motivates me to jump right in! Who cares whether or not you reach your goal, it’s the journey that’s important.

    I know, terribly buddhist of me… sorry! :)

  4. ! says:

    So go ahead and make a list of your fears. Then come up with a response for each one. Once you have a response to your fears, you will know exactly what to tell yourself when they return.

    Can you give me an example…or be more specific?

    Inspiring, thank you.

    • Emilie says:

      Oh I just meant do the equivalent of what I did above. I wrote out my fears about starting the website and then addressed them in realistic terms. Once I did this I realized they were all things I could handle and I had a little response to tell myself the next time they returned.

      I often end up doing this when I’m up at night actually and can’t sleep or when something is really bugging me but I’m not sure what it is. Usually in those situations there’s something that I’m afraid of and once I put it on paper, I can come up with a response that helps take the power out of it.

  5. nick says:

    this is super inspiring Emilie. i know what you mean about battling the fears again and again – after my first victories against certain fears, i’d be high as a kite for awhile, only to come crashing back when the fears returned. it’s been a process adapting to that reality but the whole concept of “practice”, as it is called in meditation and yoga, has been super helpful and calming for me – it’s all practice, so i can do it again the next time, but this time using less energy.

    thanks so much for putting this together, it is super inspiring. take care!

  6. Emilie says:

    Thanks for the feedback Nick! I agree, it gets easier as you go. It also helps that I’ve now come to expect the fear and I know that it will pass. Now when I feel it, I think “here we go again…” That meditation and yoga stuff sounds interesting. I’d love to learn more about that.

  7. badmash says:

    I just signed up to your blogs rss feed. Will you post more on this subject?

    • Emilie says:

      ack sorry, I just saw this. For some reason, your comment got automatically marked as spam. Yes, you can bet I’ll be talking more about fears. Huge topic! Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Eleanor says:

    I randomly came across your blog today and it’s really speaking to me. To be honest, I recently started my own blog after more than a year of saying “I’ll never be a blogger, EVERYONE is doing that, there’s nothing new for me to do.” (haha)

    Well, here I am, just a little while in and I’m terrified and I have zero readership but my subject matter is really interesting and important to me that I can’t just let it go! And then I found this post by you and it sounds silly, but it made me feel a little better. Especially #3. It’s important to keep remembering that you have to fail to succeed! So I’m just gonna try to keep that in mind despite all my other worries.

    Anyways – thank you! You’re going in my Google Reader….now.

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Eleanor,

      Good for you! Seriously, that’s awesome!

      Sometimes it takes a few false starts and a lot of humming and hawing before you get to the point where you’re ready to act on something you really want to do. But it’s always a huge triumph when you do take that step. And that alone is pretty much a win, regardless of the outcome.

      In terms of the failure thing, they say that if you want to increase your success rate, you should increase your failure rate. Most people are so terrified of not being perfect that they never create anything at all! That’s what’s tragic. And you’re already miles ahead.

      Anyway, good luck with your blog! Seriously, just go for it, keep writing, and don’t let your fears win. In terms of blog growth and stuff, that stuff’ll happen organically if you keep it up regularly for a few months and reach out to people on Twitter. The first few months of blogging are pretty lonely. It’s like that for everyone.

      Thanks for the comment Eleanor! I’m happy you found me. Stay in touch. :)

  9. Baker Lawley says:

    Hey Emilie,

    Great post! I love what you’re saying, especially about failure. There’s such a stigma against failing, but really that’s the best way to learn. Except for Mark Zuckerberg, there’s virtually nobody who gets it right on the first try.

    I was researching Edison the other day for a post on genius and he had tons of failures. He said the only reason he was successful was because he didn’t have a clock in his workshop–meaning that you overcome failures by just keeping at it.

    There’s a cool saying about it that goes something like, “There’s no such thing as failure, only learning.”

    Glad you got over the Fear Monster and put up Puttylike. I love reading it.

    Baker

    • Emilie says:

      Hey Baker,

      I totally agree! Failure is really just feedback– a sign to tweak your approach and try again.

      It’s funny you should comment on this post now… I’ve got a few big failure-related posts coming out soon. Actually I’ve decided to make next week (April 4-10) “Failure Celebration Week” (feel free to write something on the topic over at Catfish Parade. :)

      Also, did you know that Edison was a big multipotentialite? True story. :)

  10. Eveline says:

    Hi, Emilie!
    I’m so happy i found this blog. I think everything happens for a reason. I think this year is the turning point for me and I’ve struggled a lot already. And now, after finding this blog (and reading your ebooks) I’ve found myself. I have a puttylike personality! And i’m gonna make this happen. Thanks to you.

  11. Chris says:

    Hey Emilie,

    Thank you so much for this post! It has really inspired me as I am at the exact same stage as you were back in September 2010 when you started Putty Like. Resistance is exactly how it feels for me. I keep getting these feelings that all my efforts will be futile and even the simplest task becomes a challenge. At times so much resistance had built up that moving forward at all felt like a miracle.

    I have been reading your blog for a month or so now and when I came across a recent post where you mentioned you first post I delved into the Puttylike.com archives and found it! This post really gave me a massive boost when I saw it wasn’t just me who had these doubts and fears of failing at the first hurdle.

    I things happen for a reason and I discovered a great project called “The Positive Challenge Project” that a guy called Brian Frank @ http://liveitrich.com/ is doing all about being positive 24×7. It’s as simple as that. Nothing fancy, just think positive thoughts. It works too.

    So the combo of your first blog post and discovering Brian’s little challenge has helped me overcome my resistance, or at least reduce it. ;)

    I just wanted to share and thank you for motivating me through your post.

    Oh, and your video on your home page is great too. Keep up the great work and look forward to reading more posts.

    Best
    Chris

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks Chris! I’m glad it helped. I remember going back in my favourite blogger’s archives when I was getting started. It’s cool to see where people start out, and observe the evolution of their work and confidence as time goes by.

      Your site looks great. Congrats on the launch, and on moving forward with it in the face of fear and resistance.

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