The Fear of Trying
Elayne Savage, Ph.D.
its nature putting oneself 'out there' involves the possibility
of rejection. And rejection hurts.
When I'm about to begin a new creative project, something
holds me back. It's especially challenging when writing is
involved. What a struggle it was to put out the first edition
of my e-letter, 'Tips from The Queen of Rejection.'
Each time I challenge myself, I learn fascinating things
about my relationship to Fear.
Tripping Over My Own Stumbling Blocks
I drag my feet. Every diversion that comes along sidetracks
me. I even find myself sorting through stacks of papers and
cleaning out file cabinets.
I'm tripping over my own stumbling blocks.
Why is starting a new project so difficult? Something is
interfering, displacing anticipation, and eclipsing hope.
Then I recognize the intruder.
It is Fear.
The Fear Team Roars In
The Fear Team comes roaring onto the field led by The Fear
Rejection and its evil twin, the Fear of Failure. They're
joined by the Fear of Success and the Fear of Being Visible.
Warming up on the sidelines are the Fear of Disappointment
and the Fear of Judgment and Criticism.
Make no mistake about it, however. Fear of Rejection is the
team leader, the foundation for all the other Fears.
I hear voices in the background and stop to listen. The Fear
Team brought along a rooting section. Well, that's OK. I can
muster up my own pep squad.
Both sides try to out-shout each other: "You can't do
it! You can't do it!" answered by "Yes, I can! Yes,
"I have lots to say on this subject!" "You
have nothing to say!" "Lots!" "Nothing!"
Opposing voices swirl around in my head. Conflicting emotion
skirmish with one another.
The confusion makes me stressed and anxious. I become immobilized.
The Queen Calls a Time Out.
It's time to sort things out. It's too hard to see options
through this haze of confusion. When we're unable to make
choices, we feel stuck. And when we're so immobilized, making
choices becomes even more difficult.
This exhausting tug-of-war between the voices is ambivalence.
It involves the presence of simultaneously conflicting thoughts,
ideas or feelings.
Those Whispers and Roars of Ambivalence
For some folks the word 'ambivalence' means 'love and hate'
or 'good and bad.' But there are many kinds of ambivalent
feelings and thoughts.
When your internal voices start skirmishing with one another,
this conflict leads to uncertainty and confusion.
The confusion creates anxiety. The anxiety causes freezing
up, becoming immobilized. This degree of ambivalence surely
It takes a lot of energy to deal with these competing voices.
Wouldn't you rather put your energy into something more creative?
By moving past the ambivalence, you'll be opening space for
5 Tips for Taming Ambivalence
1 - Honor both voices by giving them a chance to be heard.
When you only listen to one voice you are rejecting the other.
2 - Name That Fear. Can you name the Fear that is immobilizing
you? This allows you to see it differently and recognize possible
3 - Learn more about the Fear by asking yourself:
If I put myself "out there" it would mean ___________________.
If I fail, it would mean _________________________________.
If I succeed, it would mean _____________________________.
If I feel too visible what might happen? _____________________.
4 - Approach the Fear with some detachment. I call it 'walking
alongside yourself.' Step back enough to recognize when you
are starting down that old path of doubt and fear.
5 - Then, ask yourself, "Do I want to continue down
this path? I could retrace my steps and make the choice to
go down a different road."
Messages from Many People
Ambivalence is often influenced by the messages we hear in
our early years. And I was running smack into a wall of these
"You're such a dreamer."
"What makes you think you can do that?"
"Who are you?"
"Who are you?"
"Who are you?"
You, too, may have memories of admonitions received from
parents, teachers, or peers. In the last twenty-five years,
I've heard hundreds of poignant stories from my counseling
and consulting clients.
To complicate things even more, these warnings can be unspoken
family messages passed down from generation to generation.
Warnings like these are rejecting messages. They discount,
dismiss and diminish. Over time we interpret these warnings
as "Be careful." Caution like this isn't conducive
to exploring new directions or writing first issues of newsletters.
Trying to sort it all out, I ask myself an important question:
"What am I afraid of?"
- Could I be comparing my proposed project to others out
- Might this involve making the commitment necessary to
produce something regularly?
- Is this about putting words down on paper?
Struggling to Put Words on Paper
Putting something in writing - committing words to paper
or computer screen -- has always been a struggle. Even writing
thank-you notes or notes of appreciation is difficult and
gets delayed far too long.
The moment you hit the "send" button, you can't
take it back.
Recently I confided my difficulty in putting words to paper
to a few people. To my amazement there was immediate recognition.
"Yes!" each affirmed, "This is a huge problem.
Putting words down for others to see feels like I'm making
a commitment." And, they added, "I thought I was
the only one with this problem."
I thought this was MY fear, MY incapacity, MY paralysis.
I guess I'm not alone. Putting words on paper brings up all
kinds of fears.
It may be Fear of Rejection or Failure or Success for some.
It may be Fear of Visibility or Disappointment or Judgment
for others. It may be all of them.
And What About You?
Have you, too, faced confusion or fear about taking on new
When conflicting ideas lead to uncertainty and confusion,
calling a "time-out" with yourself lets you step
away and sort things out. As you understand your fear and
ambivalence, you can see your options more clearly.
Taking a step back can give you the space to move forward.
The Voices Quiet Down
The voices of MY Fear Team are more subdued. They still try
to taunt me, but I pay little attention:
"You say you know just what to do.
We say you don't. So who are you?"
I'm discovering who I am as I go through the process of facing
these kinds of challenges.
I'm Elayne Savage. I have something to say.
And I just hit the "send" button.
Elayne Savage, Ph.D.
More tips for dealing with Ambivalence at Tips
from The Queen of Rejection®
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