“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t. We’re afraid.”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.
– Guillaume Apollinaire (1880 – 1918), French poet, playwright, and author
I’ve always had perfect Asian skin.
I thought about this as I walked Bernie the other day.
I stooped to bag his poop and suddenly became hyper-aware of my appearance.
I looked down – my outfit was a confusing cross between trendy mom and gender neutral teenaged boy.
(Birkenstocks are still cute, right?)
I subtly wiped the sweat from my upper lip and realized I had no makeup on.
When I started taking Prednisone for lupus, my skin got really bad.
I lost self-confidence.
Some days I would avoid going out altogether.
I feared that people would judge and reject me.
(I pictured people yelling “LEPER!” in disgust as I walked down the streets. Dramatic, I know.)
I felt sorry for myself and longed for my baby-like skin: pure, clear, and untouched.
My workaround in the meantime? I piled makeup every day no matter where I was going.
One Saturday afternoon in May, I was debating on leaving the apartment – I was too tired to put on makeup.
I sat and stared out the window for a couple of minutes and decided enough was enough:
Fuck it. Who cares. Get some perspective, Carla. Some people are born with no faces, so just suck it up and deal.
I rushed outside sans makeup before I could change my mind.
It was liberating!
I understand that this small win pales in comparison to others fighting much larger battles.
But at the time, I had conquered Everest.
None of my fears transpired.
Nobody pointed and laughed at my face as I walked by. Nobody shouted insults at me in the streets.
These days, I step outside with a bare face and far more casual clothes.
(A brush through the hair wouldn’t kill me every once in a while.)
Some days I am self-conscious and rely on bug eye sunglasses and my Blue Jay’s cap, but hey, who doesn’t?
This got me thinking about fears.
What other fears and anxieties are holding us back from living our lives?
And how can we quiet this inner asshole?
In this post, I’ve compiled the biggest fears and anxieties holding us back from success and actionable steps we can take today to overcome them.
We can’t be better humans if we are standing in our own way.
As personal development guru, Jack Canfield said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
FEAR WILL ALWAYS EXIST.
FEEL IT AND DO IT ANYWAY.
I started a similar version of this website in 2012.
I stopped a year later because of lupus, but mostly because I was scared.
I am still scared.
It’s terrifying and hard to put yourself out there.
But the more uncomfortable or afraid I feel about an idea or a topic, the more I know I have to write about it.
We’re all human and I want to relate to and connect with people as best I can.
Vulnerability expert and author Brene Brown said, “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
So don’t be afraid of your story.
Feel the fear, but do it anyway.
Whether it’s the fear of failure, rejection, or speaking in public, these strategies will help you overcome any and all of the fears holding you back.
1. Make it a habit to do uncomfortable things.
Getting over our fears means doing things that make us uncomfortable.
This will bring us to growth and happiness.
Running from your fears is running from growth.
See his video on The Cure for Fear here:
Make it a daily habit to do the things that make you uncomfortable.
They don’t have to be big things – they just have to be done consistently.
Maybe it’s striking conversation with a stranger, or making that phone call, or sending out that email.
Or why not seize the day: have that difficult conversation with your S.O. or book that meeting with your boss for a raise.
Set a 15-minute daily calendar reminder called “DO SOMETHING UNCOMFORTABLE”.
Doing uncomfortable things = growth + happiness
2. Don’t think about the outcome.
A lot of us are paralyzed by fear because we are consumed by the outcome.
If I face my fears…
I’m going to fail.
I’m going to get hurt.
I will be ridiculed.
When you’re doing the thing you’re scared of, just focus on each step and nothing more.
Let’s say you’re scared of heights.
To get over your fear, you’re doing the Edge Walk along the uppermost edge of the CN Tower.
Before you change your mind, immediately book your spot online. Don’t think about anything else except your credit card information, checking for a free day on your calendar, and confirming online.
Do this and nothing more.
