It seems much of what I do in my life is driven not by desire, but by fear. Fear of shame, I feel, if I’m being honest. It manifests itself as anxiety, doubt, and overthinking. As “am I good enough?”, “what if I say one thing wrong?”, “what if I can’t finish this?”, “what if my work isn’t good enough or perfect?”, “what does it mean they didn’t reply right away?”, and so on.

It’s a hard thing to get past, I’ve found. Thinking my way out of it does not work. After all, I thought my way into it, piling thought upon thought upon scenario upon what-if upon doubt, etc. More thinking just follows the trails back and forth among those thoughts, digs deeper into them, shovels more on.

Dismissing the thoughts is helpful, but only so far. Realizing I’ve been caught in a web of anxious thinking, I’ve learned to stop and say, “oh, that’s thinking”, note it, and dismiss it and move on to something else. It isn’t always easy or quick, but it’s successful in getting past the anxious thought. (This is a technique I’m learning via meditation – I cannot recommend enough.) What it doesn’t do, though, is get me past the cause of the fear or thinking, get me to do the thing that sparked all the anxiety in the first place.

What I need to work on is practicing courage. Acting on something when you are afraid – doing the thing you are afraid to do – is the most successful way to get past that fear and anxiety. In the few times so far I’ve done it, pushed myself to act though I felt terrified, the result has not been what I had feared, and the success of having taken action felt amazing. It felt like victory.

It is an ongoing practice, one that I’ve only made small steps in so far. I’ve got to keep myself aware that even small steps count, though. And that there are opportunities for even small steps that I may not realize right away that are practicing courage. That document for school or work that I’ve been dragging my feet on because I think I don’t know what to do or starting it feels intimidating? Starting it nonetheless is practicing courage. That hesitation of putting pen to paper and writing a new song or poem because I’m not sure it will be good? Putting the pen down and writing it anyway is practicing courage. So are the big things – that conversation that has been put off because I’m not sure of the result, just begin it. The ask of a big favor that’s waited because I worry I’m not deserving or I’m putting the other person out – do it. The worst that could result is a no, which is little different than not asking in the first place.

As usual, I write these thoughts out for myself. If it helps anyone else in any way, though, I will only be glad.