The Sneaky Upside to Fear

The Sneaky Upside to Fear by Malini ParkerThere were bodies everywhere. All over my loungeroom. Relieved, happy bodies, draped over every bit of furniture, everyone spent from a kind of post-performance exhaustion. We had opened to a warm, appreciative, sold out audience and everyone remembered their moves. No one was more surprised than cast and crew that we actually pulled it off!

It was 1995, and I was heavily involved in the performing arts – manager of the newly formed Dizzy Dance Theatre, and co-writer of its debut performance, Colours. The cast had gathered for the ‘after-party’ at my home. There was a mellow, quiet kind of buzz in the air, the kind that lends itself to rich conversation and meaningful exchange (or so I thought!).

I decided to start the ball rolling by diving right in… we had all faced down some pretty big fears on opening night, maybe that would be a good place to begin.

“Let’s all share our biggest fear! What’s yours?” I asked, and we went around the room.

Spiders… Heights… Public speaking…we got past the usual stuff. Then my turn came. I wanted my revelation inspire deep and meaningful conversation around…you know, the Big Stuff. And maybe impress these young ‘uns just a little bit!

 “I think my biggest fear is leading a life of mediocrity,” I said, with dollop of drama and no small amount of self-importance.

The room went silent. Then one of the young performers responded with surprise,

“REALLY? My biggest fear is vomiting!”

Everyone burst out laughing and the conversation turned to other things. I learned 2 things from that evening. The first was that people really have the strangest fears. The second was that trying to impress other people (with anything, especially your fears!) was a pretty dumb thing to do. It was a humbling experience that I’m sure all the rest promptly forgot, but I never have.

Sometime last year I was preparing material for a weekend art workshop called Take Flight – Find Your Authentic Voice. The first painting I planned was going to be around our fears, which we would later turn around (symbolically) into our joys. I realised, paradoxically, how much I had grown because of my fears.

I’ve feared fear all my life…but were there some sneaky possibilities tied up in my Fears? 

I decided then and there that I would turn this on its head and respect…even THANK… my fears!

  1. Thank it for the boundaries. Like the edges of a canvas, on which life is the painting, my fears have given me margins within which I’ve designed my life.
  2. Thank it for conspiring with my intuition to enable me to act quickly and perhaps save a life.
  3. Thank it for the ‘striving to overcome’ it has provided me, the hard surface that I push off to go that extra distance.
  4. Thank it for the feeling of complete relief when I faced something I’ve feared, overcame it and lived to tell the tale!
  5. Thank it for EVERY SINGLE THING that I’ve achieved that I’ve been proud of, because it all started with a dose of fear.

My fear, my pain has defined me and shown me where my strength and my courage lie.


Seventeen event-filled, often heartbreaking years have passed since my grandiose pronouncement to that young cast on opening night. In these years, I’ve faced down some Really Scary Things that have helped shape my perspective. I’ve found my calling, I’m more grounded, more grateful, and I take myself MUCH less seriously.

So here I am, saying with a smile on my face, “Thank you, Fears, you’ve served me well! ”


What about you? Have you noticed a sneaky upside to fear?

Comments 14

    1. Post

      Hi Kelly
      I totally agree that the creative process is so clarifying! Glad you enjoyed ‘The Upside of Fear’ 🙂

  1. LOL Malini – I am with the other person saying my one of my greatest fears is vomiting! LOL….

    I have to say after what I am going through at the moment with work, I am so glad that I found you and you gave me the strength to achieve something I thought I could never do. Art has given me this “power” to think better, be calmer and not let these outside things get to me. So today Malini – my fear is “going back to the old me” – NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!!! big hugs!

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      Hey gorgeous Maria,
      I’ll never forget the day we shared when you first came to my Beginners Workshop – the ‘old’ you – someone who had never painted before, but you were willing to give it a go! And look at where your courage took you!! Having your own show – a fully fledged artist, and a beautiful friend 🙂 I’m honoured to know you my dear Maria – the new and the old ones 🙂 xxx

  2. Hi Malini! Still love that photo! And what a great post to go along with it. I can totally empathize with the ‘coming out’ of your fears, and the reaction it received. And I LOVE how you framed this…the UPSIDE of fear. Wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Post

      Thank you Danielle – yes, the photo is a little scary, but I do like it!! Re-framing fear has been very helpful to me. Sure beats being paralysed by it 🙂 thanks for stopping by x

  3. The upside of fear! Love it! Thanks for sharing Mal– I am scared of being a lousy mother and that my children blame me if they get dragged up rather than raised up! But you already know that ;o). And the awesome thing about my fear is that it keeps me in check. I am VERY grateful for that- thank you fear! Also, living a life of mediocrity is a cool fear- Oh no! Maybe now I am scared of living a life of mediocrity too! Thanks a lot Mal! I was happy being mediocre until now! :o)

    (Good thing I don’t have a fear about vomiting, I have done more than my fair share in my career as a human who is motion sick, and happens to be married to a travel-nut, and has had three children’s worth of morning sickness- yikes. )

    1. Post

      You are soooo far from being a lousy mother its ridiculous 🙂 Yes, I think fear does keep us in check, good way of putting it. You are also soooo far from being mediocre!! All that beauty, talent and radiance wrapped up in a ball of love called ‘Rachel’ 🙂 xox

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  4. A good read as usual, Malini! Fears are very interesting to think about. Mine is a bit unusual – I have a fear of losing buckets! 😉
    May x

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  5. I have so many fears I wouldnt even know where to begin. Where do you get your ideas from? I so so so agree with what Carol said 🙂
    And I’ve said that to you a hundred times

    1. Post

      Fears can seem really overwhelming at times. The single thing that really helps when that’s the case is meditation. My ideas come from there 🙂 They also come from my fears!!

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