The next day, call a friend – you’ll need support on the day of. Keep it short and matter-of-fact so you don’t have time to talk yourself out of it.
On the day of, just take things moment by moment.
In the morning, focus on your breakfast, and nothing more.
In the waiting lounge, just focus on what the instructor is saying, and nothing more.
And so on…
By focusing on each step on its own, the fear and anxiety that come with thinking about all the possible outcomes are eliminated.
3. Pretend you’re an actor.
I came up with this when I started job interviews.
We’ve all had days when we’re just not feelin’ it. We would rather curl up in fetal position in our only-for-home clothes while clicking through Netflix trailers and sipping French roast.
And sometimes we do.
But sometimes we need to put our big girl panties on and suck it up.
When I’m feeling nervous or afraid before a big interview, I pretend I’m an actress preparing for an audition.
I become detached from the position I’m applying for and the pressure lessens.
Anything the interviewer says is not to me, but to this actress.
I’m not saying I act fake or pretend to be someone I’m not.
I simply fake it ’till I make it.
When my self-confidence is low, I say, OK Carla…pretend you’re Sheryl Sandberg…what would she do? How would she act? What would she say?
I may not feel confident, but I act like someone who is.
Social psychologist and author of Presence, Amy Cuddy supports this idea and shows how our posture can make us feel more confident and less fearful.
She says, fake it ’till you become it:
4. Turn it into a game.
My last job required me to be brave on a daily basis.
I’m not a confrontational person by nature, but as a Project Manager at an advertising firm, there is no time to be timid.
So what did I do?
I turned it into a game.
At the top right corner of my notepad, I would draw a small line any time I did something brave.
This could be anything from having a difficult conversation with a colleague, breaking bad news to a client, or asking a Senior Art Director to work over the weekend.
My goal was to have five lines at the end of each day. If I reached all five, I would reward myself.
As I gained confidence, I surpassed the five lines and started actively looking for opportunities that I was afraid of.
Overcoming your fears, no matter how small, becomes addictive.
He spent 100 days actively pursuing rejection:
5. Nobody cares.
My boyfriend and I share all our insecurities and hang-ups with each other.
When I am whiney and in desperate need of a reality check, he abruptly interrupts my tirade with, “NOBODY CARES.”
Me: Ughhh what if people hate it and say it’s stupid…or what if they say bad things about me behind my back…what if…
Mike: NOBODY CARES.
We laugh and I remember to chill out.
No one is paying nearly as much attention to you as you think.
In psychology, this is called the spotlight effect – we tend to overestimate how much our actions and appearance are noticed by others.
People are too wrapped up in their own business to be worrying about yours!
This is reassuring – we can fail (or succeed) and nobody will look twice.
So the next time you hesitate to take action because you’re afraid of what people will think, just remember: Nobody cares.
6. Do it for you.
A lot of us are held back because we’re afraid of what people will say.
We’re afraid of criticism.
Do it for you.
If your goals are entirely externally motivated, your success or failure will be tied to people and society’s opinions of you.
It will never be enough.
You will constantly be searching for more money, more accolades, better titles.
Pasricha says the root to why we listen to critics in the first place is because of a lack of self-confidence.
He says to build greater confidence, we need to develop both a high opinion of ourselves and a high opinion of others.
How do we do this?
He says to stop apologizing and accept ourselves.
As Robin Sharma said, “Success is what you define as an extraordinary life.”
Do it for you.
7. You’re actually excited.
Anxiety and excitement are similar on a physiological level.
You start to sweat, your heart starts racing, and you get butterflies in your stomach.
Your brain just has to decide what to call it.
So the next time you feel nervous and afraid, just keep telling yourself you’re excited!
Instead of telling yourself to calm down, get pumped!
YOUR ANXIETY IS LEGIT.
BUT DON’T LET IT CONSUME YOU.
Why do 20-something girls travel in odd numbers?
Because they can’t even.
Ba dum ch!
You know what I’m talking about.
