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Pushover to Pioneer
“What is the opposite of fear?” a mentor once asked me. “Courage,” I responded confidently. “No, I want you to look at this differently,” he said. “What if the opposite of fear is action?” At first the statement did not make sense to me. But as I thought back over all the moments in my life when fear gripped me, I realized he was exactly right. Anytime I had overcome fear in my life, it was because I took action. I faced fear head on. And by stepping out I gained courage. That was the secret to overcoming fear.
While in college, I had considered competing in the Miss Oklahoma pageant to win scholarship money for school. But the thought of actually competing in a pageant terrified me. I thought there was no way I was pretty enough, talented enough, smart enough or elegant enough. On one occasion, I actually picked up an application for my school’s local pageant (a Miss Oklahoma/Miss America preliminary), but promptly threw it in the trash. In law school, however, I decided to give it a try. And I started by entering a small, obscure local pageant, just to test the waters without having to tell too many people.
After submitting my paperwork and borrowing all the clothes I needed to compete, the day of the competition arrived. Hiding in the ladies room as the rest of the contestants lined up in one-piece “Super Suits” (think swimsuits with built-in Spanx) which were strategically glued in place, I asked myself “How in the world did I end up here? I HATE wearing a swimsuit in public! And now I have to walk out on stage and get judged?” But after taking a deep breath and coaxing myself out of the bathroom stall, my fears seemed to dissipate with each step toward the stage. “You’ve got this. It’s just walking. Smile and get it over with.”
After the swimsuit portion of the pageant, it was time to grab my batons and do what made me feel most like myself. As a competitive baton twirler for more than 15 years, I was in my element. The talent portion was an absolute blast, even though it was harder than expected to twirl batons on a dark, tiny stage with spotlights glaring in my eyes. The rest of the competition was a blur, but at the end of it all I was standing there with a large bouquet of roses and a sparkling crown on my head. On to the Miss Oklahoma pageant! (I placed 1st runner up that year, and actually won the title of Miss Oklahoma the following year, which paid entirely for my law school education.)
When you feel locked up, afraid to take that step, do it. Make a move. Do something. Don’t let fear keep you from moving forward. Yes, there are moments in life that are scary or overwhelming. We overanalyze things. We think of every possible negative outcome and talk ourselves out of opportunities. And sure it is possible our negative imaginations may actually come to pass and we will fall flat on our faces. But, honestly, so what? When that happens, we learn. We grow. We get through it and we get stronger. And what is worse than failing is missing out on an opportunity. Regardless of the outcome, taking a chance and facing your fear always produces a result. Always.