Feel through the fear

Lucy Sweet advices patience in the face of wobbles

Eleanor Roosevelt is often quoted as saying: ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’ To which I always feel like replying: ’Er…do I HAVE to? Can’t I just sit in my pyjamas and watch Murder She Wrote?

Much is made of bravery and conquest, breaking out of your comfort zone and flinging yourself into the unknown. But I think bravery, in its traditional, grab-life-by-the-balls sense, is hugely overrated.

I have always been risk averse. My mum tells me that when I was 2, I would sit my be-nappied bum down on the kerb and inch over, rather than simply step off it. My brother, meanwhile, had no such qualms. Mind you, he also broke both his arms and put a garden fork through his foot before the age of 6.

We all experience fear to some degree, but mostly it is seen as something to get rid of. 'The enemy is fear. We think it’s hate, but it is fear’, said Gandhi. His words ring painfully true when we turn on the news to see what potentially catastrophic decisions are made in its name. Fear can make us small, petty, aggressive, dull.

But fear is also a fact of life. It's there because you're a human being. Why should we always blaze a trail through worry, as if we are warriors? It’s exhausting.

We are told to Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway. What if instead we learn to live with fear, and treat it like a slightly annoying flatmate? Fear sits easier out in the open - where it cannot sneak into our decision-making, concealed by defensiveness or shame.

When my worries arise, which they frequently do (especially if there’s a wasp nearby) - I don’t always let them stop me. Occasionally they triumph, most times they don't. Yes, I once went to a ski resort and couldn’t bring myself to go skiing. But so what? Maybe I’m not that interested in skiing.

I am interested in writing, drawing, singing and music. So even though I’m nervous, I’ll write books, go on a stage and present a silly music quiz, or sing into a microphone - because I've found that, for me, these things are worth the struggle. Many musicians and actors have admitted they do their job in a state of constant terror.

There's no need to always Be Brave. Leave forced courage to the lion in the Wizard of Oz. Let's be patient and gentle with ourselves; sometimes we find our strength in the familiar. We’re not warriors, we’re people - and if you’d rather watch Jessica Fletcher in your PJs than jump out of a plane to prove a point, then damn well go for it.

Lucy Sweet is a writer and cartoonist. Follow her @lucytweet1