How to Kick Fear’s Butt When Starting Something New

The first time I thought about publicly sharing my words online, I immediately squashed it down and wrote it off as ‘too hard’ and ‘too vulnerable.’

That was 3 years ago.

Last year, when the idea to publish my writing started knocking on my heart again, the same thoughts swarmed into my mind. Only this time, it brought buddies.

‘Who do you think you are?’

‘What if you fail?’

‘What will people think?’

‘Worst- what if no one cares?’

Like an army, these enemy soldiers invaded my mind and set up base camp with the sole purpose of killing off any ideas to share my words of encouragement with the world.

Maybe you’ve experienced something similar just as you were about to try something new. Whether that be setting up your own Etsy shop, becoming a small business owner or even as simple as posting a picture on Instagram.

If you’ve never identified if before, let me formally introduce you to Fear. Fear is the voice behind all of these self-deprecating thoughts. Although he may put on various disguises such as Anxiety, Imposter Syndrome and Self-Doubt, it’s really just Fear pulling the strings.

Fear’s main mission is to keep you small. To keep you believing that you’d never amount to much, so you probably shouldn’t try at all. Fear doesn’t want you putting yourself in situations where you’d be more exposed.

Put your words online where people may criticise it? No thank you.

Set up a shop when you may get no sales? Heck no.

Become a female business owner when female CEO’s already have a dozen harder obstacles? Just stay in bed, hun.

Fear has infinite excuses in his bag of tricks to keep you in one spot.

The difference between me last year, and me three years ago, was that I changed fear’s direction. Fear will always be there on our journey. There’s no getting rid of him. He is a guaranteed travel companion. But amongst all the scary scenarios of failure and criticism emerged an even more terrifying thought- the fear that it would break my heart if I never even tried.  

It was this horrifying scenario that finally kicked me into action. The thought that I would stay ‘ordinary’ forever because I was too scared to try something different. The thought that so many people may never benefit from the message I wanted to share because I was scared of what ‘haters’ would think.

When I finally published my words online, my first piece was about – you guessed it- fear. That article landed in front of the eyes of a female CEO who ended up hiring me to be her writer even though I had zero experience. Every time I share my experiences with fear, I hear the chimes of ‘me too’ and ‘I feel the same way.’ I only say this to show you that no one is immune from fear. Not a CEO. Not the influencer on Instagram or the businesswoman who made it onto the Forbes 30 under 30 list. Everyone – no matter how well they hide it- is scared sh*tless of something. 

You may think that because I’m writing about this, it means I’ve conquered it and become the Master of Fear. Heck no. I still deal with Fear daily. Even hourly. I feel it whenever I’m about to press publish on another blog post. It creeps up when I think about sharing my words on Instagram or when I don’t know whether I should introduce myself as a student or a writer.

I have to make an intentional choice every day- do I want to be fearful or do I want to be bold?

So how do you kick fear in the butt?

You acknowledge that for better or worse, it’ll always be there.

You recognise that out of the bazillion things that out of your control, this is actually something you get to call the shots on. You  get to choose whether fear keeps you in the one spot OR if it pushes you to be the best version of yourself.

You pair up with him and say, ‘Hey, I can’t beat you. But maybe I can use your energy for a good purpose. Every time you come into the picture, I know it’s just a sign that I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone and it’s my time to grow.’

That’s how you kick fear’s butt.

That’s how you become what you always were- a winner.


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The Truth About Change

Ash Chow the truth about change

I flew home from England this time last year.

I’d completely forgotten about the date until I caught up with my friend Jess last week. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to bring the kindred spirits you meet overseas back home with you, and Jess was one of them.

“I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since we’ve seen each other,” she said as we sat down. “What’s happened since then?”

A whole flurry of memories from our time abroad rushed through me as she said that. Some were nostalgic memories about the people I’d met, while others were of more traumatic incidents that I’d buried and repressed.

Then came the aftermath.

People who go on exchange or travel for an extended period of time like to joke about never wanting to come home. But for me, it was a hard fact. In the days leading up to my flight, I remember hoping that something would happen so I wouldn’t have to get on the plane. Maybe I could stay here for a few more months, I thought to myself- a sentiment that was destroyed once I checked the state of my bank account.

If I was strikingly honest, I was afraid of coming back home and feeling restricted by people’s judgements and the responsibilities of the real world. Above all, I was afraid of coming back to a place that I believed wouldn’t have good things for me.

And sure enough, once I landed, everything crumbled.

One of my favourite writers likes to label this point of time as the valley. The valley is something we all go through. It’s this rocky, cavernous space in-between each highlight moment that we have to navigate before reaching the top again. You might know it as the low point in your life when depression came back or when things felt stagnant, no matter how much you tried to move. It’s that place where you feel like giving up every two steps and you’re unsure if you’re ever going to see sunlight again. 

