Less Than Scratch

Overcoming Fears
April 2, 2009, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Self

I can jump out of airplanes at 12,000 feet, drive across country by myself, and I used to have a pet snake. When people ask me the phobia question, I’m usually at a loss. However, I’ve come to realize I have a fear of looking stupid. In terms of reasonable fears, this one falls pretty low on the totem pole. Looking stupid isn’t going to kill me. I’m not going to be kidnapped or lost forever, and I’m certainly not going to be attacked by wild animals. The worst thing this fear can do is cause slight embarrassment. Often, it doesn’t even do that–I imagine situations to be far worse then they actually are.

The reason for this mini-confession today is that I recently made some strides in overcoming this fear: I went running in the park. For most, this is no difficult feat. For myself, this was a huge step because of the potential of looking stupid. Firstly, I am very unfamiliar with the layout of the park. I don’t know where the paths are; I don’t know where the parking is. The thought of driving around repeatedly trying to find either of these things certainly means I’m going to look stupid. And as such, I kept putting off going. Also, my running abilities are still very… under-developed? Without a doubt there would be other people there, all running faster than me, scoffing at my snail-like pace and frequent walk breaks. I had plenty of excuses not to go.

Yesterday, my logical brain took over and the next thing I knew I was in running attire on my way to the park. In about three weeks I’m going to start running at the park weekly, so I may as well start to get used to it. I arrived at the (rather large) park and began driving through. To my dismay I saw plenty of people running and still had no idea where to park to get on a path. I had almost decided to give up when I saw a small lot right next to a path. I pulled over, parked, got out and stretched. Finally, I hopped on the path and began running.

As soon as I started jogging, my tensions started to ease. Most of the people I passed didn’t pay me any attention. Everyone was out doing their own thing. Some were running, some walking, and I even saw a woman riding a horse! As I relaxed, I enjoyed the scenery–all that green space, right in the middle of Los Angeles. My run was even productive (despite some very sore hips today). The whole experience made me love LA a little bit more. I’m very excited to head back on Friday.

All of this has me wondering: what other things have I been missing out on for fear of looking stupid? I know acting scares me, especially improv and comedy. Don’t even ask me to play charades. Maybe I should take an improv class to force myself out of my comfort zone. I know there’s several places in LA I have yet to venture to because of a fear of being an outsider (and consequently looking stupid). Deep down I would probably go unnoticed, everyone would just do their own thing like at the park. But the fear keeps me from going. I’ll just have to start adding these things to my todo list. Even writing and posting to the internet has all kind of potential for me to look stupid. So, here I am, working through it.

I do have another fear (although fear may not be the best word) that I’ll touch on briefly. Whenever I start something new, I have a fear that I won’t do it 100% correctly. This is particularly prevalent with things such as exercise. I want to develop good fitness habits but don’t know where to begin. For a long time, I just didn’t begin. Somehow I figured if I couldn’t do it right, it wasn’t worth doing at all. Then, if I started to look for information, I became overwhelmed. There’s so much information available that it’s easy to procrastinate further. Recently I found myself getting into that rut, so I decided it’s better to do something than nothing at all, even if it isn’t perfect. Go outside and walk, or jog. Lift some weights. Write something for the blog. Just do something, even if it isn’t the greatest. Perfection be damned. Once I start the habits, then I can begin to refine them. So from now on, I’m going to do more and think less. I’ve found it’s the thinking that usually gets me in trouble.

What about you, do you have any goofy fears or anxieties that are you keeping you back? What are you doing to work through them?