Growing up I was awkward and shy. I hid behind my father for years. Later I hid behind friends; someone else to take charge and make decisions. I would always look to someone else to answer a question, initiate a conversation or make the first move. I also feared not being good at things, being laughed at for trying and people thinking I was stupid. This generally meant that I gave up before I ever really gave anything a proper go. I lived in fear.
For anyone similar to me: you know what I’m talking about and for those that don’t: it’s shit. It’s complete mind control. The incessant internal monologue playing out all scenarios and endings, calculating risks and damages, self admonishment for things you haven’t even done and probably never will. The physically and verbally debilitating emotions that control your every word and action. In a word- it’s a prison, and like all things caged, I longed for freedom.
The only way to free yourself is to attack your fears. Ruthlessly. If that voice creeps in with it’s ‘I can’t do that’ and ‘I’m not good enough’ then you have to challenge it-or it will always be there. I started small and worked my way up to the bigger ventures. Sometimes I would psyche myself up, completely geared for victory, and end up retreating as quickly as I’d rushed in. But I’d be back the next day and the day after that until I finally conquered whatever enemy I’d chosen. This summer brought one of my toughest challenges yet when I was offered to help out in a music video. My immediate response was 'I can't dance’. I hate people staring at me, being the centre of attention and I really hate people watching me dance. I won't dance in public sober. I'd never done it before. Ever. So naturally my first reaction to the offer was no. I left, giving the artist my Instagram name and thought nothing more of it.
The artist actually got in touch with me and said he really wanted me to be in the video. And all I'm thinking is 'why me?’. I'm not that girl. I'm not interested in fame or showing off. I barely wear makeup and despite outward appearances I have been awkwardly shy my entire life. I'm not a video girl. I can’t think of anything worse or more terrifying. But since I've been working on that inner voice I knew what I had to do. As much as I may hate sober dancing, I hate not being able to do something, especially due to fear, even more. If it terrifies me it's all the more reason to do it. What kind of a life would I have if I let fear rule me. I'm not that girl either. I was told I didn't have to dance anyway. So I agreed to do it.
Turns out the role I was supposed to play was shot on a different day and they'd use me for a different shoot. But I still wouldn't have to dance. So I head out there and meet the artist and all the producers and the other girls and guess what? I have to dance. And I start to panic. What have I gotten myself into? So they stand me in this doorway and the cameraman is kneeling down right in front of me with his lens staring me down and I'm supposed to start dancing and my entire body freezes. Shit. I ask them to play some music to buy me some time to create some sort of escape plan. They turn on some music and I still have no escape plans. My chest tightens, my body stiffens and I can tell I'm starting to piss off the cameraman. And just then as I’m about to crumple and give up and admit my defeat, two very simple words crossed my mind: FUCK IT. I am who I am and I dance how I dance. Fuck it. And if it's not good enough for them or they laugh and think I’m stupid: well then fuck them too. I started dancing. And slowly I relaxed. I still felt awkward but as soon as I started I had let go of that fear. I even started to have fun. By the end I felt completely liberated because I'd stared one of my biggest fears in the face.
Being fearless isn't the absence of fear, it’s the ability to recognise fear and walk steadily and determinedly towards it. The more you do that the more confidence you add to your reserve. The next time you’ll take on bigger and better battles and you’ll never forget that feeling of winning over something that has controlled and inhibited you for so long. The voices may still be there but over time you’ll reduce their volume and frequency. The taste of freedom will always be there to propel you for the next challenge. I’m not fully unchained but the process has brought me too many amazing adventures to go back to where I started. On to the next one.