Time slows to a crawl when you’re in this emotional pit of despair. All of a sudden you become this fortune teller who only ever predicts crappy things about your future. This person would most likely go out of the fortune telling business in real life, yet when it comes to our lives and our voice, we’re quick to believe the bad things. 

My valley lasted for two whole months. This sounds like nothing in the grand scheme of things, but every day that passed felt as long as a year. All I could feel was anger towards a God that hadn’t pulled through on the promises He’d made, and a devastation that all I was ever going to know was the ache that stemmed from loss and heartbreak.

I’m only able to recount these memories now after looking back at my journals from last year and seeing every page with ‘I’m angry!’ and ‘This sucks!’ scribbled across it. But when I sat across from Jess and thought back to those moments last year, I could only feel a flicker of what used to be intense, fiery emotions.   

All this to say, so much has changed since I landed back in Melbourne a year ago. A lot of the beliefs I held about God not having good things for me are gone, and the things I cried over or worried about are now only distant memories. The worst outcomes that I’d believed for myself never came true, and when I look back on the things or people that hurt me, the only thought that reverberates across my mind is how ‘the victory is sweet.’

“Everything has changed since last year,” I told Jess.

Change.

That word used to be a death sentence to me. Whenever I was in a good place with friends, family and work, I would always pray that everything would stay exactly the same. I was so sensitive to it that on my first day of my 2nd year of Uni, I could actually feel that everything was different and I called a friend that night to cry about nothing being the same. We sold our old house a few months ago and I remember texting everyone that I wasn’t emotionally ready to move out even though our new place was literally 10 minutes down the road.

But a few weeks ago, I got a string of messages from someone going through their own valley season. She’d lost faith, felt forsaken, and was basically quoting lines from my journal right back to me. And turns out, the thing I said that gave her the most comfort was that ‘things change.’

The way things are now is not how they’re going to stay.

This can be an incredibly scary sentence depending on what position you’re in. For some, it can feel like a sense of foreboding that the triumphant mountaintop they’re on now could come crumbling down. But for others, it’s a comforting reminder that things will get better. That the feeling of grief or heartbreak or lost sense of hope, is not going to sit heavy on their chest forever. That they will not have to bunker down and declare their emotional pit of darkness ‘home’ for the rest of their lives.

Regardless of what feeling it evokes, change is inevitable and necessary. We are not meant to stay stagnant. Gosh, what a boring life we would lead if we were allowed to remain as we were. There would be no room for new beginnings or second chances or fresh relationships. There would be nothing to give us momentum or push us forward. We are intricately designed to move and evolve and grow, and funnily enough sometimes growing requires us to go backwards first.

My close friends who know my past like to tell me all the time that I’ve changed. Yet all I can see and feel is that I’m the same mess of a human being I always was. But I think that’s how change manifests itself sometimes. There won’t be a finish line that tells you to stop running, or a banner declaring you’ve made it. Instead, the best, long-lasting, transformative changes happen incrementally over a long period of time. You most likely won’t see all the ways you’re growing when you’re in the thick of your mess, but rest assured it’s happening.

So, at every point you feel defeated, remember to hold onto this- things change.

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THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

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Eyes on your lane

I have this terrible habit of reaching for my phone whenever I hit a rut in the writing process.

Whenever I’m racking my brain for the right words or can’t figure out how to weave my story together, I instinctively turn to Instagram for inspiration within the masses of selfies and motivational quotes. To counter this habit, someone recommended a productivity app that plants a digital tree when I can resist touching my phone for a specific period of time. So far, no trees have been planted.

The best thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world. The worst thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world.

Before I started writing in this space, I would enjoy trawling through the feeds of other writers and swoon over the way they could capture my feelings with their words. Reading their stories was like the first time I wore glasses. When I placed those plastic rimmed frames on my face, all the blobs and blurred lines in the distance sharpened into focus and I could see the all little details I never realised I was missing. Like how the colourful shapes in the storefront were actually teddy bears, and how the letter ‘a’ on the sign was actually a ‘d.’Their words soothed an ache within me that I never knew how to explain or how to fix, like how a toddler might point to his stomach and cry.

Now that I’m aspiring to do the same, I can’t help but feel twinges of envy after reading their beautifully crafted sentences and how their words sparked magic. I longed to be at the level where everyone I admired was.I wanted their perfect prose, their platform and people that support my writing – and I wanted it yesterday. I pretend it’s not there, but left unchecked, the spoonful of self-doubt along with a pinch of self-loathing soon becomes hard to swallow.

