Fear

cheryl strayed wild quotes
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me.  
— Cheryl Strayed, Wild

My husband had been begging me, cajoling, and trying to trick me into hiking with him for years. We'd been together for about 6 years before I took my first reluctant step on a rocky, wild, and steep trail with him. I was, for the most part, just afraid. I was afraid of mountain roads, of bugs and bees, of being too weak or too out of shape to complete it. I worried my face would get red, my arms would itch, my skin would crawl. I didn't want to be so far from home, from running water. I didn't want to be lost in the wild where anything could happen.

But, because he needed to be outside. He needed to escape from his own stresses and worries, I took those steps. I laced up my shoes and I stepped over rocks and branches and a fair amount of bugs. I got sunburned and itchy and I thought many times there were bears or something nefarious chasing us through the woods. And in the end, we hiked back to the car and made it home and in one piece.

Fear, was a story I had told myself, and telling myself that story had led me to believe that story. I believe I couldn't do it. I believed it would go wrong. Turns out, the story wasn't up to me. My story was fiction and I was trying so hard to make it a reality I almost missed out on seeing green gorges and tumultuous waterfalls and deer grazing in a meadow and cougar tracks in mud and experiencing the complete silence of being alone in the great wild forests of the Northwest.

By the time we moved away from Portland, we hiked every single weekend. We'd done 13 milers and climbed thousands of feet. We'd hiked in snow and heat and rain and sleet. I could hardly stand being inside anymore. I just wanted my feet in boots and mud and I wanted to be, more than anything else, smelling those pine trees.

Fear, to a great extent, is a story we tell ourselves. And we try so hard to fulfill the prophecy we've created. 

When I first started my calligraphy Etsy shop in January of 2015, I wasn't very good at hand-lettering. I had enough encouragement from some friends in Portland and the barrier to entry was low enough to propel me into opening an online storefront. I opened it with skepticism. I didn't feel like I was supposed to be an entrepreneur. I was somewhat afraid of actually getting an order. Within a few months I'd been selling little things like place cards. I was learning the hard and the long way what inks did and didn't work and what kind of customer service was required in a handmade trade. 

By May I had my first wedding client. A brave, trusting bride who got some of my earliest hand-scripted wedding invitations and probably taught me more than any client since. I learned that there were people out there willing to pay me to "craft" for them, but I couldn't imagine why. But I fully believed each client that came to me was a fluke and returning clients were crazy. I believed I'd found a niche of people who were out of their minds in hiring me. 

When this hobby turned into a full-time side-job, I was working myself to exhaustion. I believed if I slowed down for a second it would all stop. The crazy dream that was unfolding would collapse and I'd never be able to get it back again. So I worked harder and harder and harder, without working any harder on my self-talk. I celebrated no accomplishment. I brushed off questions or compliments and I kept working. I felt I knew one thing: hard work is the only reason I am here and I am doing this. If I stop working hard, it will end. 

I had many a colleague laugh at my business, or act surprised to hear it earned any income. I had acquaintances call it my little crafting thing, and people told me not to quit my day job. But the worst stories came from inside me. I was able to brush off the comments of others are someone that didn't understand what I was doing. But I couldn't brush off my own words. I was, once again, telling myself a story and struggling to prove it.

The leap of faith I took to start my business was probably one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I had to tell myself: you can do this. You can be more than that story you told yourself. You can succeed not just by killing yourself working 80-100 hour weeks but because this is something you're good at, that you love, and that you have a desire to make succeed.

We are our own worst critic in every area of our lives. We are so prone to telling ourselves that we're not good enough, we need to work harder, we are on the brink of everything falling apart. We love to narrate our stories as if we are not the hero. But if we aren't the hero of our story, who is? 

So if you're in the throes of impostor syndrome, or self-doubt, of the fear of starting a new business/hobby/venture, if you don't believe you deserve your success or your clientele or your business - think about your story and make some edits. I'm willing to bet you are right where you're supposed to be.

Kelsey CarpenterComment