Fear: Breaking Out from the Prison It Creates

Years ago, I was going through a scary time…didn’t know how I would pay the mortgage AND put food on the table.  Didn’t know how I was going to get all the regular and the extra things done that needed doing before I ran out of week to do them in. I was scrambling and scared, confused and crazed.

But I made it through…each hour, each day, and each week passed–and I didn’t drown in debt or responsibilities. I got the papers marked by the deadlines, Junior Tribe Members where they needed to be, and showed up at meetings where major decisions about my life were being made.  I was terrified…but somehow, with profound faith, I kept showing up.

Even when I was scared, I kept showing up.

Even terrified, I showed up.

I’d like to say it was because I was brave. It wasn’t. I wanted to hide under a blanket.

Actually, what I really wanted was a coma.  A good old fashioned 6 month coma that would allow me to escape the life that had become so unfamiliar and scary, so intimidating and overwhelming.

But alas, the coma didn’t happen…and so I showed up…because I. had. to.

I showed up because I didn’t have a choice.

So…I showed up and made it through…and realized, through that process, that I am stronger and more capable than I often give myself credit. (Aren’t we all?)  And I happen to also believe that Help is there when we ask for it, and I got Help when needed.

So…I made a promise to myself and to the Help…from here on in, if I am asked to do something that someone believes I am capable of, I will say, yes.  I have forbidden myself to say no because of fear. I can say no because of boundaries/need to appropriate schedule, because it simply is not in my skill set…but I simply won’t say “no” because i’m scared.

Gosh, but that can be inconvenient!

Just over a year ago, this new talk show host, Dahlia Kurtz, asked me to do an interview with her on how parents can help children with school anxiety.

She asked me to talk about fear reduction…which was ironic…because being on radio terrified me. I believe that when a microphone is put in front of my face, I lose my ability to speak in complete sentences.

I said yes (because by internal contract, I had to).  And after the interview, I could think of all sorts of things I could have done differently (read: better).  And don’t you know it, Dahlia phoned me a week later and asked me to do another interview.

And I cheerfully agreed with her while on the phone (because, you see, I have this internal commitment I’ve made to myself, even if, gosh darn it, I am kicking myself for this concept that is now completely ridiculous).  And after I agreed, I started shaking my head and grumbling and flapping my hands and wondering why I put myself through this.

Why would I agree to a second radio interview in two weeks?  Cah-ray-zee!!

I showed up.

Then, Dahlia asked me to speak regularly on her show.  And by regularly, she meant weekly.


A weekly opportunity to ruin my career by sticking my foot in my mouth and saying something completely nonsensical.  A weekly chance to have the entire city of Winnipeg (and surrounding area) discover that I’m a fraud, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that I should just quit doing all therapy now. A weekly confrontation with fear. (You catastrophize too sometimes, don’t you?)

But I said yes. (Cuz I had to).

I knew it was a cool opportunity.  I also “knew” that I couldn’t do it.

And thus I became a regular–the “resident therapist” of CJOB’s Dahlia Kurtz’s afternoon show.

The receptionist at the front desk at CJOB, Lisa, chuckled at me when I would arrive to do my segment.  She would get me a half of a glass of water…I needed some water cuz my mouth is so darn dry–but only half a glass, because I didin’t trust myself to not spill it or somehow send it flying across the room such that I would independently destroy thousands of dollars of radio equipment. (It never happened, but there was no guarantee).

When friends asked me how long I would do it, I would say, “At least until it no longer terrifies me.”  (I was thinkin’ that might mean forever.)

About two or three months in, Dahlia and I were chatting before we went on-air and she said, “I think you’re good on radio, and my boss likes you.” (and that’s a direct quote because I memorized it and repeated it to myself for months each time a part of me said, “What the heck are you doing? You don’t know how to do radio!”) Dahlia works on the radio, as a professional radio host, for Pete’s sake–and if she says I’m good enough–I better darn well believe her! Wouldn’t she be a better judge than I about a successful interview–I mean, seriously?

But, don’t we often listen to the little gremlins of fear inside of us like they know more than the people in our lives who believe in in us and know what they are talking about?

It took about 9 months of near weekly interviews for me to stop feeling my stomach before each interview. It’s taken about a year to actually look forward to the time at the station–a few minutes before and in-between to catch up with Dahlia, someone I now consider a friend–a chance to catch up on her dog, my work, her event, my kids, her parents.  I’ve had a chance to meet interesting people who are in the studio before me, and to be present during “breaking news” as it is relayed to our city.  I’ve been bumped for Juno award winners–how cool is that–to be bumped by VIP’s! I know a little of the workings of the inside of a radio studio…and I like to learn new things. It’s a rich experience that I wanted to pass up on.

I’m glad I didn’t.

