Recently I read this feature about older women role models by Lauren Laverne writing in The Pool.
The same day, I went to a talk at one of the UK’s top all girls schools, and (randomly, apropros of nothing) the head teacher said Does anybody here read The Pool? It’s very good you know. Lots of intelligent writing for women.
I raised my hand. OK Universe, I get it when you’re trying to show me something. Liking your style, though.
The thing that struck me about the article in The Pool was that I agreed with all her role model choices – Grace Jones, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry. What I don’t agree with is Laverne’s claim that “they live fearlessly” because really, does anyone truly live like that?
I drove home in the rain from the talk at the school. It was a very stormy night and the road was packed tight with cars nosing through the downpour. Even though I don’t have fear of driving any more, I found it quite stressful.
Fear is an emotion our brain creates when it feels threatened. It’s how the brain alerts itself to danger and the need to protect itself. It’s always been around as part of human consciousness, since the world has always had dangers.
Fear is a subject that interests me very much. I lived under it for many years when I had driving phobia, and eventually wrote a book about it. I’ve put a lot of thought, possibly too much, into fear. Even without a phobia, I still get scared and feel threatened from time to time. I’m a hardcore introvert so it goes with the territory.
But I don’t let that put me off. If anything, if I am slightly scared of something then I am more likely to have a go at it. I never want to let simple fear limit my experiences. I never say I can’t do that, I’m too scared. I make a point of doing things that are scary as a way of pushing my comfort zone out a little more, and in doing so hope to keep growing as a person.
Given how innate a human emotion fear is, I don’t believe for a minute that Grace Jones or Debbie Harry or Patti Smith or anybody else doesn’t feel it. It’s what you do next that makes the difference. They’re all performers, and many performers will tell you that a little pre-show fear can be a good thing. As long as you channel it into energy, it’ll keep you on your toes.
Writing about Grace Jones’ new memoir in The Guardian, Barbara Ellen refers to
“Jones’s recurring fear of “Vegas” – not so much the place as the concept, being forced to behave and conform, in a demure wig and long sparkling gown. It’s her vision of creative death.”
So Grace Jones has her fear like the rest of us – a fear of selling out. The question is – what do you do with that fear? Do you roll over and play victim to it? Or do you stand up and be a survivor and ultimately be victorious?
Do you, like Grace Jones, keep your bullshit detector set to high and always, always trust your creative instinct?
These amazing women that you think are fearless? It’s not so much that they lack fear, it’s just that they deal with it better, and their attitudes are supremely kickass. They stand up and deal with things rather than letting fear push them into a corner.
I think that aiming to be fearless is like aiming to be the perfect parent. None of that is real. You’re striving for something that doesn’t exist, and are therefore doomed to failure.
So to sum up – if you are looking forward to a future time in your life when you feel fearless, don’t bother. It’s not coming.
Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, as one of my favourite books says. And above all, start today because your future is already here.