We’ve all heard the fairy tales where the beautiful princess is locked away in a room that’s in the highest and farthest corner of huge castle that is protected by a fierce, fire-breathing dragon. If the knight wants to marry the princess, he must rescue her by first slaying the dragon. Well, I’d like to offer you a different, more life coaching interpretation of this story. Let’s say that, in this game of life, you are the knight in shining armor. That dream, desire, goal or wish that you want to accomplish or possess is the princess. The castle represents the steps you must take to achieve your desired goal, object or person. The dragon is your fear. It does not matter if your dragon is big or small, fire-breathing or just bites your ankles, you still must slay it to get that princess. If you are cleaver, you can trick the dragon into thinking the two of you are friends and use it to your advantage. We’ll call this action taming your dragon. Either way, what you want is on the other side of that dragon! What are you going to do about it? Let the dragon keep you from even trying to reach your goal? This option gives someone else the opportunity to be what you want to be, have what you want to have. I don’t know about you, but I would rather get slain by the dragon attempting to reach my goal, than to live forever knowing I was too afraid to even try. In most circumstances, once you finally step foot into the castle, you realize the big scary dragon is really a harmless gecko that is more afraid of you than you are of it. In other words, once you begin to actively pursue your dreams, you will realize things are not as scary as you originally thought. So what if you are brave enough to enter the castle only to be slain by that dragon? Since this is a fairy tale, you get another life to either continue attacking this dragon or celebrate the fact that you tried and move on to slay the dragon protecting the princess next door. Whichever option sounds more appealing to you, keep battling the dragons! The more dragons you slay, the easier each sequential battle gets.
Fear is paralyzing if you let it consume your life or let it influence your decisions. Not only do you miss out on the element of your desire, but you miss out on so many unknown opportunities along the way. Opportunities that otherwise would not be available. Haven’t you ever done something despite being scared, then had an awesome experience, perhaps even something unexpected, result from that experience? I have. Recently, I had a dream of acting in play. When the opportunity to audition became available, I was overwhelmed with fear. I had two weeks to decide if I wanted to slay that dragon or walk away. I chose to slay the dragon and pursue my dream. After I made the decision, that intense feeling left me. On the day of the audition, I was only a little nervous. There’s a big difference between being nervous and having fear. I felt good about my audition and so proud of myself for doing it. As I’m leaving the building, I notice a sign on a billboard announcing that the same theater group is looking for writers to submit plays about Goddesses or women of influence. I CAN write about Goddesses and women of influence! By the end of that day, my play was completely written and I submitted the next day! Had I allowed my fear to paralyze or consume me, stopping me from attending that audition, I would have never known about this amazing writing opportunity.
One of the most controversial rap artists of our times wrote a song that relates to this article and speaks to anyone faced with a rare opportunity to do something different, amazing and life changing.
“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip? …
He better go capture this moment and hope it don’t pass him.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime…” —“Lose Yourself” by Eminem
As I mentioned earlier, there is a difference between fear and nervousness. There is also an outstanding difference between fear and danger. On certain occasions, these three emotions may feel similar in our bodies, causing similar sensations or physical responses, however, they are completely different. Nervousness is a form excitement. Your adrenaline is going, your heart rate increases and you may even have a little doubt about the situation, but not enough to hinder the activity. This is a common reaction to doing something new or challenging. Fear, as I just mentioned, is paralyzing, comes with a significant amount of self-doubt and may halt further activity until calmed or resolved. Fear is in our heads, it is imagined, it is not real! Danger, on the other hand, is real and threatens your safety. These 3 words are not synonyms. I would also like to mention a fourth scenario, where sometimes contentment is confused with fear. This is where non-judgment and acceptance of others becomes relevant. During a recent trip to Chicago, I had a conversation with a man who stated that I could make more money if I moved my massage therapy practice to the Windy City. My response to him is that I’m not a big city girl. He instantly labeled my preference as fear. My contentment, passion and love of the Lansing area, which includes the friendships I’ve made and the business I have created, is not fear based. Chicago is a great place to visit, but I don’t perceive it as home. On the flip side, I assumed a self-employed friend was experiencing fear when she was perfectly content having a part-time, low key business.
The lesson that I share with you is this: just because someone’s dream is different than yours, does not mean he/she has fear around that subject or object. However, someone with a genuine fear should be supported and encouraged along their path, without judgement. When that someone is you and you are faced with a decision, it is important to know yourself well enough to distinguish and discern between nervousness, fear, danger and “this is not right for me.” Honor your nervousness, respect and avoid the danger, celebrate your passions, let go of what does not suit you then face your fears and slay that dragon!
by Beverly Bates
originally published Sept 2014, updated Feb 2021