See, cuz there are two main ways of getting rid of fear when we are scared of something:

1. Pull back.

Think about it. Think about how that making that phone call puts you on edge. Think about how it feels better to decide to go do a load of laundry first, and then to rearrange the paperclips on your desk or go get another cup of coffee.  Because as long as you stay away from that phone call that makes you uncomfortable, you feel better.

It’s easier to not apply for the job, cuz then you don’t have to show up for that interview that you are terrified of.

It’s easier to watch television rather than have the talk about the credit car bills with your spouse.

Fear is reduced by moving farther away from the feared object…and the idea that this is a good thing is reinforced because we feel better…except we aren’t fully and truly engaged with life.

It is tempting each time to reduce my fear of microphones by saying no to interviews of any kind…I don’t have to worry about being misquoted, being asked a question I don’t have an immediate intelligent response for, or drawing a blank and blurting out something that doesn’t make sense.

And when I do that, I let myself get smaller, my life less rich, and I miss out on something pretty darn cool.

2. Extinguish the fear

The other way to reduce the fear is to do the feared thing and to be underwhelmed by the response.  The fear becomes extinguished because life doesn’t end, nothing blows up, and the sun rises in the east as per usual the next morning. My family still loves me, and my friends speak to me each week on Fridays, after I do a radio interview on Thursdays, regardless of how it went.

So…I’m apprehensive but I talk to Dahlia anyway.  We speak–I may not knock it outta the park with each sentence, but she asks me back.  I do good enough.  I do it again. And again. Rinse and repeat.

And I am squeezing life for all its worth. Live radio–how fun is that!? Saying “yes” is terrifying–but exhilarating too. Joan Rivers, the comedian who recently passed away, lived a “Yes” life–She said “yes” as a powerful place to come from, and attributed her long and successful career to saying, “yes”.  She said “yes” to saying what other people were thinking, but dared not say. When I say yes, I am making a choice to fully engage in my life–


  • to show up and find joy,
  • to show up and connect meaningfully,
  • to show up and be fully alive.
You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt quote. Poster by Bergen and Assocaites Cousenlling in Wnnipg


How to extinguish the fear:

1. Show up and be prepared to be underwhelmed (even though you won’t feel like it beforehand and even though you will want to run away from the frightening experience as fast as your legs can go). Think of other times you were frightened, persevered, and made it through. Showing up generally pays off.

2. I strive for excellence, but I don’t rest my value or as a human being on the outcome. My family and friends love me regardless of any interview on radio.  The quality of the radio interview does not determine my worth. I had to remind myself of that often in the early weeks.

3. I take deep breaths from my belly. I do Amy Cuddy’s power posture in the car on the way over and sitting in the green room. I work to physiologically relax my body as I have talked with clients about for years (gosh darn it, it’s not easy to take one’s own medicine!)

4. I went in ridiculously over prepared with my notes.  I was kind and compassionate to myself by asking myself…what can I do to make this marginally less terrifying? How can I be compassionate towards myself to make this do-able from a place of kindness (rather than teeth-gritting-forcing-it-no-matter-what) I read those notes the night before and the morning of, and right before the interview. (for as long as I needed to…I don’t anymore–because I don’t need to do that to be kind to myself at this point)

5. I remembered that it is ok to feel fear and be brave, to be terrified and courageous in the very same moment.  I don’t need to wait until the fear is gone to be able to do this (and funny how we often expect ourselves not to be afraid at all to feel good about our ability to do it, eh?) Courage is a huge value that I cherish.

Courage helps us to fully engage with our lives

and, drum roll please, to no regular reader’s surprise:

6. We are wired for connection, and as Judith Light said in a recent interview: Listen to the people who love you.  Trust them.

Rely and trust the belief of people who love you more than your own belief in you (because when you are frightened you can’t particularly trusting your own judgement of yourself).

Share your fear with someone you trust–because when your fears are brought out of the darkness into the light, they begin to lose their power.

Let them remind you that fear doesn’t mean you’re crazy, it means you’re human. They might tell you a fear or two of your own.

For months, on Thursdays at 1:30, I would start to pace and flap my hands a little and regret my decision to do this radio thing aloud with Melanie, our client care manager.  She would chuckle and remind me how I “knew” each week that I couldn’t do this, and that I lived to tell the tale each week. She wouldn’t ridicule or scold me…she just “held” my fear lightly and safely, reassuring and reminding.

Get their support before the scary thing, and call ’em right after.  They can remind you after that you were brave, that you are loved, and that you’re OK.


I’m so grateful for the opportunity Dahlia has given me to chat with her regularly.  It’s been great to get to know her, to be able to speak about topics that concern all of us as seek to have better connections in our lives. The opportunity to get to challenge a huge personal fear of mine and to learn that fear can be conquered is something I will always treasure.

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