Where are we going again?
The Handbasket » Posts for tag 'fear'

From My Lips To My Own Ears 1 comment

After a long session of student presentations last Friday, one student turned to me and said, “I hate doing this. I know I have to do this, and I have to get better at it, but I hate making presentations so much. I get so nervous. I’m really terrified.”

In truth, this is actually a composite student because, with each round of presentations, at least six students per class look to speak with me privately to confess their terror and fear. The course is Business Communications and I freely admit that my personal bias is that I lean away from emphasizing the writing aspects and more towards lifting up their presentation skills. In 14 weeks, I can’t make students better writers when most of them come in with such a poor grasp of the basics of English. However, in 14 weeks, I can see vast improvement in personal confidence, organization and team-work when we focus on individual and group presentations. Therefore, this is where I invest most of my energy and effort.

Over and over, as I speak with these students about their fears, I hear the following truths flow forth from my lips:

  • Feel the fear, and do it anyway! Being afraid of trying something isn’t necessarily a good reason not to make the attempt.
  • The number one fear in our population, as shown in survey after survey, is public speaking. This fear is greater than death, heights or snakes. And, yet, the activity of public speaking has never, itself, been known to cause physical harm or death.
  • Repetition and preparation. These are the keys to reducing your fear. Feel prepared and ready. Keep trying. Keep practicing in front of others. Acknowledge your success every time you stand up in front of others and speak – just the act of trying marks success!

As I engage the students on a deeper level, asking them what they are actually afraid of, getting them to talk about their fears, it becomes clear that they are afraid of failure. Of being perceived as failing. By others. By themselves. It shakes them to their core.

It is harder to get the students to reflect on the role of failure in their learning processes. If I could get them to think about this a bit, I’d suggest that all learning requires new behaviours, new thought processes, new ways of assembling information. By definition, it is a numbers game. In order to learn anything, one must experience failure, or partial failure. Tiger Woods didn’t emerge from the womb hitting perfect golf balls. He has had to hit thousands, perhaps millions by now, in order to hone his technique. The vast majority of these attempts could be seen as failures or partial failures. And yet, he is regarded as being highly successful in his profession. Failure is a crucial element to success.

Men seem to be socialized to manage a higher degree of risk/failure tolerance. Boys are encouraged to stretch themselves physically, to try many activities. To physically engage with the world, to have an impact on it somehow whether through team sports or building forts or bashing each other in a Wii environment.  Girls, on the other hand, are trained to be more sedate, less encouraged to go out there and have an impact on the world. Boys are acculturated to “do”; girls are encouraged to simply “be”.

So, when women experience “failure”, we experience it as a failure of “being”. A failure at some essential level of who we are, an indication of some flaw of our very being rather than a failure of some activity we have attempted. Some of us have connected, very closely, the notion that what we do is also who we are. It is no wonder that the students who confess to me their degree of fear regarding making presentations are predominantly women.

The universe plays clever tricks with me. A long time ago, I learned to listen to the input I’m asked to give to others, be they students or friends, and to ask myself “what am I supposed to be listening to here?” In other words, when situations present themselves to me and I have some opinion to offer, I tend to mentally turn the tables and ask myself if there is something in my own words to (or about) others that I’m supposed to be listening to myself. Is there something about “feel the fear and do it anyway” that I need to hear myself right now? Have I blown my own fears out of proportion to reality?

Have I associated my own feelings about failure too closely with my perceptions of my essential self? Am I letting these fears hold me back from moving forward in any way?

The answers are complex. I’m still mulling this “table turning” over. I know I’ve spent more time than I’d like to so far this calendar year struggling with amorphous fears that are like ghosts moving through my life. I brandish my mental sword of analysis at them and they disappear, momentarily, only to re-appear and hover over my emotional life, lending a cold leaden chill to practically all I experience. I know that the times I feel sunniest and most at peace are times when these ghosts have retreated far far away. The trick, of course, is to remember – as I keep reminding my students – that fear is like a filter, a lens, through which we see situations and circumstances. It does not help us interpret reality accurately. Rather, fear is designed to distort reality. It is best acknowledged (feel the fear) and then set aside so one can proceed (do it anyway).

Once Upon A Time … 1 comment

… in a land far far away, I used to do a lot of vocal / movement / performance training. I'm still working on why I stopped, or what I allowed to stop me. But that is for another post.

Isolde sent me this info and I've signed up … sometimes, it is good to be scared.

Vocal Technique / African Singing / Balkan Singing

Voice professionals Katherine Duncanson, Kathy Armstrong, and Brenna MacCrimmon join forces in these two workshops designed to reveal, develop and integrate vocal, movement, musical, rhythmic and imagination skills. Class work will be generated through the use of improvisational scores, existing music and text in a co-creative, safe and playful manner. Katherine will open each class with extended vocal exercises designed to free the voice. For this work it is recommended that each student memorize a few lines from a song or a text to use as a source for vocal improvisations.

In the Vocal/African class, Kathy will follow Katherine’s work using songs from Ghana, West Africa in a variety of languages. Emphasis will be on developing inner pulse through the use of movement and rhythm together with the songs. Ghanaian music is wonderful for connecting mind, body and soul and enhancing a performer's connection with their co-performers and audience members.

