She’s an octopus. An obnoxious, eight-legged, backstabbing octopus.
She’s almost as big as my seven-month old daughter, with cylindrical floppy legs, each adorned with an attractive trinket on the end. A plastic hoop, a tiny crab, a clear ball with multi-colored beads.
She wears a gentle smile, as if to say “It’s okay, I won’t tell anyone you just spit up all over yourself.”
We—ahem—I, have nicknamed the octopus “Frenemy.” This is because my daughter love-hates her rainbow-colored BFF. She will stare into her eyes and babble nonsensical stories and gossip about the other toys. She’ll lovingly hug all of Frenemy’s legs and kiss her fuzzy tentacles.
And then, out of nowhere, she’ll start crying.
She’ll yell and scream and hit Frenemy. She gets so upset that we need to throw Frenemy across the room and put her under a basket, all while cursing profanities in the general area to get rid of all the evil juju.
Then suddenly, something unexpected happens.
My daughter will look for her. Her eyes dart around the room.
You see, she needs to know where Frenemy is at all times. She needs to know that Frenemy isn’t plotting against her with the other, more popular toys. She needs to play nice. She needs to love Frenemy.
My frenemy is my fear. Usually, it’s fear of failure. Sometimes it’s fear of time, or rather, lack of time. Sometimes it’s fear of rejection. Sometimes it’s zombie apocalypse.
And on a good day, I remind myself that I need to treat fear like that biyatch octopus.
You see, fear truly is my only frenemy.
When I’m approaching goals, which in the words of, Jen Sincero, are not to-do lists, but “visions of your dreams,” sometimes I get rill scurred.
Because all my frenemy shows me, is the myriad ways that it’s NOT going to work out.
But then I do something you might find…weird.
I write out all the things my fear is telling me. And honestly, most of it is absolutely, 100%, completely ludicrous. The probability of any of my most dramatic fears becoming a reality is about 0.3%. So on a bad day, even if I feel like my dreams are only 30% possible, that’s 28.7% percent MORE PROBABLE than my ultimate fear scenario.
It’s a numbers game.
When you’re feeling tired, afraid, and a little chubby (this has nothing to do with anything, but totally does, somehow—validated by author Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic), remember that all you need is to have more faith in your probability to succeed than the possibility of failure.
You can’t play the numbers game if you don’t know what you’re up against.
And most importantly, if you don’t get up close and personal with the thoughts your fear feeds you, you can’t tell her she’s being an ignorant, exaggerating BORE (or the word that rhymes with bore).
Lest you have forgotten any and all fears you have ever had, Gilbert reminds us of the shrill voice of our frenemy. I’m including the excerpt below because I WANT you to get cozy with fear. Invite her over for a sleepover and get her to tell you her darkest secrets. Know her well, so you don’t have to be afraid, and you are not surprised by what she has to say when you’re having a day where everything plain sucks.
You’re afraid you have no talent.
You’re afraid you will be rejected, or criticized, or ridiculed, or misunderstood, or worst of all ignored.
You’re afraid there is no market for your creativity,
and therefore no point in pursuing it.
You’re afraid somebody else already did it better.
You’re afraid somebody will steal your ideas, so it’s
safer to keep them hidden forever in the dark.
You’re afraid you won’t be taken seriously.
You’re afraid your work isn’t politically, emotionally, or artistically important enough to change anyone’s life.
You’re afraid your dreams are embarrassing.
—Big Magic, 2017
Gilbert goes on for two more full pages.
How many pages can you come up with?
Clean yourself out. Get it out on the page.
Look your fear in the face.
Some of us feel we have too much at stake. We believe that we have to function at such a rigorous pace to keep up with our lives, that we have no time for fear.
In fact, we tend to keep fear hidden, so we can continue to work,
talk about work,
complain about work,
drive to work.
You get the idea.
Notice if this is your way of trying to circumvent fear and if it is, take a moment and consider acknowledging your frenemy.
Play nice with her.
Know what makes her tick.
Fear can be helpful when we understand her motivation.
Don’t let her catch you off guard.
Do NOT, let her push you around.