Overcoming fears

From NaBloPoMo, today’s prompt courtesy of Ricki Lake:

I was terrified to go on DWTS, but facing my fear and overcoming it has been an incredible experience. Have you faced fears and overcome them?

I’ve been terrified every time I’ve had to get up in front of strangers and do ANYTHING. I have never enjoyed being the center of attention. In high school & college, I rarely raised my hand to be called on, and if I was called on anyway I generally froze. In ninth grade, I had a tiny solo in our chorus musical; during the performance for the rest of the school I completely blew it with a fit of the giggles as soon as I opened my mouth. Mortification!

I don’t know how I walked into my classroom the first semester I taught and faced a group of total strangers who not only expected me to know something about the subject, but also expected me to be able to communicate it to them. Somehow, though, I stuttered & stumbled my way through the semester. The next one was easier. Yet, even after over twenty years of doing this term after term, there’s always that uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach when I walk in and see those strange faces the first day. By now, though, I’ve made so many mistakes in front of a class that I can just laugh, shrug, and move on. Why? Because nothing really bad ever happened as a result. Maybe I looked like an idiot for a few minutes, but it passed very quickly and soon no one remembered.

I’ve given talks and presented papers in front of good-sized audiences. That is still scary. For those situations, I just go in as prepared as I possibly can be, and tell myself over & over that *I* am the expert, and all these people are here because (presumably) they are interested in what I have to say. And if not and things go totally awry, I have the wry sense of humor and the chutzpah to either make people laugh or set people straight, as appropriate.

I still have a lot of performance fear. Had I not taken up bellydancing, I could probably ignore this one for the rest of my life. In fact, if I opted never to perform I could ignore this one. But there’s something intoxicating about getting up there with one or more other women and just dancing together. The practice and rehearsal beforehand builds an amazing camaraderie if you let it. Bellydance is my current way of really stretching myself by learning something way outside my comfort zone, and the scariness of performing, with a bared midriff no less, in front of a bunch of people is just another way of stretching my boundaries further. I don’t want to become like so many people I’ve known as they aged, and the way to avoid that seems to involve continuing to learning and grow and stretch your mind and body further than you think they will stretch.