Fear is a broad term for a universal innate human emotion. We have all experienced fear in some form or other. Whether it’s the basic fight or flight response to immediate physical danger, or a sense of apprehension for fear of experiencing the emotional trauma associated with shame, failure, rejection and judgement. Fear and vulnerability are as fundamentally human as love and excitement, yet we have come to a place in society where we often force the emotions we feel which are perceived and categorized as ‘bad’ into hiding, suppressed and surrounded in shame.
It is this stigmatization and repression of negative emotional expressions which causes so many people having these experiences not to speak about it. The fear of judgement and rejection piled upon layers of existing anxieties and vulnerabilities, shaming people into silence. I recently finished writing my own contribution to an anthology called ‘The Silent Scream’, which explores the stigma around speaking about negative experiences and mental health issues. I have become much more outspoken on the subject of mental health awareness, and just in general over the last few years. I consider myself to have become a stronger, more informed and more authentic person over the period. I’ve written a bit around my experiences, and fund raised for mental health awareness charities. I felt I was beginning to confront my own personal fears around judgement and rejection from others-which have in tge past driven me to do, say and be things which are not in alignment with my needs, values or heart.
However, when it came to collaborating on the Silent Scream project, I found my initial response was to want to keep the piece anonymous. Now completely understandably this would be a necessity for some of my co-contributors, but for me it was a preference which stemmed solely from my own fear of rejection and judgement. Specifically deep rooted fears around not being ‘enough’. The piece would not be good enough standing next to some of the other work I’d read that had been submitted, and even if it was good-was a good enough coming from me? Wouldn’t people judge I wasn’t expert enough, my own experiences being nowhere near as harrowing as some of the other contributors-would this mean there wasn’t enough substance and credibility to my words?? I realized in the soul searching i did around submitting the piece with my name, that I still had some work to do to become more authentic and open. Although i’d experienced a shift in perspective and shed some of the toxic restrictive ideals i had placed upon myself, i was still to some extent hiding behind the words. I needed to start living the ‘authentic and open’ philosophy as well.
In 2019 I’ve decided to do a yearlong fundraising project exploring the theme of fear and vulnerability. I have named the project the ‘year of no fear’ as this works for me twofold. It’s the year of ‘no fear’ in the sense that phrase can be translated to ‘no way’, as i am fully committed to no longer saying yes to things i don’t want to do, for social acceptance, admiration or an easy life. This includes the things i confront on the journey throughout this year. This year I will encounter various things I anticipate I will have a ‘fear’ response to and would otherwise avoid. I will document the experiences and what comes up for me in the moments around them. I will not say i will face every fear and ‘conquer’ them- as this would be against the very ethos of the project. I will as i stated previous no longer just do things because I feel I have to, or because I fear being judged for not. I will also not promote simply doing things for the sake of looking ‘strong’ or ‘brave’. Sttength is not in silent internal struggling in my particular context-it is facing being vunerable to possible judgement or embarassment! I have adopted the ‘fake it til you make it/feel the fear and do it anyway approach before while acting from a more self conscious and less self aware and informed place. In this instance it doesn’t help the cause i am trying to promote. The project is more about putting myself in situations I would normally have avoided, due to the discomfort or vulnerability that would evoke. In that sense I guess it is more the ‘year of perpetual horror’, but that’s not quite as catchy a title! I thought people would be less inclined to get on board that particular bus…
I decided to do this project as I was looking for ways to fund-raise for the charity MIND. I wont be doing it alone, and i’ll be dragging as many fellow humans along for the ride as possible-to bear witness to and share in some of my most vulnerable and embarrassing moments. I fully expect some of these experiences will bring some of my absolute worst characteristics and habits unavoidably to the surface- this is a good opportunity for personal growth for me as well as anything! So I’ve enlisted friends far and wide to help me plan, and although the ‘to-do’ list of actions is still to be finalized, some of the ideas so far range from the mundane, more personal challenges-such as ‘singing in public’, to the ridiculous and potentially coronary inducing ‘bungee swing from the Garry bridge’! I’ll be posting the finalized list very soon, and also first and only fixed item on the agenda, which will be a little introductory publicly accessible video where I will speak (very briefly!) about the project and the aims.
You can follow along on Twitter, Instagram and the Blog too, and feel free to tag/hashtag any of your personal experiences relevant to the year of no fear so I can celebrate along with you!