The End of Fear

I was lucky enough to see an opportunity advertised to play the character of Irwin in The History Boys recently. It’s a brilliant part and the play is amazing – many of you will have seen it or the film that’s based on it. Normally I might have looked at the opportunity and not done anything about it, but I’m trying to push myself a little more to do the things that I’m afraid of.

I’ve spent a lot of the past year coming to realise that I’ve been afraid a lot in my life. Mostly of rejection, which sounds like a small thing, but given that pretty much any gamble comes with the chance of rejection it becomes fairly all encompassing. For a long while it stopped me pursuing things in my life: opportunities like the Irwin part and more important things, love being a prime example. I’m afraid that having been bullied so consistently in school has made me fear rejection quite a lot.

The problem with a fear of rejection is that it’s so easy to defend. It makes sense not to make yourself vulnerable to the harsh realities of the world, not to allow people the opportunity to hurt you by not wanting you or thinking that you suck at everything. It makes perfect sense to build a set of shields around yourself so that nothing can ever get in where it will cause pain.

Except that by not taking opportunities, by not making the most of what life has to offer, not taking the risk and the gamble now and again, you miss out on life. What’s the point of being alive if you don’t go out there and live? So, I pushed myself to take the risk this time and I’m glad that I did. It wasn’t an easy thing to do and I nearly cancelled about three separate times. I’m still glad that I didn’t. I had an really good – if nerve-wracking – time and I felt very powerful confronting something head on.

The fear, though, is still there. It will not be easily beaten and it will die hard. But one little risk at a time and maybe one day risks won’t matter as much. There’s being sensible and aware of the consequences of behaviour and then there’s making a prison out of the shields that keep you safe.

I didn’t get the part, which I can’t pretend isn’t disappointing. I did give it my best and the director recognised that. There was very little in it. Still, it’s disappointing. But I’m glad that I took the opportunity and went for it this time round. It will give me the confidence to try again next time. I met some really good people, had a really fun day, and hopefully secured myself a place in future projects.

The clear lesson is take risks; rejection isn’t worse than not living.

‘You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along”…You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

A quick poem on the subject.

The End of Fear

Do not be afraid,
though you might not be alright;
Fear is far more fatal
than anything in the wide, wild night.
P.S. The play is in February, by the way, and I urge you to go to see it if you can. Details can be found here.

P.P.S. I’d love to hear about the brave stuff you did in the last few days, no matter how small. Leave a comment and let’s share our courage so we’ve got strength to draw from next time.

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