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  • Karen Stoner, LMT

What Do We Have To Be Afraid Of?

I am a chronic procrastinator. I've done it since I was a kid. If I had a project or report that was due in a month, I'd be pulling an all-nighter to start it. My procrastination has spilled over into adulthood. Loading the dishwasher - doesn't happen until the tower of dishes in the sink is unbearable. Usually I always have an excuse such as "I'm too busy", "This isn't a priority right now", etc. Sometimes things I procrastinate on cause me to be annoyed, and other things have caused me major anxiety. So recently I've been taking a look at my procrastination to get to the root of why I do it so much. I've discovered I have poor time management skills and I'm a little lazy. I also shut down when I get frustrated, hoping that my defiance will fix the situation which never works. But I have discovered that a small part of my procrastination stems from an odd sense of fear.

I have a window in my massage room that faces the parking lot. I decided that I wanted to remove the blinds and put decorative contact paper on the window to allow more natural light through but keep the window not see-through so I purchased the window film - 5-6 years ago. Then it sat in my closet. Every so often I'd look at it and say "I really should do that project", but always found a reason not to - I didn't have time, I didn't have the right tools, cutting/measuring supplies, etc. Always had a reason.

Finally, the window had enough of my procrastination. I was pulling up the blinds and heard a 'CRACK' before the whole thing fell on my head. The blinds were unsalvageable, so I decided this was finally my opportunity to end the procrastination. As usual, I found excuses to not come in the next day - or the day after that. Suddenly, a new client scheduled a last-minute appointment. Now I was out of excuses and out of time. So I packed up every supply I could think of and went in early to fix the window. Turns out the project went really easily, took almost no time, and ended up looking amazing. The whole staff complimented the result and has been raving about how good it looks since then. Now I look at the window and think "What took me so long?"

So I started thinking about it. I decided that the big thing that was holding me back from doing the project was fear. I was afraid that: 1. I overestimated my skill level in being able to do it so I wouldn't be able to do it right, 2. The end result wouldn't look good and the building owner would be mad at me, or 3. My clients wouldn't like it. I was afraid of failing at the end result so I chose not to pursue it. But did I really have a reason to fear it? Would it have been the end of the world if the window treatment hadn't worked out? I could have found an alternative. I'm good at finding unconventional solutions, so why did I let something so simple stop me? I started thinking about other places that I procrastinate and realized that fear is a big driver. I will put off scheduling meetings because I am afraid I will say something wrong and make a fool of myself. I put off tasks that could potentially cause a conflict. Dishwasher - that's just laziness - I can't blame fear on everything. But why do I have these fears? Is it my personality? Do I have some sort of chemical imbalance? Is it that people have repeatedly told me throughout my life that I will most likely fail and I don't want to prove them right? Why am I afraid of seemingly small and trivial things?

I guess scientists have been studying fear forever and why people are afraid of things, so it is no answer that I can give. The only thing I can do is train myself to recognize when I am using fear as an excuse and try to make myself answer - is this something that really needs to be feared? Is this fear justified? Will there be real consequences if my fear comes true?

How different would our lives be if we didn't let stupid, unfounded fears stop us? The fear doesn't always show up as fear - it can show up and hide itself as lots of different things, so how do we know that our excuses are or aren't fear? Fear is so often portrayed as a weakness, I think people don't want to admit that they can be capable of being afraid. For me, I'm trying to start recognizing this pointless type of fear when I make excuses and trying to ask myself "why am I afraid of this" and "Seriously, what is the worst that can happen, and is that really so bad?" If I start to do this with my routine fears, I wonder if I'll be able to let this spill over into bigger things, and who knows where that can lead?

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