Underlying all of this is the desire to just hurry up and be ‘there’ already. Humble beginnings and baby steps are like poison ivy to those of us with big visions on our hearts. We itch and scratch and whine in frustration at the reminder that although we’re not where we want to be -other people are. Suddenly, bitterness and distrust can’t help but creep in when you see someone else living out your vision. 

***

It hit 31-degree’s last week.

It lasted two days and then the thunderstorms began.

While the sun was still out, my friend and I headed to the beach to make the most of the blue sky and our free time. As she got into the car,she began to complain about the fact that her packages hadn’t arrived.

“Aus Post told me it was going to get here by midday, and it’s still not here,” she grumbled. “Now I have to go all the way down to the post office to pick it up since I won’t be here to sign for it. This is so annoying!”

As dramatic as she sounded in the moment, I knew that I harboured the same frustration and discontentment. Although I claim to be competitive, the waiting game is one I would forfeit if it meant that I received my prize instantly.

In a world where express shipping is the default option and food arrives straight to your doorstep, we are conditioned to crave instant gratification. I know I’ve been easily tempted by the siren call of products that claim to give me a flatter stomach in five days and clear skin by two. I’ve stalked the feeds of the people I admire and assumed that so long as I perform X, Y and Z, I should be exactly where they are by next week.

I think many of us wish we could just order up our dream like an online delivery. We’d get a text when our dream has been dispatched from the warehouse and we could track its journey by watching the icon move along the timeline. We’d squeal in anticipation when we finally get an estimated time of delivery, and we’d run to the door as soon as we heard the postman pull up.  

I have a running list of suggestions to tell God on the way Life should work.

But for now, He hasn’t implemented any. We have no way of tracking how long we have to go or how long it’ll take till we attain our goal. The air of uncertainty only fuels our anxious minds, so when things inevitably hit a road block, we lose momentum and get dejected about the delay. 

We look at our journey and say, ‘Hey. You’re taking way longer than I expected. I asked for my dream to be delivered Amazon Prime style to my doorstep, but instead you’ve decided to get held up at the post office. I’d like my refund now.’

***

The hardest lesson for me to swallow is that the reason I’m ‘here’ and not ‘there’ is simply because I’m not ready yet.

There are skills that have yet to be developed, basics I still need to master, and experiences I have to overcome that will ultimately keep me sustained in the long run.  Above all is a God who keeps me in one spot to ensure that I learn to walk before I even think about running.

As desirable as an online delivery of our dream is, we forget that there’s beauty in the process and a better payoff in the waiting. None of the people I admire are instant successes. When I was scrolling on social media and consuming the posts of the writers I adored,I was looking at the culmination of a decade’s worth of work. A decade of sitting at the table with their butt in the chair, slamming their fingers on the keyboard until they produced stories that flowed.

But I know that as much as the waiting hurts, there’s an even bigger heartache when you watch someone else get their package first. My phone is full of the text messages, emails and phone calls about the heavy hearts and sink in our stomach my friends and I feel when we hear someone else got that job offer, the relationship status or the prestigious award.

The questions start to fire off in our brains:

Are there good things ahead for me?

Is there a purpose for me here?

Is everything that I’ve been working towards going to be worth it? 

My honest answer is that you are special. You do matter. And the thing you’re working for will pay off for you in the end. There’s so much influence and impact running through your veins that everything you touch is going to produce so much good in the world.

But I know this is real hard to believe when we’re consumed by the mentality that we’re in this Ultimate Race. The race where there’s only one prize for all seven billion of us, and we have to strap on our weapons and battle each other Hunger Games Style until we win. We end up tearing our eyes away from our goals and spend all our energy twisting and turning our necks to see who’s gaining momentum on us and wondering why someone else is faster, better or smarter than we are.

Perhaps I’m being too dramatic. All I know is that I can’t be the only one whose heart breaks a little when I see all the ways people are racing past and getting their prize while I’ve barely moved an inch. 

What I will say is that time gets wasted when we worry about who’s ahead of us. Time gets wasted when we are constantly turning our heads to see who our competition is or analyzing all the ways why they have what we want. 

We could either watch other people excel and neglect our own craft. Or we could focus on our own process and fight to believe the truth that while it might be their turn to reap the rewards now, one day it’ll be ours. 

Earlier this year, someone I looked up to purely because of the fact she seemed to have her future figured out, sent me a flurry of messages to vent about how she was doing everything ‘right’ but only getting minimal returns. Other people were coming up from behind and getting the opportunities she’d worked for, and anxiety was whispering that maybe this means she wasn’t cut out for her dream.

For the hearts that wonder why they aren’t ‘there’ yet or discouraged by watching other people ‘ahead,’ this is for you:

 “Take yourself out of the race,” I texted back. “You’re in a league of your own.”