As in, I’m overwhelmed with too many emotions – I can’t even deal.
Sure it sounds dramatic and whiney, but our anxieties are legit.
We’re unemployed, underemployed, and worried about our economic future.
We’re trying to pay back mountains of student loans while working long hours at low-paying jobs that don’t give us meaning or purpose.
On top of this, we are scouring through websites and apps trying to find love, only to find we would rather be alone.
We are in a perpetual state of anxiety.
A survey by The American Psychological Association and Harris Interactive finds millennials as the most stressed generation in the US.
Here are 13 tactics to help you cope:
1. First, breathe.
Controlled breathing helps reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and keep our mind and body functioning at their best.
2. Watch cat videos.
A study conducted at Indiana University Media School shows that watching cat videos can stress and make you happy.
Even better, hug the real thing if you have a pet.
Dehydration can be the culprit of anxiety. Drink water or tea to help calm you down.
4. Take a 5-min walk.
Being outdoors will lift your spirits and provide much-needed perspective.
5. Look at your list of goals.
This will remind you of the big picture and will give you the focus needed to overcome anxiety.
This book has many exercises and case examples including several meditations.
Meditation has several benefits – there is even evidence that suggests that meditation can change the brain.
7. Get more information.
Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space, said, “In order to stay calm in a high-stress, high-stakes situation, all you really need is knowledge.”
He went to fucking space. He knows what he’s talking about.
Get as much information as you can about the crisis or problem you’re trying to solve.
Instead of panicking or getting emotional, my mom takes a logical, problem-solving approach when she feels anxious.
She asks, What is the problem and what do I need to do to solve it?
Coping with anxiety is about gaining back your sense of control.
Getting more information about the issue or problem will alleviate your anxiety.
Now that you have gathered all the information about the problem, make a list of what needs to get done.
Focus only on things you can control:
Can control: your attitude and behaviour
Can’t control: other people’s attitude and behaviour, external circumstances
Break up this list into smaller, more manageable pieces and then start hacking away at the list, one task at a time.
Action breeds confidence.
Your health is more important than anything else.
British statesman, Edward Stanley has said, “Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”
Listen to your body – it’s smart and knows what it wants.
Go for a run, swim, or even just a quick walk.
Here are some exercises you can do if you’re a busy person.
10. Lean on your support system.
We’re social animals, after all.
Reach out to a close friend for a coffee or plan a girls’ or guys’ night.
I joined a support group for lupus. Somehow, it was easier to talk to strangers.
If you can afford it, consider therapy.
11. Do something new.
New things activate our rewards centres and increase levels of dopamine in the brain.
Go somewhere new this weekend. Even if it’s just a new brunch resto or a new park in the city.
Plan it with your S.O. or with friends.
This will give you something to look forward to and merely anticipating the happiness and enjoyment you will experience will reduce your anxiety in the short-term.
12. Create back-up plans.
(And it will.)
For example, IF I have to work overtime and can’t write a blog post tonight, THEN I will use a back-up post I created in advance.
“Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind.”
Excerpt from Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, p. 63
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO LOGAN.
FOCUS ON YOUR OWN PATH TO SUCCESS.
Everybody knows Logan.
He was top of his class at Harvard Law and he quickly secured a job as a corporate lawyer.
His face is Nordic and chiseled, yet he still exudes the approachable warmth of a carpenter.
You always wished Logan was an asshole, but the kids he mentors at the Boys and Girls Club all agree he is “the best guy ever”.
He recently proposed to his exquisite wife Katherine.
She is a Brand Manager at Proctor and Gamble but sells her paintings to local art galleries on the side. She says she does it for her love of art – she doesn’t need the money.
Their wedding is set on a rustic vineyard overlooking the water. Or was it on a golf course on the east coast?
You don’t remember – you’re too busy clicking through their engagement photos on Facebook while crying through a bottle of pinot grig.
Or how about April?
She started as the new content manager for that new food service start-up.
