Fear is the mind-killer.
It is insidious.
We don't always recognize it for what it is. We call it insecurity or procrastination. We call it indecision or lack of focus. We even mistake it as ambition. Whatever form it comes in, we can learn to recognize it when it manifests itself in thoughts and actions. We can learn to separate fear from the shame that often accompanies it. Safety is a primal need after all. No shame necessary. While the stressors of modern life are slightly less pressing than a nearby predator, they are also incessant. They easily build within our body and psyche, and consequently, we regularly find ourselves in an unproductive, reactionary state. And at the origin of each social pressure we feel, is a subtle, but deeply influential fear. Fear of being unloved, unwanted, unimportant, unaccepted, unappreciated, unsuccessful, over-worked, selfish, ungrateful, a bad parent, a bad spouse. Fear of being embarrassed. Fear of being average. Fear of being uncomfortable. Fear of being judged. Fear of being honest with ourselves or others. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of being dismissed.
Countering these insecurities is a tall order, but we can choose to try regardless. To do so, we need a model of community in which our worth does not depend on our actions, appearance, or opinions. We need a space where we feel unconditionally valued. A culture that prioritizes grace and humility. We must value one another’s humanity, and everything else comes after that. This is not just for crunchy hippies doing yoga on paddle-boards in Boulder or roasting vegan marshmallows at a music festival in Austin. This kind of community accepts innumerable differences, and by doing so, also forces us to contemplate our own values.
Facing fears isn't about conflict; it's about vision. It's about insight. We as coaches can give athletes a place of peace to counteract the discomfort that accompanies growth. We can choose to create a space that moves from the false sense of safety and temporary comfort offered by the fear response, and to the more difficult, but lasting stability of a strong, healthy community.
P.S. "Fear is the mind-killer" is a line from Dune (yes, I'm a nerd). Also, I'm not saying anything new.