When I look back at all of the brilliant, mind-expanding, soul-deepening, feel-good things I’ve done in my life—from running ultra marathons, to starting my own business, to moving to another country, to swimming across a giant lake—I can confidently say that I did not feel even remotely confident before, or during, any of them.
“Why the fuck do I put myself through this shit?” I once asked my friend, Josie, having returned from another terrifying swimming session in my local lake, having covered nowhere near even half the distance I would have to swim on race day. “Because you actually want it more than you are scared of it”, she replied.
And she was right.
She’s one of the wisest people I know.
Last Saturday, I stood on stage in front of close to 200 people and spoke for 25 minutes about my work as a coach and how I blend who I am as a human being with who I am as a coach.
I was terrified.
I actually don’t think I have ever been so scared in my entire life, actually. I am still extremely confused by this. I have done, on paper, far scarier things (jacking in my job and starting a business, 2 months after my kid arrived in the world is probably up there) and yet that particular time in my life doesn’t seem to come close to how I felt standing on that stage on Saturday afternoon.
In the weeks, maybe even months, leading up to the talk, I was already acutely aware of just how nervous I was. I couldn’t focus properly, I dreamt about standing up on stage and really fucking my talk up, and my appetite waned (which is weird for me, because I bloody love eating). And honestly? I began to actually question if it was all worth it. Was 25 minutes on stage worth weeks and weeks of worry?
I started to feel that Josie’s sage advice of wanting it more than I was scared of it wasn’t ringing true this time around.
I didn’t know if I wanted it.
The fear felt too heavy and uncomfortable to want even an iota of how good I knew I’d feel once my talk was over and I was safely off stage.
But I knew I would do it, because, a long time ago, when a series of traumatic events obliterated the once very safe life as I knew it—and I subsequently spent many more years being okay but not really okay, putting on an act and ‘getting through—I actually made a pact with myself that I would always live my life choosing courage over comfort.
I very quickly learnt that that I’d always find the good, worth-doing stuff in life shit-scary, that fear was never something to fight or smash through or ignore. I couldn’t out-run it. And to just do things scared. I learnt that I’d probably never achieve anything in my life feeling certain or comfortable or safe.
I wish it wasn’t that way. I wish I could do amazing and incredible and heart-soaring and adventurous things from the squishy pillows of my sofa while watching Netflix and eating pizza, but I haven’t figured out how to make that happen. Have you?
And so I stood on that stage on Saturday. Quaking in my boots.
I told the audience I was scared. So scared, in fact, that the FitBit heart rate monitor that I was wearing at the time, thought I was doing a high-intensity workout and kept congratulating me.
I spoke from the heart—even though my voice was shaking even more than my legs—about being human and real and honest, even when it’s far easier to not be.
I meant every word that I said as I stood up there being very, very, very human and very, very, very real and very, very, very honest, because as a coach, it’s really important to me that I walk my talk. If I’m encouraging and guiding the people I work with to do scary, but brilliant, mind-expanding, soul-deepening, feel-good things, then I better damn well do them too.
I didn’t hide my fear with the people who were listening to my talk. It was there for everyone to see. I couldn’t run from it. It wasn’t going away.
So I just let it be there.
I just stood up there scared.
I’m always stood up somewhere scared, really. It’s almost impossible not to be.
Because life is scary, in lots of ways, isn’t it? There are job interviews to go to and first days at school and difficult conversations to be had and decisions with no uncertainty to be made and invites to speak at a conferences in front of people you have bags of respect for.
There’s no escaping fear. It infiltrates us all day long. There’s always something to be scared of or about.
We don’t really have a choice to not be scared. The primal part of our brain kind of takes over and we’re strapped in for the ride, whether we like it or not.
And yet we always have the choice when we’re scared, to choose courage, or to choose comfort.
Which one do you tend to choose?