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Turn Your Fear into Excitement So You Can Pursue Your Dreams

Follow Your Dreams

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance.” ~John Lennon

When it comes to facing fear and moving past it in order to see my dreams realized, I was always advised to power through it. Do the thing that scares you, no matter how much it makes your heart pound. Take that step that makes your stomach knot up in tight balls. Do it, and power through, or else miss out on life.

For a long time, I felt these were my only two options. I could either have moments of crippling fear as I chased what I wanted, or I could feel like life was passing me by as I let my passions die.

One of my passions is writing screenplays, and so I continually did what I thought I should do in order to become a successful screenwriter. I called people who gave me anxiety. I put my work out to places I felt I wasn't ready for. With each step I took, I hoped and prayed I would get more comfortable.

I couldn't live with the constant fear I was feeling, and yet no amount of powering through was making it go away. It was in fact growing, because it felt like I had no control over it. The fear was getting larger than my dreams, and I became exhausted and eventually burned out.

I had no choice then but to take time to pause and reflect. When I did, I could see the counter-productive patterns I was engaging in.

I was forcing myself to do things that brought me angst rather than joy. The advice to power through had turned me into a bully toward myself.

Because I wasn't doing the kind of behavior I normally associate with being self-destructive, such as constantly criticizing myself, I didn't see my actions as being hurtful. In fact, I saw them as honoring my journey because I was chasing my biggest goals.

However, when the dust settled and I stepped back, it was very clear that by powering forward, I had left behind a crucial thing: self-love. I wasn't listening to myself.

Because our inner world is always mirrored back to us, I always had the frustrating feeling that people weren't listening to me.

Instead of hearing my great ideas, they would hear the shake in my voice. They would hear me rambling on because I was too nervous to be clear and concise, and they would tune out, ending the call as I would slump down in my chair, knowing I'd blown it.

Compounding this is the fact that I also wasn't treating myself as an important person. I wasn't honoring that the fear and anxiety was taking a toll.

This too was mirrored back in the fact that people forgot me as soon as we connected. I never got any follow-up calls after my initial pitches, which only fed into my fears more. The momentum I had going was certainly powering me onward, but in the opposite direction of what I wanted.

Once I could see the patterns, the solution was obvious. The old adage “what you resist persists” repeated in my mind.

I had to first of all accept that I was living from a place of fear. I allowed myself to acknowledge that I didn't like being afraid all the time. This swept through me in a wave of relief, and I felt free to choose what I wanted rather than what I felt I was supposed to do.

I began cultivating and prioritizing self-love. The more I slowed down, took time to ask myself if I was okay, and returned to my meditation practice, the easier things got. What began to reflect back to me were my new feelings—that I'm important and what I do is important.

As I went through this process, I was able to stop fearing fear itself. This too helped me to reverse my momentum even further, because I was open to receiving new information. I learned how fear begins in my brain and body. Once I understood how it worked, it wasn't this huge, abstract, and uncontrollable thing.

Fear begins in a place in the brain called the amygdala. The amygdala processes a situation and decides if it's safe or if you need to get scared and run away. If it decides something's not safe hormones are released in order to get your body moving and prepare you for fight or flight.

Attached to the amygdala is the hippocampus, which is where your memories are stored. These two things work together. The amygdala looks at old memories as a way of assessing a current situation. This process is meant to be helpful, but when we're not aware of it, it can run amok and become hurtful.

As an example from my own life, one bad phone call with a potential agent had been stored in my memories. From that point onward, when I went to call someone with a pitch, my amygdala would access that memory and immediately label all related phone calls as bad, which steamrolled as I would get more anxious, have more bad phone calls, and dread any interaction.

This was my brain trying to protect me by ensuring I wouldn't engage in something that might cause me harm or emotional pain.

Understanding this about my body and how I process things gave me a huge amount of self-power back.

It was reassuring first of all to know I wasn't trying to subconsciously sabotage myself, but to instead keep myself safe. It was also reassuring to know where this started, because once I was aware of the root of it, I could begin untangling myself from it.

The more I began to see fear as something I could manage, the more I felt I could work with the fear rather than trying to power through it. It was then that I began to feel that thing I'd yearned for but felt was impossible to reach—excitement. I remembered why I'd started writing in the first place.

I felt excitement to share my stories and see them made into films. I felt excitement about contacting people who were passionate about film also. I remembered how good it was to feel excited about talking to people rather than fearful.

From this new, more self-love based place, I started contacting people again. I listened to my inner voice, and if something made me feel fear, I would stop. I would tune in, breathe, and ask myself if I was attaching old, unrelated memories, or if it really was my intuition trying to tell me something was amiss.

