A few weeks ago, while putting my 3-year-old son to bed, he realized that his favorite stuffed animal had been left on the sink counter when he brushed his teeth. Encouraged by his tired mother to be self-reliant, he hopped out of bed to fetch it. From the next room I could hear his little voice echo in the empty bathroom, “be brave, be brave, be brave.”
From experience, I knew that the dark bathroom is a fear for this sweet little boy who despite loving to play monsters and watch them on TV, is extra cautious about what could be lurking in the master bathroom after dark.
Hearing his small mantra took me back to a time when I needed to say those words to myself. When my 16-year-old niece, Lily, asked me to be a part of a film project she was doing for the 54 Hour Film Festival, I agreed without hesitation.
That’s me on the right at the premiere of Melissa, the short film I starred in, which was written and directed by my niece (center).
I figured that surelyshe knew my extreme fear of being on camera (Even listening to my recorded voice on my voice message gives me anxiety!) and would assign me the important role of feeding everyone. Food, I am very comfortable with.
When I got the call that I was cast as the lead actress, fear started to creep in – sweaty palms, nausea, stomach churning, shortness of breath, heart racing.
Letting fear get the best of me was not an option I was going to entertain. I knew I was going to say yes. I will always be there for my niece, no matter the request, and I will always strive to be a positive example for her. I was going to need to be brave. I just needed to figure out how to do so.
Step 1: Get some perspective
First, I decided to put things in perspective. If a 16-year-old can take on a project where she writes, films and directs a movie all within 54 hours, AND is one of the youngest, AND is the only all-female team, I could let a camera point at me for a few hours. I focused my attention on what the day was about, it was about Lily. It was about the film, not about one person on camera. Not about me, get over myself. Check.
Step 2: Consider the FOMO (Fear of missing out)
Next was the thought about what I could be missing out on. For this day, I knew it meant spending it with am amazing group of fun, intelligent, inspiring people. I knew if I could push through the fear I would have fun and be thankful to be a part of the project. I leaned on friends who had experience in the front of audiences and cameras for tips and others who I knew would step up and be the cheerleaders I wanted to give me a confidence boast. Focus on fun. Check. Village to support me. Check.
Step 3: Determine what your fear is really about
Lastly, I considered what the fear was about. When people close to me asked what I was so scared of, it was hard to articulate. When I tried to say it out loud – “I’m afraid of looking silly, or ugly, or fat on a 50-foot movie screen” – I knew I wanted to be stronger than that. Self-reflection. Check.
The final result: I did it!
In the end, I fought back against my fear and did the best job I could on the set that day. And while I have no plans to pursue local acting opportunities, I am proud of myself and of Lily’s important short film, Melissa. Here it is:
I would gladly (and now, with less anxiety) be a part of my niece’s projects if asked in the future.
We are faced with challenges big and small every day: walking in a dark room, facing a difficult diagnosis, a tough divorce, trying something new, writing a blog about an experience.
It’s normal to want to avoid the things you that make you uncomfortable, but we all have the bravery inside us to face them. These steps helped me conquer my fear, and maybe they can help you, too. If we put things in perspective, focus on the end result, look to those around us for support and reflect on the situation from another standpoint, we can all be brave.