Paul McAleer

The Fear

Paul McAleer

It is extremely easy to be scared. It is much more difficult to be scared and plow right through it anyway.

Fear is something that I know all too well. I recently discovered just how much I let it dictate my decisions and, ultimately, curtail what I have done in my life. This is not a tale of regret; rather, it is a tale of choice. I'll share two examples.

First a simple example, one that I had included in my XDCHI talk last month. In talking about giving and receiving design feedback, I mentioned how much I think email sucks for this purpose. In-person conversations are best. But I used to rely on email all the time. Here is why and here is the truth: for me, it was a way to avoid confrontation. Within myself, fear had convinced me that this was reasonable: sending an email removes the need to work with an actual person in that moment. No chance of rejection, no chance of disrespect (something I have tied up in this too)... but also, no true interaction. No true contact. No emotion.

I was so afraid of negative reactions, even for things of no consequence, that I would just steer clear of those situations altogether. No risk, no harm, no foul.

Whether I knew it or not in those moments (I didn't), I was choosing to act this way. And me - my whole self - didn't like it, really. The fearful part of me was driving, aided by its pal Imposter Syndrome, and what was the result? A lack of true investment in the conversation I was having.

One other example: yoga. Yoga was, for many years, on my mental list of stuff that I was interested in doing; a someday list. Until this year it never progressed beyond that list. Why not? I was afraid that I wouldn't know what I was doing and would be seen as a neophyte. I might make a mistake, too, which is something I've had a strong fear around: the perception that I am not an expert at something. What if I fell? What if I couldn't do a pose? What if...

My monkey mind raced with this stuff and I chose to let it overwhelm me. This year, though, I was clear eyed enough to set aside those fears and just do it. As a result I've found a lot of amazing things in yoga. Have I not been able to do poses? Absolutely! Everything is new! Have I fallen? No, but it may happen!

The benefits ultimately outweigh the fear of not trying at all and that, really, is what makes it worth it.

Listen. Fear will never go away. I will try new things and I will be afraid, sometimes very much so. Giving in to fear, however, is a choice. It is important for the soul and for the spirit to put aside that fear and do those things anyway.