I'm happy to say people are requesting my scripts again, and I'm now enjoying pursuing my passions more than ever. I wake up excited rather than with dread. I take steps and go for things, as I did before, but without feeling like I'm stretching a rubber band that's about to snap.

If you’re also paralyzing yourself with fear, see what happens when you put self-love first. When you believe that you’re worth listening to, and show up confident, without an energy of desperation, people will be far more interested in what you have to say.

And when you feel your fear creeping back in, instead of ignoring it and pushing through it, step back, breathe, and remember that your own mind and body have created it to help you.

When you realize it’s not some big, monstrous force that shows up without your consent—that you’ve created it to keep yourself safe—you can learn to let it go.

Follow your dreams image via Shutterstock

About Melissa Field

Melissa Field has always had a passion for writing and creative projects. Pursuing her goals has caused her to bump up against a lot of fear, which in turn made her passionate about learning to cultivate inner strength and harmony. She's created a variety of guided meditations to help others get out of their heads and into their hearts at melissa-field.com.

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  • This is exactly what I have been doing for the last month -and it really is magical. Self love is so important

  • Susan Mary Malone

    Now THIS is a demon I know. And one I just realized about myself! I, too, was taught to power through. But this turned my thinking on its head: “The advice to power through had turned me into a bully toward myself.”

    Ah! Great post, Melissa. Thank You!

  • Thank you so much Susan! I think it’s great when someone feels a huge desire to go for something that scares them, but what I’m learning is that leaning into trust and self-love gets me a lot further than rushing forward out of the dreaded fear of missing out.

  • I love that you see the magic in self-love! It really is amazing how it can bring so many things to you that you need, that maybe you needn’t even realize you needed!

  • Drake Willmannson

    What if I don’t know whether it is self-love or just another random thought ? I’m not afraid of failure but I’m afraid whether thing will work out or not. Any help ?
    Thanks.

  • Hey Drake that’s a great question. I would first ask you to ask yourself what the difference is between a fear of failure and a fear of things not working out? Are you afraid things won’t work out and people will judge you? Or are you afraid they won’t work out and you’ll lose something, such as a money investment? I think you need to ask yourself what it is you’re really afraid of, which is personal to you, so that you can get clear on how to go forward with what it is you want. Once you know what the core fear is, which might be something like, “I’m afraid I’ll lose all of the time I invested and I’ll have to start over with something else,” then you can ask yourself why you fear this (maybe it’s that your parents told you that you need to be responsible and don’t dilly dally on idle projects). Those are just some examples, but you’ll have to sit quietly with yourself to know what’s true for you.

    I find it can be helpful if I sit quietly, without any music or anything, put my hands on my heart, and just breathe. This will help you to feel you’re really tuning in and looking for answers from the heart, rather than from your head (which likes to analyze and over analyze until it comes up with an answer, any answer, even if it’s not a helpful one). From this quiet place, your feelings will be more clear. Think of something you LOVE. What makes you ridiculously happy? A pet? Going out with friends? Think of your “happy place” and notice how that feels. Then compare your self-love thoughts to that, and you’ll know if they’re random or if they really do feel good and come from a place of joy and love.

  • I would also add that it can be helpful to define and be aware of your core vision/dreams/drives/values, however you define that motivating force. When you are coming from a place of real meaning, that can keep you fueled when doubt comes in.

    I love your perspective, Melissa. With the concept of fear, often comes with it judgement. I like that you focus on loving yourself.

  • That’s wonderful advice Quentin. My friend who is a coach used to say something similar and it always helped. When I was stressing over money she would always tell me to take money out of the equation and to focus on what I wanted to share and why I wanted to do it. I turn to this often when I’m feeling doubt over my journey, and I ask myself what I can give people by sharing my writing. Sometimes it’s as simple as I can entertain them, and sometimes I feel deeper value with my work, like when I share a story a person might relate to when they feel they alone and like nobody understands.

  • Terrific article! Thank you so much for sharing. I totally understand what you’re talking about. I’m a writer as well and I’ve been dealing with the fact that every time I sit down to write, I feel this overwhelming dread. Now I realize it comes from the rejection I’m facing and the fact that my brain is trying to protect me from something it associates with pain. Tomorrow, I will try to approach that fear with self-reflection and focus on what is fun in writing rather than what is scary. I hope I too can return to that confident excitement.

