If you’ve spent any time at all listening to, reading, or watching Design+Style posts and episodes, you’ve probably figured out that I am extremely allergic to pretty much anything outdoors, a ton of foods, but most especially shellfish (both crustaceans and mollusks).
The shellfish allergy has been around for over 15 years now, starting small but getting worse over time—to the point that I can’t shop in most grocery stores, there are only a few restaurants where I can eat, I have to research before I go new places to make sure there aren’t any seafood restaurants nearby, I can’t go to airports, I have to be careful what TIME I go places to minimize the chance I’ll be around someone who might have been in a place with seafood, and so on. In spite of my precautions, there are still unexpected issues all the time and one small slip-up could be devastating. Every new reaction makes me that much MORE sensitive to allergens.
It’s ridiculous. It’s terrifying. It’s a fact of my life.
When my reactions really started getting severe, I would lie in bed, doped up on antihistamines, feeling miserable, and waiting for the inevitable fear to set in.
What if the next time I was exposed, I died?
What if I died without ever really doing something with my life?
How long did I actually have before it was too late?
Inevitably, the Tim McGraw song Live Like You Are Dying would start running through my head. [Sounds like SUCH a cliché, but it’s true.] After a while, I started thinking about the answers to my questions.
How long did I actually have? - Do we ever really know? It could be tomorrow, even without my allergies.
What if I died without ever really doing something with my life? - That? Would really suck. My deepest, most heart-felt need in the world is to help people. Sure, I’d done some volunteering, but I wanted to do MORE. Really make a difference in someone’s life.
Conclusion: It was time to stop whining, stop being afraid, and start really living.
So I came up with a way to decide whether a fear was worth worrying about or really worth facing. A series of questions that I could use as a guide. [Hey, I have an analytical personality. Of course I’d come up with an evaluation checklist for this!]
- What am I really afraid of? (I don’t let myself generalize here. It’s all about getting specific.)
- Why am I afraid of it? (Most of our fears have a completely legit reason for existing in the first place. Whether or not those reasons still apply is what the next few questions are all about.)
- What’s the worst possible outcome?
- What’s the best possible outcome?
- What is most likely to ACTUALLY happen? (Reality usually isn’t the best or worst possibilities.)
- Would I regret NOT trying/doing it?
- Would things be better or worse if I faced my fear?
- Would it be worth the risk?
- IF the absolute worst - or even close to the worst - were to happen, how would I handle it? (Planning ahead makes dealing with any issues SO much easier. It also helps quash those fears even more.)
It was the easiest way for me to separate myself from the emotional overwhelm of my fears and get a bit of perspective. Sure, it was basically a pros and cons list with a little bit of introspection, but it worked. And the more I’ve used it, the better I’ve gotten at realizing that the things that scared me aren’t so scary.
I’m not going to say that there aren’t days when I swear I’m never leaving the house again. I absolutely do. But, I only give myself a day at most to wallow and then it’s back to my usual self. After all, I’m making a difference in the world and I can’t stop now.
"Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you've got eternity
To think about
What you'd do with it
What could you do with it”
What could YOU do if you weren’t afraid?
If you're ready to start kicking fear in the butt, stop hiding, and start getting visible, come join us in the Visibility Lab for hands-on support from Rachel and me.