The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Fear as a Motivator? Maybe Not.

Do one thing every day that scares you.– This quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt was Emily’s contribution to our weekly tasks. She had just read My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock, a memoir in which a woman who’s looking for a life change decides to follow Roosevelt’s prescription for overcoming fear. By the end of the year, she was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

She obviously was not on our team.

Fear is a pervasive topic in the self-help section of any bookstore: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of intimacy, fear of rejection, fear of change, and fear of fear. But in a way, the very plethora of books and articles is a good thing; it lets you know that we all have fears. We are not alone in our anxiety and dread about doing new and scary things. If you are looking for some help with your fears, some promising work is in the area of Cognitive Behavorial Therapy.

Now our reports:

Colette: I had every intention of going out on the town last Friday night.  Being new to Nashville, I need to get out more and meet the villagers, make some friends.  I was going to kill two birds with one stone – do something that scares me and get out of the house. (I have a deep-seated fear of sitting alone at a table and feeling like a loser.)   I didn’t do it though, partly because it scares me, but mostly because my pjs were calling me, and so was the bottle of Conundrum in my fridge.  I saw a good movie and my dog looked very pleased with my decision, so I can’t say I’m sorry.  Maybe this weekend…

Pam: I am a big baby Halloween, scaredy CAT! Boo….hoo hoo…I got an F!

Emily: I made friends with my two-year old niece, Darby. And, yes, making friends with small children is scary. Darby is especially intimidating (see photo).  

The last time I saw her I asked if she would be my friend to which she responded, “NO!” I told Darby that her little sister, Eleanor, was my friend (Eleanor can’t talk, so she can’t refute me) — “Leave Eleanor ALONE!” Darby ran to protect her sister from my friendship. I knew the chances of obtaining her friendship were slim, as I’d tried to play dolls with her on a previous visit, which resulted in her walking to the corner of the room and crouching down into earthquake protection mode. Most other encounters have resulted in her becoming catatonic.

This weekend when I saw her again I first approached her with an olive branch — a pink cookie: “Darby, would you like a pink cookie?” She glared at me, grabbed the cookie, and held it refusing to eat it in my presence. So I left her alone to contemplate the implications of accepting a cookie from her aunt. Later that day, I approached her with some of those plastic capsules that turn into animals in warm water (Kids love those, right?). Now Darby loves animals and magic, so this was a tempting proposition. I went and got a mug of warm water and gave her several to drop in the water. Once they started to turn into animals, she decided she’d talk to me and we became fast friends…well, you know, until she got distracted by the piñata and forgot about me. I still consider it progress. Kids can be fickle and I think Darby knows that if she plays her cards right I’ll keep bribing her to be my friend.

Jolly Librarian: The list of things that scare me is quite long: mice, public speaking, flying, getting sick in a foreign country, dentists, tornadoes, and, well, you get the picture. Some fears I have battled, others I haven’t. I will always be nervous when I have to speak in front of people, but I can do it. And although I always get anxious going to the dentist, I make every appointment. And I have developed a method of going into a trance-like state whenever I fly. But I will never ever not be petrified to see a mouse in my house.

What I discovered most about myself this week is that I have many ways of pretending that I’m not afraid of doing something. It’s not fear: it’s that I’m too busy, that something else has to be done first, or even it’s not the perfect time.

I was reminded of a book I read long ago. I no longer remember the author or the title. What I do remember was his metaphor of life as a trip. He said that you can go to California or Florida. But don’t pretend you’re going to California just because you’re looking at brochures of San Francisco while you’re in the car heading south on I95.

Our grades:

Colette:        F

Pam:             F

Emily:          A

Jolly Librarian:   F

(Obviously we have no fear of public failure!)

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