The Fear of Becoming Someone New

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

becoming-something-elseIf I can do it, anyone can.

I kind of just half-ass my way through life. In fact, Jared and I joke that “Cut Every Corner” is our family’s theme song.

I’m spontaneous, sort of reckless, and basically fly by the seat of my pants.

You don’t have to take me too seriously; I certainly don’t.

As I type these sentences, a black knot forms in my stomach. These are long-held beliefs about myself, and my work recently has threatened their validity. Apparently, that scares me on some level. The knot tells me so.

As I got closer and closer to finishing the first draft of my book – and the more I called it “my book” instead of “some ebook thing I’m working on” – I noticed I started to have something resembling panic attacks. The knot was there, black and heavy in the pit of my gut. My chest would tighten and it felt like I was breathing through a vise grip. It was as if my entire body was clenching, inside and out.

It happened when I sat down to finish up chapters and when people asked me about my publishing goals. It happened when I thought about wanting to speak or who might buy a book I wrote. It’s happening now as I try to explain to you the pain of metamorphosis.

I don’t know how, but I could sense that this wasn’t the type of fear that alerts me to danger. It seemed more like what happened when Emma got her ears pierced. She’d saved for months and had waited the allotted time we’d suggested to make sure she was ready. She bounced into the store, picked out her earrings, climbed up in the chair, and then panicked. For over an hour she went back and forth between, “OK, I’m ready, do it,” and “NOOOOO! Stop! Wait!!!!! I’m not ready!” She shook in my lap and asked me to tell her again how bad it would hurt and for how long.

It feels like getting close to something, something you want that is inexplicably terrifying.

My heart pounds in my chest even though I’m safe at home in front of my laptop.

I’m close to becoming something new, I think. I’m taking real steps and following through with important details. I’m not doing it halfway or hanging back in the peanut gallery with a smile and a few jokes. I am taking the big leap.

I’m putting myself out there as someone who has something to say, as someone who knows what she’s talking about.

I’m just as surprised as I am scared. It’s amazing how terrifying it is to swap out our own labels, how completely petrified I am to stand fully erect in front of the world as more than kind of a fuck up.

I’m afraid, in part, of being rejected. And I’m nervous about the response from long-time friends and supporters; it seems we hate change in others as much as we hate it in ourselves. But mostly, I’m just afraid of the same thing that haunts us all: the unfamiliar.

I know what it looks like to sit on the floor and make jokes from the back of the room. I know how to add my two cents from a safe distance with the caveat of only being worth two cents. I know how and when to shrink. I’ve never considered myself a wallflower, but I’d say I’m more entertaining than informative. Even if those roles no longer fit who I am and what I want to do, they are easy, natural, and safe.

I feel like I’m moments away from shedding my skin and unfurling what I hope will be beautiful wings, and I’m totally stunned at how frightened I am by the whole thing.

But we do the things that scare us, right? I do.

That’s who I am now.

  1. This. Yes. In a season of dealing with my own value and fighting the inside voices that tell me I have nothing to say that anyone would care about… this encourages me. Thank you.
    jennyonthespot’s most recent post: She’s 8.

    • Miss Britt says:

      I was just trying to explain this to someone recently. It’s awful to think you have something you NEED to say, but that it might be completely irrelevant or uninteresting to anyone else.

  2. Jana says:

    What a beautiful post, and so resonant for me. I’m going through the same thing, working on a novel. It’s the thing I’ve most wanted to do in my life, and now that I’m doing it, I find myself looking for all manner of distractions so i don’t actually have to do it. I think I’m afraid to fail at the one thing I care most about accomplishing…. I know it’s normal, and I’m working through it. But I certainly didn’t expect it! It’s much easier to imagine how great your life will be when you get to do the thing you want, but then you get it and you realize how much pressure you’ve put on yourself. And, unfortunately, there’s no shortcut!

    • Miss Britt says:

      You’re right: there is no shortcut. I’ve learned so much about doing things the right way through this!

  3. Lisa says:

    I, for one, love this you and I love watching you move into this new phase of your professional life. Maybe because I do know how terrifying this is for you, I admire so much your willingness to take that leap off the cliff at midnight anyway.
    Lisa’s most recent post: On the Upside of a Downward Spiral

    • Megan says:

      What Lisa said. Exactly. And I think you may not even realize how many times you’ve emerged from a chrysalis since I’ve known you. I suspect it’s more of an evolution and that you’re on the last phase of whatever you were and about to cross over to something new.
      Megan’s most recent post: Life, The Universe & Everything

    • Miss Britt says:

      Thank you, as always, for your faith in me. xo

  4. Joy says:

    I *love* this, thank you! I am in a similar space. I am glad to be frightened, it’s a sort of controlled unfamiliar…meaning you know what path you are on, you just have no idea how it will open up, or when…but you know it will. And then it is up to you to choose how you wish to celebrate…or maybe begin celebrating now, so you’re in that fabulous “ready to soar” energy the moment you feel your wings…

  5. Nanna says:

    Gah. The safety of being a screw up. Yes. I can feel it too in you, though. The little beak poking through the shell. I wish I could translate my faith in you to you!
    Nanna’s most recent post: I’m Not “Pretty”, But I’m Damn Sure Beautiful

    • Miss Britt says:

      You know, it’s not even a lack of faith this time, not really. It’s a straight up fear of what is on the other side, rather than a fear of not getting to it.

  6. Kathy says:

    I’ve followed you here for such a long time and think you are brave, honest and a risk taker. And, a good writer. And, you are passionate which will give your writing its wings. Scared? You had better be that too, because that will keep you humble. Your book will soar and take on a life of its own…and, yes, you will be changed. Again.
    Kathy’s most recent post: Kids Grow Up to be Amazing – Mine Did. Yours Will Too.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Oh man, thanks so much for this. And you’re right. I think fear, and knowing you have it, does keep you humble (in a good way.) Fortunately, I’m pretty much always scared of something! lol

  7. I know exactly what you are going through. I felt the same way before my first book came out. The think is, it does change you, but it a good way.And doing it again becomes so much easier. I can’t wait for your book to come out. Are you you using a house or DIY, if DIY, reach out to me if you have any technical formatting questions. I’m happy to help. Also consider joining this facebook group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/indiewriters/
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: How old am I?

    • Miss Britt says:

      I was originally going DIY, but a friend at a small publisher suggested I submit. I’m going to try that route and go DIY if they reject me. I’ll definitely get in touch with you if I end up on that path! Thanks for the offer.

  8. Karen says:

    Congratulations on stepping out of your comfort zone. You are an inspiration to others to do the same.

  9. Good!
    Father Muskrat’s most recent post: excretion issues

  10. [...] I hit send, my heart just about burst out of my chest – and this time it wasn’t fear. It was joy. Pure, unmitigated, holy-shit-I-did-it [...]

  11. I find this is so true, even when one is older. Starting over, spreading wings, stepping “out there” to create the life we want – geez! Why does it have to be so terrifying? My college-age son is going through the same experience, so severely he now has medication. :( My prayer for us all is to find the strength to continue, to reach the goal, to grow and stretch and become. Blessings. -pj

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