My top 10 fears and how I get past them (or not)

Move over fear, hello bravery…

With a small group of Saudi women getting behind the wheel and driving their cars in defiance of the obscure unwritten rule in Saudi Arabia that, at its basic core, restricts women’s freedom, I took pause and thought about the courage it takes. These rebellious women are doing more than breaking rules so they can drive. Breaking society’s rules – whether written or unwritten — is actually required for society to evolve. Breaking the rules leads to empowerment — and innovation. And breaking rules can take a lot of guts – the kind of guts the women of Saudi Arabia are displaying to the world.

I often write about courage because it is, quite honestly, what I wish I had more of. Yes, I’ve done some crazy things that took bravery, such as trekking through the jungle, traveling solo as a woman in places I probably shouldn’t have, and strapping myself in an aerobatic airplane in Argentina and going for a joy ride. Sometimes alongside bravery is its sidekick, stupidity…but I digress.

Shannon stunt flying

I can’t help but ask myself: is it possible to overcome all of our fears? I’ve stumbled upon a plethora of material on the internet, in books, videos and personal development programs, about overcoming your fears. But I do not believe it is realistic to completely overcome all of them; nor do I believe it is wise to not have fear. There are benefits to having fear: it can protect us from doing stupid things and hurting ourselves. Fear is also a built-in mechanism that tells us whether something is right or good for us – or not.

So while those wonderfully bold, defiant Saudi women are continuing to push past fear, take control and slide into the driver’s seat, I have reflected on what some of my fears are – there are many — and, more importantly, what I do about them.

Here are 10 of my (many) fears:

1. Fear of Cooking: I rarely cook. I dread cooking, actually. With good reason. One of the last times I cooked, it was an early morning before I drove north of Toronto to give a keynote speech to a women’s business group. It was only breakfast porridge that I had made, but as I was about to speak, I realized I had left the pot on the stove and had forgotten to turn it off. In a panic, I called a good friend to rush over to my house to turn it off. My mind is sometimes too full of ideas and my work to remember basic household details, like turning off my stove. And so, I don’t cook. Simple.

2. Fear of Googling Myself: It is a good exercise to Google yourself every now and again to see what comes up. You learn what others are saying or posting about you on the internet. It is also good to monitor the use of your identity. But every time I start to Google my name, I get this sense of worry that I will find my identify stolen and used on some obscure dating site – or worse. Or that someone will have unearthed my grade five school photo. So, I Google myself with one eye open and the other closed – like I want to know, but at the same time don’t want to know. Kind of like I do when watching a horror flick.

3. Fear of Crashing: When people talk of a fear of flying, what they really mean is a fear of crashing. I love traveling and I equally love to fly because it means I’m going somewhere – like Scotland to see where my ancestors came from (see pic below with Robert The Bruce). But each time I fly, at some point along the flight, usually when we hit turbulence, I have a momentary worry about whether I will make it to my destination. So, I close my eyes and envision the plane safely reaching its destination, followed by massaging my clenched jaw muscles and white knuckles.


4. Fear of Screwing Up: I am a perfectionist. Everything has to be “just so.” I fear type-o’s, so my written work takes longer to go through the editing process before it goes out to the world (did you catch any here?). My projects take longer to complete because everything has to be just right. Put another way, I fear failure. So, I am learning, albeit slowly, to accept that not everything will be perfect and, more importantly, to laugh at my mistakes.

5. Fear of Pet Snakes: There have been a number of stories in the news lately about big, bad, scary snakes being discovered in homes, hotels and parks. In some cases, they are pets that have been on the lam. But now that I moved from a house into a work-live loft with many units in what was once a factory, my imagination goes wild, wondering what I would do if I found someone’s escaped pet python greeting me with a hssssss as I enter my unit. All I can do is hope for the best.

6. Fear of Aging: Yesterday, I went shopping for eyeglasses. After having corrective laser surgery years ago, I have not had to wear glasses since. But in this time of awakening, I am coming to terms with the reality that the body doesn’t stop changing, and that includes our eyesight. So when the girl at the optician’s told me that many of the frames I was trying on were making me look too old — old?!! — I went home and looked in the mirror and began to search for every telling detail that I am, in fact, aging….and then I stopped. I realized there is beauty in the aging process itself. There is more wisdom. More clarity. More…well, you know, just more. So rather than fight it, it’s better to embrace it. Even if it is with fun, funky eyeglasses!

Shannon glasses

7. Fear of Being Exposed a Fraud: This is another way of saying: I am afraid I am not good enough and people will see it all over my face. I have heard of this phenomena applied mostly to women who are succeeding in business; women who somehow feel they are unworthy of their success. achievement or contribution. Some of the women I have interviewed on Extraordinary Women TV have experienced it. And so, I have been working hard to honour my own achievements, and believe that I can do even more going forward.

8. Fear of Losing Freedom: Signing contracts makes me nervous. It’s like signing my life away. Now, I’m not talking about contracts with my coaching or consulting clients, but the kind of contracts that require me to anchor my roots in one place – like a mortgage. So, now I don’t have a mortgage and I feel, well, free!

9. Fear of Fear Itself: The flip-side of writing extensively about courage is that it reminds me of fear, and I have found myself from time to time fearing that I have fears. But fear is nothing more than a projection into the future that something negative will happen. And if it is in the future, which has not yet happened, what’s to fear?

10. Fear of Dying While Public Speaking: I have heard it said from a long-forgotten source that there are 3 primary fears that people have in common: 1) fear of public speaking, 2) fear of dying and 3) fear of dying while public speaking. Enough said.

What are YOUR greatest fears and what are you doing to push past them? I would love to hear from you.

Shannon Skinner is the executive producer and talk show host of “Extraordinary Women TV,” as well as an author, speaker and media coach/trainer.