On Being Fearless

I wear my punk rock, bad ass, have jumped out of a plane and befriended homeless crack heads for an evening of drunken debauchery on my sleeve. Oh yes, my exploits and psychotic adventures are well documented and I am, all the people say, “hard core”.

Except that I have to remind myself because I probably, might not believe that. I write and rewrite a million and five times out of a deep seeded fear. I consider and reconsider, questioning my gut instincts, questioning my thoughtful strategies. I question my own approaches, my identity, my beliefs. Constantly.

Paris Tuileries Garden Facepalm statue.jpg
“Paris Tuileries Garden Facepalm statue” by Alex E. Proimos

What will “they” think? What if “they” hate me? What if “they” ostracize me? What if “they” punish me? What if “they” are disappointed? What if “they” are right, and I’m wrong? What if. What if. What if.

I had a rough week last week. I worked too many hours. I felt like half my week was bickering and fighting. Someone email-yelled at me after I sent them an animated gif (I had sent the gif as a “no worries y’all, crazy but whatevs”). I was, for the first time at Greenpeace, mansplained (which was pretty hilarious because the topic being mansplained to me was “peer learning” LOL). Afterwards, a woman said to me “Oh, it took 2 months before you got mansplained? Amazing!” I had people essentially tell me to fuck off despite the fact that I’m obviously trying to help them get what they want…

And it sucked. It was a shitty week that drizzled into my weekend and on Friday night at 9pm I was rewriting, for the seventeenth time, an email which included the line

“I’m learning that people inside of Greenpeace are afraid to color outside of the lines, but I come from a place where there are no lines and there’s paint all over the walls.”

I deleted it this morning.

Maybe there is no such a thing as “fearlessness”. Maybe it’s a myth. BS. Unrealistic. Change is scary. Speaking up, being different, being unique, playing hard, being real is scary. And hard. Being open is scary and hard. The first time, it’s scary. The second time, it’s scary. Even after years, it’s scary to stare in the face of opposition. It’s hard to bring authenticity into your work because what will “they” think…

Maybe there’s no such thing as being “Fearless”. This seems to be where courage comes in. Courage is standing up when you get knocked down. Over and over. People think you’re fearless, but really you are courageous. I like this definition of “courageous”

“Not deterred by danger or pain.”

It’s dangerous to stand up for what you believe in, sometimes your opposition is more powerful and can take something from you. It’s painful to stand up for what you believe in, sometimes your opposition is malicious, sadistic, abusive and can hurt you. It’s dangerous and painful for me, a privileged, white collar, knowledge worker with nothing to complain about (who complains regularly). Imagine what it must be like for the people around us.

Being “Fearless” might not be real, but “courage” certainly is. Courage spreads, it can lead other people to be undeterred by danger or pain. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

We should start thinking about how we treat each other. Reread your community’s Code of Conduct – and if you don’t have one, do what I did – I co-opted the Open Code of Conduct and stuck it on the new Greenpeace wiki.

For all you diversity and inclusion crusaders out there, for all of you who are striving to give people equal voice, to motivate and inspire, to create safe, open spaces for people to learn and grow, for all of you: I know it is hard. I know it gets exhausting. I know that sometimes you sit back and ask yourself “Why am I doing this to myself?” But keep being the courageous leaders that you are. Being courageous is real. Being “fearless” is a myth.

On Being Fearless

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