“Do Something Every Day That Scares You”

by Bill Brenner on May 9, 2011

During some leadership training at work a few months ago, the facilitators urged us to follow the advice of Eleanor Roosevelt and “Do something every day that scares you.” Now comes this new Sixx A.M. album and a song  called “Are You With Me Now” with the line, “Find the places that scare you, come on I dare you…”

Mood music: 

A cosmic reminder to get out of my comfort zone? Perhaps. But it’s a tricky exercise, and not because I’m too scared to do something big and risky.

I’ve done a lot of things that were big and risky for me in recent years. Now I’m left with a bunch of little things that scare me, and the bigger things seem easier in the rear-view mirror.

The most fearsome thing I’ve done is confront the fear and anxiety that used to torment me. To do so, I had to make the decision to try out an antidepressant called Prozac. In my mind back then, to take a pill meant admitting defeat and trying something that could make me a lot worse. But desperation forced me to move past those feelings and in I went.

That was five years ago, and I haven’t had a single anxiety attack since then. Without the anxiety, the fear started to lose its grip.

A bunch of other fears had to be faced leading up to that point, of course. Fear of going to a therapist because he or she would probably just confirm that I was a freak who didn’t fit in with the rest of society.

Fear of going to an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting because the very name sounded embarrassing to me. A 12-Step program for binge eaters? That would surely make me look like a freak, since, you know, binge eating isn’t a genuine addictive behavior according to some. Forget that as an anonymous group, no one was going to know I was doing it anyway. I knew, and that was scary enough.

Admitting I was powerless against my addictions and putting my full trust in God to remove the defects was scary, because OCD is all about trying to control everything. The insanity of the disorder is the reality that in the big picture, we have absolutely no control over most things in life.

Making amends with people from my past for things that I did to them back then was scary. When a relationship fades on a bad note, the hardest thing on Earth is to look the person in the eye and say you’re sorry.

The decision to stop drinking was scary, because after I put the food down I was relying on a steady flow of alcohol as a crutch. Pick up a drink to put down the food. “Normal” addicts usually do it the other way around.

Looking at all this, I feel like I’ve heeded the call of Eleanor Roosevelt and Sixx A.M. But not entirely.

I’ve faced down a lot of big fears and I’m better for it. But I still have a bunch of little fears that are rooted in things that may seem insignificant by comparison.

One fear is to shut down the laptop, pack it away for several days and exist without the ability to see what everyone is doing all the time. I reigned in my addictions to food and alcohol. I brought the compulsive spending down to a dull roar. But the Android. The Laptop. Technology is a new addiction and I’m a slave.

In some respects, it’s strange that this is now my lot in life. For most of my adulthood, I was never an early adopter of the latest gadgetry. I didn’t own an iPod until late 2008, and it’s one of the older models. I was still using a Walkman and cassette tapes long after everyone started switching to digital music.

And yet here I am, skilled to the gills in the ways of smartphones, social networking and squeezing Internet connectivity out of the most remote places.

Shutting it all down? That would scare me. For now, I have the best excuse in the world not to do it: My job. Without the Internet, I can’t do the job.

Another fear would be to join a Way of Life (AWOL) group. AWOL is a method of studying the Twelve Steps using a specific format. It involves what some might call brutal discipline. It’s a closed study group. On the surface, I see these groups as too rigid — living examples of the solution becoming an addiction. And yet several people who I know to be perfectly sane keep telling me it’s worth doing.

Not traveling scares me. There’s always the fear that if I miss an opportunity to network with industry peers and simply be seen, I’ll become a nobody again.

That last one is an interesting fear, since one of the fears I kicked long ago WAS a fear of travel. It used to terrify me. Now I’m terrified to stop.

I’m a person of contradictions, I admit.

But facing the bigger fears tells me I can face these smaller ones.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Anonymous Coward September 25, 2011 at 3:47 AM

I think you are one of the strongest persons I had the opportunity to follow (blogwise) in the whole interwebs!
Keep giving hope, and I think that there are a lot of recognition from ppl out there.
Not atleast from me.

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