Her Instagram account is littered with photos of her drinking beers and playing ping pong with coworkers. She ends the posts with hashtags: #lovemyjob #livingthedream #lifeisgood
As you keep swiping, your envy almost makes you throw your new phone against your shoddily-made closet door.
You quickly stop yourself. (The condo is a rental.)
Whether it’s Logan or April, we all know someone whose life seems better than ours.
We gape at their posts of their most recent world trip or their latest promotion.
Instagram filters and Facebook posts can make our lives seem so glamorous and important.
It’s easy to forget that this is a manufactured reality.
The struggle happens IRL too:
Laura is waving at you from across your friend’s studio apartment.
You haven’t seen her in 6 months and she can hardly wait to tell you she just got a promotion.
You fake smile and hear your voice getting higher as you congratulate her.
Don’t get me wrong – you’re happy for her. She deserves it!
But you can’t help but feel like somehow you are less because she has gained.
Meanwhile, you get a flash of yourself just an hour prior:
You ate stale bread and peanut butter for dinner, pre-drinking with Naked Grape in tandem.
Your phone buzzed on the IKEA dining table you bought for $30 on Kijiji. It was your Tinder date texting to cancel:
Sry, got to work tonsils.
You hold back tears and resist the urge to open the scotch your brother bought you for Christmas.
You glance back at your phone – it’s your mom.
This reminds you of the conversation you had with her last weekend.
She is baffled at your current state of adulthood – why can’t you find a stable job when Rob’s son just got accepted into his residency at John Hopkins?
And why are you still single?
Are you bi? she asked.
Yes, it sucks and it’s hard.
But if you stay true to yourself, work hard, and live your life with purpose, who cares what anyone else is doing?
The important things to ask yourself are:
Are you staying true to you?
Are you living an authentic life or one other’s expect from you?
The biggest regret?
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Are you working hard and doing everything in your power to achieve your goals?
Act first and the motivation will follow.
Are you happy where you are in life right now?
If not, think about what you have and what’s missing.
What gaps do you need to fill? Maybe there are some hard questions you have to tackle before moving forward.
Also ask yourself: Do you really want what they have or just the sexy parts of it?
The money, the perks, or your heightened status from achieving a certain title?
Yes, Laura got a promotion, but did she also tell you how she stayed until 11 pm at the office every night last week and that she cries once a week as soon as she gets home?
Just kidding – Laura’s loving her new job.
But even so, nothing is perfect.
Chat with your friends.
They may be secretly miserable and everybody assumed they were living the dream.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus your energy on being a better human.
Be relentless about being your best self.
If you’re doing that, everything else is out of your control.
YOU ARE NOT YOUR FUCKING PENCIL SKIRT.
DON’T LET YOUR DAY JOB DEFINE WHO YOU ARE.
I freely admit – I stole this line from Fight Club:
I made it girly, but the message remains the same:
Your career does not solely define who you are as a human.
We are so preoccupied with moving ahead in our careers – getting our next promotion, landing that sexy gig, adding another 3-letter credential after our name.
We need to have started our own business or completed three academic degrees before 30 to feel accomplished or seen as successful by our peers.
It’s easy to feel defeated and behind the rest of the pack.
And because of the interweb, our personal and professional lives are now intertwined, making it difficult to separate who we are from what we do.
But remember: work is just one part of your life.
When I got laid off, my boyfriend drew a box.
He divided the box into four sections of different sizes.
In the three biggest boxes, he wrote “family & friends, health & fitness, and passions”
In the smallest box, he wrote “career”.
He said to remember that work is just one box in our lives. Right now it’s just playing a smaller role in my life. He reassured me that it would get bigger again soon.
The key is to stay positive and strive towards balance.
Consider other areas of your life that need attention:
1. Do the things you’re good at.
This helps you build confidence and clarifies where your strengths lie.
Write down a list of 25 of your proudest accomplishments.
When is the last time you dabbled in one of your old hobbies?
