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What Are You Afraid Of? 4 Ways to Overcome Your Fears and Follow Your Dreams

stage fright

Photo courtesy of Stuart Anthony via Creative Commons


I’ve been thinking about fear lately. When I attended the BlogHer ’13 conference in Chicago, Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook and author of Lean In) urged us to “Write down what you are afraid of, then go do it.” I thought about what I wanted to do but was too afraid to do. At the moment it was to blog about race. My fear was that, as a white person, I would be criticized by people of color for not knowing anything about race. I still haven’t done it, but I plan to one day (I’ll have to now that I’ve posted it publicly!)

When it comes to networking, a lot of people fail to act because they are afraid. They are afraid to introduce themselves to people they don’t know at literary events and conferences. They fear they don’t know enough about social media to get started. They worry they will come off as too self-promotional if they post links to their blog posts or book readings on Facebook and Twitter. Others fear they will fail, so they don’t try at all. Still others fear all the hard work involved in developing an author platform.

Although I am no expert on fear, here are a few things I have done in the past that have helped me overcome some of my own fears (stage fright, social networking, socializing at parties):


1. Jump out of a plane

Okay, this option isn’t for everyone. But when I was living in LA, I took one of those 6-hour accelerated freefall courses where you learn how to skydive alone in one day. A couple of days later, I had to perform a scene in front of my acting class, something that usually terrified me. The day of my scene, all I could think was, “I could have died skydiving. The worst that will happen to me today is that someone will laugh at me.” It put everything in perspective, and I performed my best scene ever.

2. Practice

Before a public reading, I practice my piece several times to make sure I won’t stumble over my words, that there aren’t any awkward phrases in my writing, and that the reading feels like second nature, so I can focus on my delivery. Some people are good at improvising. I’m not. For me, practice is everything.

 3. Remember that we’re all just people

Before you click “send” on your newsletter (a moment I hate), before you record your first YouTube video, before you get up to talk in front of a group of people for the first time…remember, we’re all just people, and we’re rooting for you. We want you to succeed. Pretend that you’re talking to a group of friends. Because—guess what?—strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet.

 4. Look your best

I don’t know about you, but I feel more confident when I look my best. A  week or two before a reading or other public speaking performance, I get my hair cut if it needs it. The day of the performance, I pick out what I’ll wear, put on make-up (not something I do every day), try on my outfit to make sure it fits and doesn’t need to be ironed. Once I’m dressed and ready to go, I run through my reading a couple more times—a full dress rehearsal!

What about you? What do you fear? Why? What tricks have you tried for overcoming your fears? What has worked and what hasn’t?

5 comments to What Are You Afraid Of? 4 Ways to Overcome Your Fears and Follow Your Dreams

  • Jane

    As a black woman I urge you to write about race. We need-as a country, a region, as people, to write about the reality of living in a multiracial & multicultural area (Bay Area), state, nation, continent, hemisphere, world. We are denying reality when we don’t.

    • meghancward

      Thanks, Jane. Honestly, I'm always worried I'll say the wrong thing. But my goal in writing about race is to interview people of color about their experiences and present that information to white people (and all people) in a way that will make them listen. I'm hoping that, as a white person, I can get across to some white people who might not listen to people of color. It makes me crazy when white people say racism doesn't exist. It's hard for them (and me) to see it because we don't experience it.

  • What a great piece! I applaud you for discussing your fear of being a white person who blogs about race, and I think your paragraph about how people fail to act because they're afraid nails it on the head–it resonated with me as I struggle to grapple with my fears.

  • I have tried to dive into my fear. If I am afraid of something, I do it anyway. I often ask, "what am I afraid of happening?" And if that happens, then what will happen. When I think it through, it lets me sit with the fear and push through it

  • I really appreciate your views, but the thing is we all live in one big round ball of iron, in order to overcome our fears we have to believe that we are capable of breaking out from that big ball, for some it is not that hard but for many it takes quite a while to actually get things done….