Don’t look side to side for your inspiration. Just look straight ahead because that’s where you’re going.

Ahead.

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Wednesday’s Just Got A Recharge!

When the fresh start to the week has worn off, but the weekend still feels ages away, you end up with humpday. This dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed.

 Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

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Mind Your Business

safe spaces and favourite places
Yeet Pray Love @goonellie

“You need to mind your own business,” she told me.

Not the words you want to hear while in the throes of another heartache, but necessary words nonetheless.

It’s 2018 and everything you ever need to know is accessible in the palm of your hand. You can track in real time exactly what your friends are getting up to tonight. You can instantly look up the fact that there are more stars in the skies than particles of sand, just to win an argument. You can even get Pad Thai and a date to share it with, delivered to your doorstep in just two swipes.

I’m guilty of spending hours lying in bed, scrolling on my phone and checking out the highlights of other people’s lives. I justify it by saying I just want to see how the other half live. The ones who are inspiring me to chase my dreams. To watch the friends I’ve made on the other side of the world, kick ass.

But what happens when I scroll pass something I don’t want to know about?

A change in relationship status

A new job update

A tagged meme I wasn’t included in

A party I’ve missed out on

I can get very easily bogged down after an intense scrolling session or when I’ve lurked on a profile for too long. Especially when FOMO hits and I find out news that rubs me the wrong way or leaves a sick feeling in my stomach.

And so, on this particular Friday night when I should have been capitalising on my 20s and making questionable decisions, I found myself curled up in the foetus position on her bed having yet another existential crisis. Friends who let you rock up at their house at odd hours of the night, and open up their bed or couch to you, are solid gold. I have spent many evenings diving into people’s passenger seats, knocking on doors, and camping out on kitchen floors, all so they can give me the tough but necessary advice. These are the people to hold close and do life with.

As I lay sulking under the dim glow of her fairy lights, she schooled me in the art of minding my own business.

What other people are doing should be of no concern to you. What he is doing with her is not a story-line you need to care about unless you’re invited to play a part in their drama.

“Stop jumping to conclusions,” she stated bluntly. “What you see and hear online is only half the story.”

I pulled her blankets over my head and sulked even more.

“Every time you start to get upset, remind yourself it’s none of your business,” she nudged me. “This is not burying your head in the sand. It’s an intentional redirection of where you focus your energy and thoughts.”

The truth is, she’s right. I’m guilty of investing in the lives of others more than I invest in my own. It’s easier to show off my life on a screen than show up and do the messy but necessary work in reality. We watch and scroll and care so much about what other people are doing, we miss out on the magic that’s happening right in front of us. And of course, we want others to see the highlights in our life as well. So we play the game. We snap, we caption, we vlog. This is not a social media bash – and you should definitely instastory any moment where you’re feeling and looking great. But some moments just shouldn’t be for the public.

I had the privilege of hanging out with someone especially great the other week. It went the way you’d want any night with a ‘potential’ to go- pizza, ice cream, and your Pastor dining at the table next to yours. Afterwards, we sat in the car with music blaring, city lights sparkling, and basked in a reassuring silence that could only accompany two people who were absolutely comfortable with one another. In that moment, I didn’t care what anyone else was doing. All I wanted was to savour the moment and never have it end. It was such a rare and sweet occasion that my fingers itched to capture it and have something tangible to remember it by. But as I reached for my phone, I felt a nudge telling me ‘Don’t document this. This moment is yours and his. No one else’s. Some things just need to stay sacred.’

***

Like I said, this isn’t a social media bash. The Internet has brought some beautiful things and people into my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. But if we’re always basing our feelings and jumping to conclusions based off the highlight reel and 10 second stories people put up, we run the risk of neglecting all the amazing things we’ve achieved in our own lives.

So for anyone who has ever felt crap because the rest of the world is ahead, let me pass on this pep talk to you.

It’s none of your business how far ahead other people are

None of your business that they’re now asking someone else out instead of you

None of your business they’re in a top-tier company and you’re not

None of your business that they’re further along in their career than you are

Quit watching and just do you.

Anxiety loves taking any tidbit of information you feed it and running with it until it’s crafted a story where you’re the victim.

So stop feeding it. Realise that life online is curated and only two dimensional. It’s rarely the full story, and it’s none of your business. Learn from people, yes. Be inspired by them for sure. But don’t lurk on profiles if you’re just going to beat yourself up for all the ways you’re not like them.

You could spend hours swiping through other people’s stories instead of putting the work into building your own. You could spend your whole life following other people’s lives. Or you could just devote your energy to living your own life- unafraid and uninhibited.

Mind your business


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