We begin with a timely and thought-provoking question.
What do you want to achieve this year?
This year, and the previous several years in fact, I have wanted to write more.
I love writing. I love the process and the editing. I love picking the right words to go into the sentence, and sometimes, because I am really determined to get it right (aka sad), I get out a thesaurus – the real book version, not the Word one – and find that perfect term. Believe it or not, this does actually bring me happiness. It’s the same reason I will happily sit down to read my brother’s 20,000 word dissertation in the evening when it’s due in the morning, or pick over someone else’s essay several times to get the word count down. It doesn’t really matter what it is, I just love writing.
So what has held me back from sharing my writing and taking action on this long held dream?
Up until this year, one of the main reasons was fear.
Fear of what other people would think of my writing.
Fear they would think it wasn’t good enough.
Fear of what they would then think of me for assuming it was.
Fear that really, deep down, I wasn’t good enough to be a writer.
And so I avoided it. I occasionally wrote something. I entered competitions and sometimes they liked what I’d written. Still it wasn’t enough confirmation.
Fear wraps you into a darker world that inhibits you. It takes away part of the essence of you, what you’ve believed you were good at, and subtly suggests that actually, you are not good at that. That no-one else will think you’re good at that. That no-one else will ever believe that you could have even thought you were good at that. It erodes self-confidence and plants doubt.
Fear suggests that the turn of events you most dread will happen. Those ideas that sometimes are too sacred and feared to be put into words – fear morphs these into giants that conquer our thinking. They refuse to be dormant, and taunt us with the prospect that they might come true.
But fear is a liar and the giants aren’t real.
If fear holds you prisoner, truth sets you free. (John 8 v 32)
The truth is that only one giant can exist.
Only one imagining, one event, can happen. The giants all stare at one another. Which one? Who will exist? I don’t know either and they’re my giants. So fear says feed them all.
But what do I gain by doing so? Often, the giant that comes into existence is different, unimagined, and as he gets closer, I realise he wasn’t a giant at all. Once he is there, better or worse than my imagined giants, my feeding of them has been completely in vain. It has achieved nothing, save making me a slave to their conjectures.
My giants all have the same name – ‘what if’.
I had to go the dentist by myself for the first time ever this week. I had two teeth taken out when I was 10, have never forgiven the dentist (different issue) – and still maintain they would have come out by themselves… Anyway, ever since then, I have gone to the dentist with my Mum. Yes I’m 27. Yes I’m old enough to go by myself, but I couldn’t do it. So when my youngest brother declined the offer of waiting half an hour for me and left me to go it alone, my companions came to greet me.
The ‘What if I need a filling’ giant? The ‘What if the dentist hurts my mouth’ giant? The ‘What if I need some work doing’ giant? What if? What if? What if? Constant questions flooded my mind in the week following an email reminder of impending doom. When I finally vacated the dentist’s chair as quickly as I could, the giants had all vanished. I didn’t need any intervention, my teeth were (are) fine. Phew.
So where had that giant been? My ‘what if everything is fine’ giant?
He’d been there. All along he had been behind the others. People had ushered him forward, introduced him to me, and I had disregarded him because I didn’t fear him. He was my BFG of giants, who I wasn’t sure existed, but who I wanted to be real.
It reminded me: fear is a liar.
The giants are pure speculation. They entertain possibilities that may never come to fruition. The best-case-scenario giant is dwarfed and threatened by the others. We are held merely by the fear of them.
Yes, something will happen: but only one of the many outcomes that have played out in your head. And often – not even one of them.
Over the past year, I have developed two strategies to combat my giants.
The first one involves God, and a sense of humour.
Does that mean things I want will happen?
God doesn’t promise to make the world revolve around me or have other people do what I want.
Will my ‘what if worst-case-scenario’ giant become reality?
But I can trust God, whatever happens. It means I don’t focus on my giants; I focus on Him.
The second is slightly less spiritual but equally amusing to me.
“Dr Pepper, what’s the worst that can happen?”
This phrase encapsulates all my what ifs into one thought.
It mainly serves to remind me that actually, only one scenario is ever going to play out. It could be the worst case scenario (as in the adverts), but I can also pray that it won’t be. While I could act out every single one in my head and entertain every giant, this really isn’t going to serve a purpose.
Because the giants aren’t real.
Fear is a liar.
Truth sets you free.