What better day to talk about fear than Halloween? I’m participating in a training session where, like most group events, we started with an introductory exercise. You’ve probably done this before: pair off and learn enough about your partner to introduce him to the rest of the group. Ideally, you’ll throw in a few interesting tidbits that keep the audience engaged, and often the group leader helps this along by providing a framework for the interview.

This session was no different, but this framework included the following question: What do you fear most?

Being (primarily) a rule follower, I took the question to heart and answered accordingly. Rather than citing heights or snakes or spiders or death like some of my colleagues, however, my answer went pretty deep. What I fear most is looking stupid.

Looking stupid can be the result of a variety of situations. I may have been duped. I may not have known the answer. I may be flat-out wrong. It doesn’t matter why; I just don’t want to feel that blush creep up my neck and onto my cheeks.

Now, I could make an argument that simply admitting this makes me feel stupid. Indeed it does. Somehow there’s a vulnerability aspect tied in here, as well. I have a weakness (many, in fact), and I’m sharing it publicly. I feel pretty silly. *gulp*

So why do it?

To get better, of course. To conquer my fear. To convince myself that even though there may be a scary one or two or several in the bunch, people are people. We all have hopes and fears and dreams and successes and failures. We may look different, have different goals, and view the world from different perspectives, but somewhere at the core we all share whatever it is that makes us inherently human. Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we don’t. Every experience has something to teach us, even the ones that make us feel stupid. Take it and run. My guess is that even when you’re wrong, you probably don’t look as stupid as you think.

Remind me of that often, will you?

Happy Halloween.

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