“And yes, I still am terrified every day. Yet fear can be love trying its best in the dark. So do not fear your fear. Own it. Free it.”

I woke up this morning with an email from one of my WomanSpeak members, Stephanie, to everyone in the group. She graduated last year but at the request of her and several other graduating members, she is part of the graduates group I created so that they could continue the practice of speaking and maintain the support of our special community of women. She shared an essay by Amanda Gorman, the inaugural poet, that was published in the New York Times about the fear she faced. She wrote,

“I was scared of failing my people, my poetry. But I was also terrified on a physical level. Covid was still raging, and my age group couldn’t get vaccinated yet. Just a few weeks before, domestic terrorists assaulted the U.S. Capitol, the very steps where I would recite. I didn’t know then that I’d become famous, but I did know at the inauguration I was going to become highly visible — which is a very dangerous thing to be in America, especially if you’re Black and outspoken and have no Secret Service.”

Amanda goes on to write how she processed this fear, stating,

“Maybe being brave enough doesn’t mean lessening my fear, but listening to it.”

So many of us believe that our fear are signals from our bodies asking us to stop and hold ourselves back from doing the things we really want to do. There is a belief out in the world that we will be ready once the fear is gone or that eventually, the fear we hold will completely go away.

But what if this isn’t true?

This past week, I finally decided to make a series of short videos to promote the WomanSpeak program. Being told not to speak and hold shame in my voice as a young girl taught me that speaking was dangerous. While in my mind, I know this no longer to be true and recognize today how much my voice matters, my body feels differently as it continues to store the memory of the trauma of my voice. So even though I went through the WomanSpeak program and have led it for over three years, still, when I get up to speak, my body remembers the fear. It isn’t as intense as it used to be but it is still there making my heart beat faster, my body temperature go up and I can still feel the redness around my ears. So what do we do when we feel this fear?

We say YES to it.

We recognize that it’s a body memory that we’ve held onto for a long time, sometimes a lifetime, and that it will take time for it to work its way through. And for some of us, it will take a lifetime to do that. So I say YES to my fear as best as I can knowing that it’s what gives my voice power and connects me to the deepest parts of my body so that I can speak my truth. I proceed using the self-soothing tools I’ve learned and teach in WomanSpeak and… I speak.

Amanda so eloquently states how fear, instead of being something that stop us, can be a pull towards something greater,

“I’m a firm believer that often terror is trying to tell us of a force far greater than despair. In this way, I look at fear not as cowardice but as a call forward, a summons to fight for what we hold dear.”

Stephanie explained why she shared this essay to our WomanSpeak members in her email. She wrote,*

“I came across this Amanda Gorman article and it resonated so much for me, and made me think of the work we’ve all done through WomenSpeak. I love the line “fear can be love doing it’s best in the dark”… Thank you, Judy for bringing us together and guiding us to trust our voices and own our fears. Thank you to all of you for showing up and sharing yourselves. I’m grateful for each one of you.”

Whatever it is you’re afraid of, instead of seeing your fear as something to hold you back, maybe next time, you can remember instead that “fear can be love doing it’s best in the dark.”

If using your deepest, truest voice is something you fear and you would like to practice sharing our fearful voices in the dark together, consider joining WomanSpeak. The program is about connecting to and learning to trust your voice in a community of women who will hold space for you and support you as you let your truest self shine. We are enrolling for March and have Intro Classes in February whether you are in Seattle and want to attend in-person class or somewhere else and want to attend virtually. Please click on the link for more details or hit reply if you have any questions.


Photo by Lauren Dukoff from the original NYT article.
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