What was the thing you couldn’t put down in high school or the sport you always played?
Set a calendar event for one hour once a week to do the one thing you’re best at.
2. Reconnect with family and friends.
When is the last time you called your mom?
Have you been ditching on beer night with friends for the second weekend in a row?
Remember all the important people in your life.
Reach out to them.
3. Feel good about yourself.
When was the last time you had a massage or savoured a delicious meal?
Self-care is important and you shouldn’t feel guilty about treating yourself.
Set aside half a day twice a month to do you.
4. Remind yourself how awesome you are.
Keep a record of positive feedback from people in your network.
I keep greeting cards, letters, and emails as constant reminders.
5. Whatever happened to random acts of kindness?
Remember that we are here to serve others and not just ourselves.
Set a calendar reminder to do a random act of kindness every day.
It doesn’t have to be big – send a thank you to someone who has gone out of their way to help you, hold the elevator door open for a stranger, help an elderly woman with her bags on the subway.
YOU WILL NOT DIE ALONE.
YOU WILL FIND LOVE OR SOMETHING CLOSE.
I have been on some horrible dates.
One guy pretended to eat my face.
Another busted into a rap while he stroked my hair.
The worst one casually rambled about the numerous women he had slept with.
Yep, it’s brutal out there.
It’s so easy to get discouraged.
We wonder if we’ll ever find someone to sample sausage and mustard with at the farmer’s market.
Someone to bring as a plus one.
And most importantly, who are we going to buy curtains with at IKEA?
It’s important to continue believing that if we really want to, we’ll find love or something close.
The key phrase being: if we really want to.
Marriage isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly not the only way to be happy.
More and more couples are opting for common-law unions.
According to Stats Canada, between 2006 and 2011, the number of common-law couple raised to 13.9%, more than four times the 3.1% increase for married couples.
Or maybe you’re content being on your own.
You haven’t found “the one” and besides, it has never been a high priority for you.
There are boundless pursuits in this big beautiful world that don’t involve having an S.O.
This is what I meant by “something close”.
If you find something you’re passionate about – a reason to wake up in the morning – and you are fulfilled and happy, then who is to judge?
I have been single for most of my 20’s and I spent my time focusing on other areas of my life.
Sure I had moments of tattooing #diealone on my face, but I was mostly too busy having fun with family and friends to care.
So please try not to worry so much!
You’ll find love or something close.
In the meantime, if you’re single and want to venture beyond bingeing on Ben & Jerry’s and re-runs of Grey’s, here’s a quick list of 30 fun things to do.
Your worries will melt away.
2. Plan your life. Set big goals and create 90-day, 1- year, and 5-year plans to achieve them.
4. Catch up with friends. Have brunch, go shopping and all the basicb activities we adore!
5. Pick up a new hobby.Try something you’ve never done before or revisit an old passion.
6. Pretend you’re a tourist. Go on the double-decker bus ride! Visit the tourist attractions in your city you’ve always wanted to go to.
7. Take a spontaneous road trip.Do some light research and pick a place a couple short hours from home. The work you brought home for the weekend can wait – you need the pressure of Sunday night, anyway.
8. Start that passion project or side hustle.Even if you’re just brainstorming.
9. Get cultured. Check out your local museums and art galleries.
11. Sign up for a 10K. And then actually run it.
12. Get a dog. Or just hold some puppies at your local humane society.
13. Go shopping in your closet. Dig to the back – remember those jeans you love? Try them with a top you wouldn’t usually wear. Create new outfits with the stuff you already have.
15. Give your apartment a makeover. Tip if you’re on a budget: use neutral colours especially black and white. They look sleek and expensive, but frames and decor in these colours are cheap!
16. Host a dinner party. If you can’t cook, so what? Your local grocery store has pre-made rotisserie chickens. And you’ve made salad before, right? Tell your friends to bring the booze.
17. Enjoy The 6. Summer is my favourite time in Toronto. Food and beer festivals, concerts, Jay’s games, bike rides, strolling in the park, and more!
