Fear

I’ve been responsible for merchandising Crewcuts at my J.Crew store officially since August, but unofficially for a little longer than that. At least once a month, I sit down with our concept book, which corporate mails to us, I review which product we are due to receive during the week and I come up with a plan. This plan is based on the concept book, but I adjust it to work for our specific store based on what clothes we have in store, what we will be receiving and how our store is set up. I’m starting to get the hang of it. I like how the organization leaves space for creativity. And yet, once the plan is made and I have to start moving things around, I stand in the middle of my Crewcuts room at the back of the store, start feeling very overwhelmed and I want to quit. In a dramatic fashion complete with a temper tantrum.

The task at hand suddenly seems impossible and not worth dealing with.

I spend about five minutes huffing and puffing, unsure where to begin, and even if I want to. Without even beginning, it’s like the clothes win.

Somewhere along the way, at the beginning of a large task, I’ve adopted the mindset that it’s easier to quit before I even start. I sabotage my own success by convincing myself that I’m not capable. There’s a small voice in my head saying, “Caitlin, you’ll never be great at this, so why even try? Just walk away.”

Unfortunately, this voice is not just in my head oncea month during rollout week at J.Crew. This voice, which I’ve identified as fear, rears its ugly head almost daily. It’s there when I follow-up with prospective adoptive families, it’s there when I write our monthly newsletter, it’s there when ask a co-worker a spiritual question, it’s there when I want to reach out to a friend who I haven’t talked with in a while, it’s there when I step on the treadmill, and when I sit down to write a blog. I can’t seem to fully escape the voice in my head encouraging me to stay on familiar, well-worn paths instead of taking a step into the uncomfortable. This voice justifies the decision to stay good, instead of reaching for great. Fear fights to maintain the mundane and mediocre.

Thankfully, I am able to take the first step in merchandising and move one item of clothing. Once it is moved, there is no going back, and ten minutes later three or four things are in their new locations and my confidence is back. I start to realize the vision and my heart gets excited. I send the email and receive a response; I start the formatting on the monthly newsletter and hit save. If I’m feeling particularly brave, I text a friend I haven’t spoken with in a while, step on the treadmill, or shut my door, sit down at my desk and let my fingers move across the keyboard. And I find my rhythm.

Suddenly, being great doesn’t matter near as much as trying to be better. Fear is powerful, it can paralyze me, but it does not have to. There’s a split second decision that I can make to either let fear win or try. It is always going to be easier to quit at the beginning, and since I have a flair for the dramatic, the tempter tantrum may be fun, but then fear wins. The stakes are too high to quit without trying.

When fear says, “Why does it matter? Why even try?” It suddenly isn’t about the task anymore. Whatever the task at hand, it matters because I matter; my voice and my experiences matter. If I let fear win, even it it’s clothes, fear begins to move into the bigger things. The high stakes things. Fear has the ability to restrain me; to hold me back from the things I’ve dreamed my whole life of doing, the things God has hardwired me to do. If I’m not careful, I will end my life with a long list of good intentions and tasks I was too scared to try.

When I step out in confidence and faith in the small, seemingly unimportant tasks, I’m practicing for when the task is writing a book, telling a story, teaching about Christ or casting vision for serving orphans. If I learn to let fear win, it will gain momentum, hold me back and I may never experience the fullness that God has called me to. I don’t doubt the power of fear. I also don’t doubt the power of faith.

When fear yells at me, questioning my capabilities, preparedness or importance, I whisper back my belief in God, and therefore belief in myself. Belief in a God who has called me to take baby-steps even when they are uncomfortable. Those baby-steps are paving the way for big steps, but if I’m not careful, fear will win, and I’ll never know the greatness of the life that God has in store for me.

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