Be Proudly Afraid.

fear·less

Lacking fear.

Bold. Brave. Courageous. Intrepid. Valiant. Gallant. Lionhearted. Heroic. Audacious. Indomitable. Gutsy. Ballsy. Warrior.

Overwhelmed with trying to be all those things? Is it even possible?

Another common theme I have been reading and thinking a lot about lately is fear. Fear of our students not achieving a desired goal, fear of not feeling accepted or validated by our colleagues, fear of criticism, fear of rejection, fear of failure. The latter may be the root of it all- I hear from so many that their greatest fear is feeling like a failure, or being viewed as such. If a desired outcome is not attained, we’ve failed. And that is scary. That hurts.

In the most motivational of keynotes and the most inspiring books and blogs I’ve read, one big idea is to be fearless. Step outside of your comfort zone, and magic will happen. Do not be afraid. Go for it. But if you decide to be more brave, more bold, more lionhearted and FEARLESS, you may accomplish amazing things, but do the risks ever go away? Does being a warrior in your classroom and in your life mean you will always see that magic? Definitely not. But when others talk of conquering fears, they talk of it as some monumental experience. Like they are completely liberated and set free by no longer having their fear. The person who was afraid to fly finally overcame their fear and flew. Huge accomplishment! But does that mean the risk of crashing is gone? No. The risk is there. Every time. Pretty sure the most gallant of warriors still enter a battle hoping not to get hurt. Maybe they are fearless, but I guarantee they are still afraid.

Life is scary. Too much unknown and unforeseen. When something bad happens, often a response is “That’s what I was afraid of.” The bad things can lead to dark times. I know. So, fear can hold us back. Fear is real and present constantly. But how do we deal with it? What is the formula for stepping out, overcoming, and diminishing our fears? Do we really have to have a LACK of fear to be fearless? After all, that IS the definition, but is that really the mark of a great educator and successful individual? Perhaps instead, we should embrace the fear, and not let it define us, but rather drive us. Risks are certain. Failing is possible. Try it anyway, and be proudly afraid.

Yes, I have had many of the same fears I read and hear about often. And yes, I have also been the one to try something anyway. And YES! Sometimes I failed. The failure was my feedback. For me, it is the fear itself that helps me feel a sense of accomplishment when I “go for it,” regardless of how it may turn out. It is the fear that keeps me seeking out new learning and ideas, and keeps me motivated to push myself. I do let it drive me. I am proud to be afraid of something, because that means I have an opportunity to challenge myself. I feel strongly that it is not only OK to have fear, but necessary to ensure that we ARE doing great things. Big things. World-changing things! Invariably, there are countless new ideas, strategies, initiatives, and concepts coming at us. With the abundance and easy access of information out there, it seems there is always something new and innovative that can be done in our classrooms and schools. For me, it is a lot like going shopping and wanting to buy everything I see. How many times do I say “I would love to do that.”  Or how many times do I tell myself “I wish we did things THAT way.” And of course, there’s always the “If only...” statements. Which are nothing more than ways out. Excuses. Fears.

Most likely, we are not afraid of doing something new, we are merely afraid at failing at something new. If we are only focusing on being afraid the plane will crash, we will never fly. My dad was a pilot, and he used to land his helicopter in our backyard so we could go flying. He was always trying to get me to take the controls and learn to fly myself, and he would tell me sure, there’s a chance we’ll crash, but we don’t focus on that.  We enjoy the ride. As a kid, I thought he was fearless. Turns out, he just didn’t focus on his fear. Fearlessness actually may be unattainable. We are human beings, and we may never get to a point where we have a complete lack of fear. But we can find a way to turn those fears into purpose, into personal goals, or at the very least, into a wild ride. The things that scare us the most? Those are the things that will have the greatest impact and make the biggest difference. Those are the things that are worth it. Because being afraid of something could just very well be our minds telling us that something amazing is on the horizon. Be proudly afraid. But get on the plane anyway. Or, helicopter, if you’re flying with me :)

~Michele