Do the Things that Scare You

A few weeks ago, I was wandering aimlessly through the abyss of Pinterest, scouring through some of my favorite interior design pins, when I came across a board from Design Sponge. They are one of my favorite interior design blogs, along with Apartment TherapyLonny. All things interior design get me really excited and make me feel so renewed, I can’t quite explain it but my mother is very much the same way so I attribute it to genetics.

Anyway, it was through this favorite pass time of mine that I stumbled upon this video of Design Sponge’s founder Grace Bonney speaking at the Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. The message that she gives in this half-hour speech was pretty profound, especially for me, someone who has largely avoided facing fears up until the past year or so. That being said, I thought I would share what I found to be most inspiring and also give a summary of sorts of the video for those who want to reap its benefits without listening to the entire speech.

There are ten major points that Grace makes, which I will try my best to summarize below (though I will admit, editing things down to the bare bones has never been my strong suit).

1. Acknowledge your fears. Literally say them out loud either to someone or to yourself as this will automatically lessen your fears.

2. Ask yourself ‘what am I actually scared of?’ ‘what is the worst case scenario here?’ No one ever wants to do this but it is essential because what it reveals is never what you think it will be.

3. Figure out what hearing ‘no’ from someone means to you. This fear of rejection is inescapable to the human experience. Grace mentions the idea of “not being good enough – for someone, something, some opportunity” and I can completely relate to this.  She then explains how ridiculous it is to think that a ‘no’ from one single person could possibly lead to the end of her or her dreams.

4. ‘Rejection Therapy‘: literally desensitize yourself to hearing the word ‘no.’ I myself have found that desensitization is one of the main ways in which I have grown as a person, mainly with public speaking. The hardest part of doing something that your instincts are telling you to run away from is to just take that first step. You’ll find that once you’re in the situation you’ve dreaded for so long that you’re actually okay – and this builds your self-confidence and resilience for the next experience. Grace also says that you’ll hear ‘yes’ much more than you’d expect if you just have the courage to be in the position where ‘no’ could be the answer.

5. “Facing fears is not about diving in head first without a plan – that’s irresponsible.”  As someone who plans things down to the detail, I found such refuge in this piece of advice. When approaching something that seems overwhelming, it is so important to break that larger goal down into more manageable steps. Then, you can just tackle (and conquer) the fear that comes with each step instead of imagining the collective fear of the goal and running away.

6. By breaking goals down into small steps, you will be statistically more likely to complete them. She references the book Getting Things Done by David Allen (which is on my bookshelf), thus adding a more scientific argument for point #5.

7. Figure out what you want, chart your progress, and appreciate it along the way. Get in touch with what you want by making vision boards. I have heard the power of vision boarding from books like The Secret. The basic premise is to grab a stack of magazines and cut out whatever you find inspiring without questioning it. Then, try to make sense of the themes that are present and use them moving forward as guides to what risks you should be taking. One of my favorite parts of this point is when Grace explains that we should only be taking risks that we want badly for ourselves, not because we want others to see us be doing it. How do we know when we’re taking the right risks then? When we are willing to be a part of something even if we cannot be the best at it, #1, head of everything.

8.“If you don’t own the skills, talents, and experience that you have and are bringing to the table, you’re never going to be able to take the leap to do what you’re scared of.” Once you take the time to evaluate and acknowledge your particular skills and talents, any fear or risk becomes much less terrifying.

9. “All of the things that scare you will eventually fall away because of your skills.”  Literally write your skills down – you need to pat yourself on the back a little in order to go after the things that you want with confidence.

10. Face things head on in a practical way. Force yourself to do something every day or week that scares you until you get better at it. Grace makes an analogy to starting a podcast and what she found was that the fear/nervousness/anxiety was there, but it naturally dissipated each time she exposed herself to her fear. I myself have learned that once I am face-to-face with my fear, one of two things happen: it either shrinks in magnitude each time I’m alone with it, or it vanishes altogether. She states, “At the end of the day, the gnawing thought of what you didn’t do weighs more heavily on you than failing. You will always learn from failure.” We all know that feeling of regret right after we missed an opportunity because of fear, and what she is arguing is that taking that risk and possibly failing is much better than avoiding it altogether because with failure comes heartache, but also reflection, and ultimately, growth.

Lastly, Grace argues that when each of us looks at a successful person we respect and admire, we never think about the hustle behind their achievements. For me, creating this blog is an active step in pursuing something that I know I would enjoy but have previously been to fearful to ever fully attempt. The next time I’m admiring a blog that I love, I will be reminding myself of the hard work that was put into it despite it seeming effortless, and this will make pursuing my dreams all the more manageable. Grace’s speech gave me such rich perspective on what it means to push past fear, and how integral that process is to our evolvement as human beings. I sincerely hope that this post gives you some food for thought when moving into the New Year and setting and achieving goals that fear has blocked you from in the past.


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