18. Volunteer. Once a week at the nursing home or the animal shelter. Or why not start donating blood?
19. Call your parents. If they’re in the same city, take them out for dinner.
20. Treat yo self! Spend an afternoon on your favourite street (W Queen W). Grab a coffee from your favourite cafe (Jimmy’s) and visit your favourite store (LCBO).
21. Have a food marathon. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart. Pick a friend who appreciates food like you do. Pick a theme like novelty desserts and go to 3-4 different places trying gourmet donuts, gelato macarons, and soft-serve ice cream.
22. Do a fun run. The only fun run I’ve done is Mud Hero. It was a hoot! I’d recommend it or look into others in your city.
23. Throw a party. Because why not? #YOLO
24. Learn how to cook. Or learn a different language. Just learn something new.
25. Try a new trendy fitness class. You know – the ones that we’re supposed to be into, but we secretly hate. Think: CrossFit, obstacle courses, boot camps, spynga (spin and yoga)
26. Give yourself a makeover. Get a new haircut. Buy a new lipstick. Or something simple and cheap to freshen your look.
27. Join dating apps or online sites. I think it’s time.
28. Make a bucket list. And actually start doing the things on that list. Try it with friends at a cottage – write lists for each other and see how many you can cross off in that weekend.
29. Take a girls’ trip to a party city. If you have time and money, why not plan a long weekend trip with your gal pals. How about New York? Miami anyone?
30. Start a beer club. Or a book club. Start a group for a hobby or topic you’re passionate about. I started “The Society for Beer Enthusiasts” a few years ago because of my love of craft beer.
Have you stopped cursing your singledom status?
Are you feeling less anxious now?
If not, then keep reading, my friend.
YOUR PARENTS ARE HUMAN.
THEY DON’T HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS EITHER.
My parents are my best friends.
I love them and they are 110% supportive of everything I do.
They moved across the country when I got sick.
In that same vein, their main goal is to protect us.
So they’re going to tell us to: get the stable job, do things the way they did them, and follow their paths so we can be secure, safe, and happy like they are.
But we live in a different time with new challenges.
I’m not saying life was easier for them, just different.
So take their advice with a grain of salt.
They are only sharing what worked for them.
Hear what they have to say but decide for yourself.
But always do what your mom says.
You were chillin’ in her stomach for almost a year and you messed up her body forever so it’s the least you could do.
YOU ARE NOT FUCKING UP YOUR LIFE.
WORK HARD, BE PATIENT, AND GOOD THINGS WILL COME.
Unless you’re selling drugs or your body for money.
In those cases, you are definitely fucking up your life.
But otherwise, you’re doing alright!
Did you wake up under a roof this morning? Did you eat breakfast?
If you had the time to read this post, then I’m sure things aren’t so bad.
Nobody said being a better human would be easy.
But who wants easy?
(“WE do!” they shouted in unison.)
The hardest things in life end up being the most worthwhile.
Work hard to get what you want and be kind to everyone you meet along the way.
Your goals may seem distant and unattainable right now, but be patient and you will get there.
Life is a marathon and not a sprint.
Whenever you feel like giving up, think about Crazy Eyes.
The talented Udo Aduba plays an inmate called Crazy Eyes in the outrageously popular Netflix series, Orange is the New Black.
In interviews, she admitted giving up on acting on the day of her audition for the role!
She had been pursuing acting for several years but was struggling.
The audition itself was off to a bad start – she was 20 minutes late. A huge no-no in the industry, she immediately wrote herself off from the role.
She came home and firmly decided she had quit acting.
About 45-minutes later her agent called – she got a role in the show.
Aduba won two Primetime Emmy Awards (2014 and 2015), among others, for her role as Crazy Eyes.
So keep going. Keep trying. Keep fighting.
You only have to be right once.
Another one is this:
I wish I had let myself be happier.
So please relax, my friend. It will all be okay in the end.