While giving a concert in Central Park in 1967, Barbra Streisand blanked on the words to three songs. After the concert, she kept thinking about those songs, playing those moments over and over in her mind. As she did so, the fear and anxiety built. She worried, "What if it happens again?"
Streisand is now one of the most successful entertainers in history, but back then she became so fearful of making such a mistake again that she limited her public performances for 27 years.
I'm guessing that during those 27 years, Streisand learned what many fearless people have learned: Hiding doesn't make fear go away. Rather, it feeds the fear and makes it even worse.
Eventually, Streisand did face her fear and finally agreed to sing at a large public event. Her performance went so well that she then went on a national tour and eventually performed in front of a large television audience.
Of that experience, she was quoted as saying:
"I can say, 'I am terribly frightened and fear is terrible and awful and it makes me uncomfortable, so I won't do that because it makes me uncomfortable.' Or I could say, 'Get used to being uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable doing something that's risky. But so what? Do you want to stagnate and just be comfortable?'"
So you might be thinking, "Well, sure Barbra Streisand can face her fear. She's got enough money to pay a team of experts to help her. What about people who aren't so privileged? Isn't it harder and more impossible for us?"
It isn't. I have a friend who is a regular everyday person who doesn't have unlimited funds to spend on a team of people to help her with her mental health. Yet like Streisand, she too has been able to overcome what was once a debilitating fear of public speaking. She now sees that she was most fearful of public speaking during the many years she refused to do it. It was only after she began facing the fear that public speaking became less scary. In other words, facing it weakened the fear.
I've counseled countless people who all say the same thing. After a few sessions, they all -- no matter their income, job status, or lifestyle -- told me precisely what Barbra Streisand's quote conveys. It's easier to greet fear at the door than it is to hide in the closet and hope that the fear will go away. Fear doesn't go away unless you face it, and it only grows when you hide from it.
Think about it: How long have you been avoiding what scares you? Has hiding from the fear ever made it go away? Can you see how avoiding what scares you actually works against you by feeding the fear?
The time to weaken your fear and strengthen your fearlessness is now. Do it now!
For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.
For more on becoming fearless, click here.