    Best of luck in your search for an agent! I hope to see your films someday. 🙂

  • Wow Melissa I can’t even begin to describe how powerful this is! It’s so important to listen to what the fear is telling you, rather than power through it. I had this revelation the other day with my driving, I almost smiled and laughed out loud to myself because I realized that not every car on the street was the one that hit me two years ago. I was like…almost on a high because I realized I had been making every single car on the highway the same car that hit me, and once I was able get clarity around the fact that these were NOT the same car, wow the freedom! It was like seeing clearly for the first time. It can be so frustrating sometimes with the way your memories take over for nearly every situation, but just knowing that your body and mind are actually trying to help you is so precious all on its own. I needed this right now, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful writing, and CONGRATULATIONS on getting published on Tiny Buddha! This is amazing! My favorite line: “And when you feel your fear creeping back in, instead of ignoring it and pushing through it, step back, breathe, and remember that your own mind and body have created it to help you.” yes, yes, yes!!

  • Drake Willmannson

    I’m afraid of losing investment. Money, basically. I guess I gotta go on. If I’ll lose, I’ll just lose. At least, I won’t regret any time later in my life about how I didn’t even give it a try. And landing late on my goal is far better than not landing at all. Fingers crossed!

    Thanks for a lovely article and supportive reply. Keep posting.

  • Drake Willmannson

    Thanks Quentin for getting back to me.

    Yep, I guess I gotta get a clear vision of my dreams and goals first. Self-love as I’ve known by this article is a crucial thing.

  • I like that you’re still open to going for it, even though you have hesitations. That’s honestly a big step. What helps me is to continually tell myself that help is out there, and as long as I’m open to it showing up in unexpected ways, the people, ideas and resources I need will come to me. Sometimes the help doesn’t show up at first as the money itself, but as a person who helps me to let go of some fear or thought that’s holding me back. One things that inspired me was Amanda Palmer’s Ted talk on “The Art of Asking.” She’s a musician and she talked a lot about how important it is to ask for help, and how so many of us are afraid to do it. I wish you much success and perhaps even a sense of adventure in your path ahead Drake! Thank you for your comments.

  • Hey A.A., always great to hear from a fellow wordsmith! It took me a long time to untangle from the fear of rejection and criticism, and it’s definitely something that stops a lot of people before they start. It’s great you know where this feeling of dread is coming from and that you took the time to acknowledge it. I have found the Release Technique to be really helpful with that kind of thing. The concept is that you acknowledge the feeling, you give it love, and you welcome it in. I’ve found this really helps, because rather than trying to reject something or power through it, it gives the feeling the space to show me what it wanted to show me. The idea is you stop rejecting a part of yourself, and from this place of more wholeness you get more clarity and you work things out faster. I hope this helps! And don’t forget, if you’re already sitting down to write, you’re doing a lot more than most, and that’s worth celebrating! I wish you much luck also!!!

  • Wow what a powerful realization!!! I know how much that accident has caused you anxiety and stress and it’s amazing to hear you’re working through it. That’s the exact kind of thing I have been retraining into my brain, and I can see that clearly now from your car analogy. I had to keep telling myself that when I speak to an agent or manager, it’s not the agent who was so hurtful to me. It’s an entirely new person, and the world is full of good people, and I needed to stop projecting that one guy onto everyone.

    Thank you for stopping by to read this! The Tiny Buddha community is great and it was such an honor and joy to be published here. I hope your new love notes project is coming along well, I miss reading your blog posts!

  • And I so miss your Facebook posts! How long will your break be? I think it’s good to take a social media break every now and again. Love notes are going fantastic, taking awhile but I’m enjoying every moment of the journey! Hoping to launch them by Jan 1st, but the new site should be ready within the next couple of weeks. I do love this site so much too, I definitely am learning a lot here even just reading the comments, it’s the awesome! So proud of you! 🙂

  • I believe that quote is by Don Miguel Ruiz from his book, The Mastery of Love, not a quote from John Lennon.

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  • 8lackie

    Nice catch!

  • Maisha Z.A. Shemonti

    Like many people in the comments section I can truly feel this epic realisation, that our fear comes from a place of love. Thank you for this article Melissa. Despite knowing about the fight or flight response, or having talks about it, I never registered that feeling of self-love when I was afraid. Instead I was stuck, marvelling at my own prowess in self-sabotage. I didn’t see that until I read your article. I will replace those thoughts with excitement. I get excited learning about the human body and mind; I feel that understanding how our brains and bodies work can teach us a lot about self-love and self-respect. And when you can respect yourself you can respect others.

  • Hi Maisha! I do not get notified of new comments, so I just now saw this. I’m so glad this helped you to shift how you see fear. I wrote this two years ago, and it’s amazing to be able to realize how much has changed in me since I changed how I view fear. We really can learn to navigate it and take back control of our lives. Much love to you in your journey!