Seven Layers Of Fear That I Don't Like Talking About, But You've Probably Felt Them Too

Today I feel like a robot that’s too glitchy for human interaction testing. I feel a little loose in places and way too tight in others. I am angry that I promised myself 30 days of writing, and that I appear to be going through with it.

Photo by Robert Wilcox on Unsplash

Photo by Robert Wilcox on Unsplash

I have whined all day about writing this evening.

I’ve found tiny ways to delay this inevitable post - loose ends of work, extra skin care routines, carefully picking out loungewear for my post-yoga melty self.

But with all this self-awareness nonsense that I’ve been working on lately, I was able to see clearly that all of those details were distractions. Because it’s not that I don’t want to write, it's that I'm just scared to.

So today I’m diving in to all the reasons I’m afraid to write. Hopefully this will get some of my bitching out of the way, so that for the next 23 days I don’t have to moan and grumble so much about “how dainty and afraid I am” of writing.

Let’s start at the beginning.

1. I’m terrified that I have nothing to write.

I played with the idea of writing I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO WRITE over and over again a la Bart Simpson, but I nixed that idea. However, I think I’m just being a little dramatic, because technically that would all contradict itself - I would be writing something, and I would know what I was writing.

I’ve been trying not to dismiss myself so quickly lately. I so quickly decide that I am a blank canvas covered in clear wax that nothing ever sticks to, and convince myself that I have nothing worth sharing.

Something that I heard that really resonated with me, and started me digging deep into those blank, waxy depths of my mind, was this: I don’t care if you know how to spell all your vocabulary words, what I care about is if you have something to say.

I do have something to say, so it’s not that I have nothing to write, which leads me to the next circle of the Inferno:

2. I am scared that what I do is not interesting.

There are so many layers to this one. I’m scared that I’m dull, or that I’m just not smart enough to be engaging. Not quick-witted enough or not snazzy enough to keep up in the digital world.

I’m barraged by everyone else’s amazing vacations, perfect and elaborate engagements, adventures with their children, incredible homes - and I worry that since I don’t currently have any of those, that I don’t have cool shit to share.

If I did have anything amazing to share, then there’s the next stinky layer of the onion (mixing metaphors here, sorry Dante):

3. I am scared that I’m not smart enough to write well.

I often worry that I’ve been living a lie for twenty years. I wrote “well” back in school (where I truly believed editing meant checking my spelling), and often received high marks on my papers with little effort.

But my fear is that I was actually just better at giving teachers what they wanted over actually offering something insightful and impactful. I checked all the boxes, fit into the five paragraph essay format perfectly, and had a sentence that looked like the thesis statements in the textbooks.

I am scared that I’m just good at meeting requirements, not actually at making interesting connections and intelligent observations.

This is true for me, as it is for most of us, in social situations too: I don’t feel like I have truly interesting, intelligent things to add to a conversation so I prefer to sink into the background.

And that makes me feel invisible, and I don't like it. Which then means:

4. I am scared that no one will read what I write.

Hypocrite! How can you fear being dull and worry that you aren’t smart enough, but also fear not being seen? You have to be seen in the first place to be judged in any capacity.

I’ve started to work on this one, since it’s a little more in my control based on what I choose to share on social media. For this challenge? I don’t think I’m going to be sharing at all on social. I may tell a friend or two about it, but I don’t want to add any more weight to this project than there needs to be.

You don’t have a marketing strategy for your diary, and this is as close to a diary as I’ll ever have.

So I suppose it’s this: I want to be seen and loved. Who doesn’t? But to be seen and not be loved...that’s reserved for the next level of fear’s seven-layer dip.

5. I worry that no one will like what I have to say.

I often become ultra-self conscious in the middle of a story that my body decided to start word vomiting out, and realize, with a lurch, that it’s not funny. But the train has already left the station and I have to finish it, and the mildly amused faces on my conversation partners speaks volumes.

Once I’m ready to chat, I overshare and overdetail everything in my mind. I tell strangers weird details about my mom’s dog or about my friend’s friend who was with someone who had met my celebrity crush one time.

And my body is electric, loving the attention and the positive reinforcement I get from the sweet politeness of strangers. But my mind turns into a dark and foggy cloud as I begin to fear that no one is really that interested in how to tell the difference between a butt crevice or a crack.

And beyond the content, it’s the quality:

6. I am scared that people will hate my writing.

When I take a step back and look at my old writing with the lenses that a few more years’ experience have given me, it’s like hearing my own voice recorded. I. Hate. It.

It’s a visceral response. My throat gets all bunched up and I feel serious pity for the child that wrote those words - and who actually had the gall to publish them on the internet or share them with her creative writing workshop peers.

It’s terrifying to think that something that bled straight from your heart out of your fingertips can have such a horrifying response to you - and thinking about how others will hate it, too, is almost unbearable.

I’m worried, right now, that you’ll hate my last sentence because it’s stupid or doesn’t make sense or isn’t poetic enough.

And that, my friends, is the deepest circle of this Fear Hell:

7. I am scared that I am not good enough.

I don’t know why this is such a vulnerable thing to admit, when I know that 100% of the people in my life deal with this in some way, at some time in their lives.

At its mildest, it’s self-deprecation doused in sarcasm and humor. At its worst, it keeps me in bed, or my mind in bed, all day long. It keeps me from writing for days, months and years at a time. It keeps me from reading delightful things because I am sad that I’ll “never be great”.

It’s this fear that stops you five hours in to your ten thousand hour road trip to mastery.

And it’s the fear that I’m dealing with today, and the fear that I knew I would come up against in this thirty day challenge. Admittedly, I didn’t think it would be this soon. I thought I’d have a good fifteen days before I really hit the resistance, but it’s only been seven.

Sort of like how I’d love for this post to have nine circles of fear because I read Dante’s Inferno exactly one time and that’s how many circles of hell he wrote about. But there’s only seven.

So fill in the blanks: what is it that you’re resisting? And can you trace it all the way down this path like I can?

  1. I am scared that I have nothing to say.
  2. I am scared that what I do is not interesting.
  3. I am scared that I’m not smart enough.
  4. I am scared that no one will see it.
  5. I worry that no one will like it.
  6. I am scared that people will hate it.
  7. I am scared that I am not good enough.

But let’s all flip the script, and start to say this when the resistance feels unbearable:

  1. I have something to say.
  2. I have something interesting to add to the world.
  3. I am smart enough.
  4. It doesn’t matter if people see it if I like doing it.
  5. People don’t have to like it.
  6. People can hate it! I still like it.
  7. I am good enough.

And to close, a wise quote from Winston Churchill:

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

Keep it up. You are not alone. You are good enough.