The “F” Word – Fear

20 Seconds of Insane Courage


There she is, sitting alone drinking coffee, the gorgeous girl you’ve been wanting to talk to for months. It’s the perfect opportunity to walk up and say, “Hello!” You gather your courage. You hesitate, thinking, “What if she blow’s me off?” You turn away, then stop. A new resolve fills you with brash excitement.

“Yes, I can!”

You spin around, ready to conquer the world, and stare in surprise to see your dream girl surrounded by 5 other chicks  chattering like a bevy of birds.

And so ends another chapter in the saga of your lonely and unrequited love life.

This story is repeated thousands of times each day for both men and women. Thousands of young hearts first dreaming, then hoping, then finally crashing back to reality in a worry warted face plant. What do all these stories have in common besides desire? That’s right. It’s the “F” word.


Each of these love stricken fools held back and hesitated because they were afraid. The obvious question is “Afraid of what?”

Just what are we all so afraid of that we don’t step up and do the very things that we dream will bring us happiness? What can possibly happen that will be so bad, so unnerving, that we will be banished to loveless purgatory forever?

I can only speak for myself, and believe me, I’ve an immensity of experience with “Fear. I remember my first high school date and all the emotional turmoil caused by simply asking a girl to a dance.

I was part of a group of guys who were more the “out” bunch than the “in” crowd. Somehow we decided it would be cool to ask some of the cute girls in school to go to the dance with us. Then, to put some pressure on this impulse, we dared each other to do it. Yes, I had a crush on Susie but I’d never noticed she’d even looked sideways at me. I was deathly afraid she’d say “No!” which would have made me feel lower than dirt with my buddies. Even if I got past this neurosis, there was a bigger challenge lurking in my anxious mind. I’d actually have to talk with a girl, a female who was not my dog. What would I say? On top of that there was a larger problem I hadn’t even begun to think about.

I didn’t know how to dance.

Okay. Let’s add up the strikes. Fear of rejection. Fear of women. Fear of looking like a fool. None of these may seem as life threatening as fear of your mom finding your hidden copy of Playboy, but still, these things are cause for the sudden eruption of pervasive acne on a previously naive and unmarked face.

Let’s analyze the true probable consequences of failure. What could possibly be so bad?

First, what could happen when I walk up to Susie and ask her out?

Nothing, of course. I see Susie in the hall standing by her locker. I smile and walk up to her. I trip over my untied shoelace and fall face first in front of her. As I get up I hear the crotch of my jeans tear. I turn twelve shades of crimson as I pull my knees under me and look up. Susie has been joined by at least two dozen other girls all staring down at me. They are laughing. I slowly stand up, being careful to keep my legs together to avoid exposing the damaged jeans. Obviously, this is the perfect moment to say, “Hi. How’d you like to go to the dance with me?”

No, not much could go wrong there.

Or, let’s assume I managed to escape the slip sliding for love entry, and found myself alone with Susie in front of her locker and all I have to do is introduce myself.

Me, standing silent in front of Susie: A….

Susie, staring at me: Yes?

Me, stuttering: I…I…

Susie, now smiling: Could I help you?

Me, beginning to shake nervously: I….I…

Susie, looking around for help as she’s now thinking I may be a problem.

Me, exploding: I was wondering if you…

Susie, a puzzled look on her face: Yes?

Me: …if you could tell me where the bathroom is?

There, that was easy, wasn’t it.

Of course, there’s always the slim possibility that I got past the first two challenges and somehow managed to convince Susie to attend the dance wit me. Now what?

Me and Susie enter the dance together. I smile smugly at my buddies. Yes, I have scored. Look at the cute chick I’ve brought to the dance. Eat your hearts out suckers!

Ten feet into the dance hall, Susie turns to me and says, “I think I’ll go over and talk with my friends.”

Me, a sigh of relief: Sure.

We retreat to our opposite corners, girls over there, boys over here, and spend the rest of the night eyeing each other, the boys making derisive remarks about the overweight girls and the only two guys in the room who actually dance. Lord only knows what the girls were talking about. And so I manage to complete my first date. What was the big deal? Nothing, except the anxiety acne I developed made me so self conscious that it was three more years before I managed the nerve to ask another girl out.

Looking back, such mental angst seems so ridiculous. What did I really have to lose in walking up and saying “Hello!?”? Most people, even girls even, will simply smile and say “Hello” in return. They won’t give you the evil eye and make you feel like you’ve invaded the private territory of the Witch of the North. If this does happen, you obviously don’t really want to know this person.

In the movie “We Bought A Zoo,” Matt Damon recounts the experience of meeting his wife, a moment when he managed to overcome his own fears and boldly stepped forward for “20 seconds of insane courage.” He walked up to the girl he was smitten with and said, “Hi. I don’t know why you’d ever want to talk with a guy like me.”

She replied, “Why not?”

20 Seconds of insane courage.

Yes you can!

Take heart, you are following in the footsteps of countless other fearful folks who have succeeded in spite of themselves.


Yours to count on.

Tio Stib Signature

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