In the Vocal/Balkan class, Brenna will follow Katherine’s work using folk songs from a variety of cultures in a variety of languages to learn different rhythms and harmonies. Folk songs allow for a great range of expression and interpretation and can be used to great effect. Singing folk music can help shy singers gain confidence and best of all – it's fun! Working from music towards theatre creation is also part of the method used famously by Poland's Gardzienice Theatre, and is now a creation tool used extensively in Eastern Europe.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Fear 2 comments

Dear friends …

I'm up later than usual, fretting. My relationship has been breaking down between my "new" employer and me for some time … week by week, it gets worse. I often fear that I am a bad judge of such things, or that I'm over sensitive, or my skin isn't thick enough … but, no … this is just abusive.

On some level, my "new boss" thinks that because she is paying me an outrageous amount of money, she can treat me any way she likes. She is inordinately threatened by me. This morning, she tore me a new asshole for essentially doing my job. Last week, she accused me of almost being late for a meeting (I was 15 minutes early), for parking in the wrong place (I was parked correctly) and for wearing jeans to a business meeting (I was wearing black dress pants). She is paranoid, stressed out beyond my apparent comprehension, and way out of control.

Or like on Monday and Tuesday – she is perfectly normal.

I'm either going to get canned soon for looking at her the wrong way, or I'm just going to walk away. Crazy-making. I have to get out of here and am filled with a surprising amount of fear about that.

I hate feeling like this.

Read and post comments

Change Click Here To Comment!

[Cross-posted from Vox.]

I’m interested in bodies these days. Not exactly in the way that sentence implies, though. Although … (pause) never mind … moving on

So, as I drop a few pounds, slowly, my body is changing. People are noticing, which is nice. Other people look at me more than I look at myself given that I rarely look in the mirror other than to check to see if my hair is standing up on end.

I caught a glimpse of myself putting the ironing board away tonight, as it is stored in a cupboard in my downstairs bathroom and one must stand in front of a mirror to access the cupboard. It was a mirror action shot, I suppose. There are parts of my body that are just not going to get that much smaller for a while, like my arms, possibly my calves. These are pretty muscular and are likely to remain so.

Today, I wore a shirt that I haven’t worn much since I bought it. I really like this shirt but it has never fit quite properly, until today. So the wardrobe re-claiming begins, which is a lovely side benefit of all this.

It needs to be noted that the fact I was putting the ironing board away indicates change also, since one of the things I do both poorly and rarely is iron. I have, however, run out of summer-weight work pants and this situation needed to be addressed pronto.

On my drive home today, I thought about change and how people respond to it differently.  I’ve left the
most stable job I’ve ever had, albeit temporarily and with a wide and welcoming safety net, to pursue a more entrepreneurial life. The change feels refreshing and invigorating. After several years of work stability, I chose change. Similarly, I’ve been the “leaver” in all but one of my relationships, long or short – choosing change repeatedly there. Some time ago, I was having lunch with my sister and my niece (sister’s daughter) and we were listing out the significant relationships we’d had and how they ended. We then went back in the
family tree and concluded that the women in our family don’t put up with much crap, as we all seem able to pull the plug on relationships that aren’t working and just walk away. The pattern is that we do the ending, rather than have endings forced upon us.

In my own history, this has caused me to attract no shortage of criticism from folks who have claimed that I haven’t done enough to resolve differences in relationships, to “make it work”. I consider these opinions ill-informed and offered from the cheap seats. It is easy to look in from the outside and render such a verdict. In particular, I remember leaving my partner of nine years and hearing no end of criticism for this. No one but the two of us knew how much pain had been caused in the last two of those nine years, and few people know how hard we had both worked to figure things out for the last eight months. One does not discuss such things as a matter of course over coffee. The leaver often gets tagged as being cowardly and emotionally lazy, at least I certainly felt that at the time. In truth, I felt like I’d achieved something brave and gargantuan – I made a strong choice to support my own mental and emotional health. It was absolutely the right one, I can say with clarity six years later. This situation taught me never, ever, to judge someone else’s relationship choices and to offer input on such things only when asked directly for advice or guidance.

Did this relationship ending work out entirely as I expected? No. In some ways, it worked out better as I retained the friendship of my ex with the added bonus of not having to negotiate nearly impossible relationship issues with her. Other than the actual decision to leave, did I feel “in control” of this process? Absolutely not – it remains one of the most chaotic and frightening periods of time in my life. Do
I know how this entrepreneurial gig is going to work out? No idea … I feel very excited and optimistic. Each day, I see progress and new horizons, new possibilities. Will we be fast enough and smart enough to
capture enough of what we need, quickly, to survive and thrive? I have absolutely no idea. All I can do is my best, and support others as they do their best.

Do I feel “in control” of this diet shift? To some degree, yes … but bodies are what they are. The end results are, frankly, unpredictable. All I can do is give it my best shot.

The only things one can be sure about are death and taxes, or so it is said. And change as a feature of life. No matter how hard one struggles to control the nature and direction of change, I think it is seldom
that we are ever fully in control of how things unfold. The opposite of change is stagnation which, to me, would be like death if one succumbed to it. The silver lining of change is possibility and growth. I must
remember this the next time that life proves to me that I’m not entirely in charge.

Top of page / Subscribe to new Entries (RSS)