So much of what we read tells us about how to avoid intimidation, overcome intimidation or meet intimidation head on. Classes about speaking less fearfully, where we’re supposed to imagine the audience naked. Books, articles, blog posts about the psychology of feeling small, feeling big. Empowerment movements. Uplifting weekend retreats. Motivational Jazzercise seminars. Whatever.
And none of these are bad. They’re all great, in fact. But I’ve learned the hard way that avoiding intimidation, trying to step around it or feel bigger than it or say, like a little kid in the dark, “You don’t scare me!” isn’t what makes me be my best self. In fact, when I’m actively feeling intimidated is when I often shine. Not convinced? Consider:
1. Easy Things Don’t Motivate Us
They don’t. If something is simple, we might do it, but it doesn’t make us want to do better, prove anything, overcome, reach for the stars. Easy things feel comfortable, and so they’re reserved for comfortable places, comfortable times. They’re security blankets, and who wants to reinvent the security blanket? NO ONE. Because it’s perfect as it is. But wrapped around you so snuggly and warm, it probably isn’t doing much to amp up your dreams.
2. We Think About Intimidating Things
As a card-carrying insomniac, I can tell you that fear will really, really make you think about things. If you’re intimidated by something, you dwell. You see it from all angles. You think it through. You get to know it subtly, artfully, deliberately, fully … sometimes frighteningly. Feel the intimidation, ask why, probe it, see what makes it go away. But don’t pretend it isn’t there, or “rise above” and just move on.
3. Fear Gives You Options
If you’re afraid, your brain goes into overdrive. This isn’t a manifesto for being afraid all the time, but I have found that when I let myself actually soak in intimidation for a short amount of time — maybe only a few minutes — I often come out knowing more about myself, my options and which of them meet the standards I’ve set for my life.
4. Intimidation Won’t Kill You
Think about it. Intimidation is a leftover biological mechanism from when we can down out of the trees. Lions and jaguars would end your hopes right there, but you know what? Pursuing the perfect souffle won’t. Asking her out won’t. Learning to use Pinterest won’t. So instead of shutting down that fear, allowing it to rule you, or even imagining it naked, thank it. If you’re intimidated, it means something is important to you. We don’t fear what we don’t care about.
5. Feeling Daunted Leads to Courage
It’s true. Donuts don’t lead to courage. Lying in bed doesn’t lead to courage. The easy, the trite, the mundane and the comfortable lead to lots of nice things, but they do not lead to bravery or a willingness to stand up for what’s right, positive or beautiful. Intimidation, on the other hand, instills courage in us when we allow ourselves to feel it and respond by saying, Yes, I’ll do it anyway.