It’s easy to back down from a challenge, or to hedge our bets to leave ourselves an out. Sometimes that’s wise. Most times we’re just scared.
It’s a terrifying thing, The Fear.
The Fear tells us that our ideas are too risky, or uninteresting, or just plain bad.
The Fear tells us we’ll be rejected if we try to say hello. That we’ll be ridiculed and laughed at.
When we stand on the starting line of a new adventure — moving to a new city, leaving an unfulfilling job — The Fear tells us we’ll never make it; could never make it; should just give up.
Trying is scary. Trying is difficult. Most of all, trying makes us vulnerable.
When I was twelve, my parents used to play cards with Cindy’s parents. She was the first girl I’d spent time alone with, and I was in love.
All I wanted to do was kiss Cindy. And I was pretty sure Cindy wanted to kiss me, too.
But The Fear was certain a kiss spelled disaster.
“She’ll say no. She’ll tell her parents. She’ll be so disgusted she’ll throw up.”
So I didn’t try.
The wondering was torture. Would she kiss me? What would kissing be like? Did she like me, or did she like like me?
I visualized every step of the kiss: Cindy and I would be playing Sonic the Hedgehog, and she’d be on a roll1, and I’d watch intently as she squared off with Dr. Robotnik.
In the split second after defeating the boss, while her heart was soaring with the joy of having saved the world from the clutches of evil, I’d wrap my arms around her and we’d kiss.
She’d be surprised, and thrilled, and we’d kiss like on those soap operas my mom watched where our heads rotate side to side for some reason.
I could almost feel our lips touching, I wanted it so bad.
But still The Fear said it would never work, and that I shouldn’t even bother trying.
It took me weeks to defeat The Fear. During a game of Truth or Dare, I finally worked up the courage.
“I dare you to kiss me.”
My heart was in my throat. I was tensed up, ready to sprint for the door if she said no.
But she didn’t say no.
Instead, Cindy led me downstairs, where we snuck past our dads out into the garage and sat on the bumper of her mom’s minivan.2 Even as she held my hand, I heard The Fear telling me it was all about to go wrong.
But it didn’t go wrong.
Cindy leaned in, and I had my very first kiss: a tight-lipped peck followed by a panicked sprint back up to her room before our parents could notice we’d left.
I’d been kissed. I was a man now.
The Fear as a Friend
After I overcame The Fear and got my first kiss, I had an advantage: I knew The Fear could be beaten.
The Fear told me I’d blow it on my first oral presentation in junior high. I pushed through and got a B+.
The Fear was certain I’d never win in the student elections, but I ran anyways. I was elected Junior Class Vice President.3
The Fear screamed that my band would make me the butt of a lot of jokes. But I got on stage, and discovered my first real passion in music.
It never went away, The Fear, but every time I push past it, it gets a little easier the next time.
I’ve started to look forward to The Fear now; when it rears its head, I know I’m pushing myself.
I’m doing something that scares me.
I still don’t like The Fear. It makes me feel awful, paralyzed, a little nauseous.
In every new adventure, I’ll be that twelve-year-old boy: terrified, and desperately trying to scrape together enough courage to go in for my first kiss.
But I welcome it now. The Fear is the starting line of a new challenge. A sign that I’m becoming more than I was.
Truth or Dare?
Let’s play a game of Truth or Dare. Think of something you’ve been wanting to try, but haven’t yet.
Now tell the truth: is there anything really stopping you? Or is it just The Fear making excuses?
And then, of course, the dare: I dare you — I double dare you — to do that thing you’ve wanted to do today.
If it’s too big to do in a day, then take one step toward that goal.
Just do something to move past The Fear.
If it can be shared publicly, post your thing on the discussion for this post, and tell me what the one step you’re taking today will be.
Push through The Fear. The kiss is worth it.
What to do next.
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