Growing up, my father was somwhat of a sci-fi tv/movie buff, and I watched (often through covered eyes) some interesting things as a result. One movie in particular stuck a chord with me — although as a child, I didn’t fully understand the underlying message. However, as an adult, it is crystal clear. Dune is an old-school fantasy movie based on a book of the same name. In the movie, the main character Paul Atreides has to take a very important test in order to begin his journey. The test is a difficult one for him, and he speaks an affirmation to himself to overcome the hardest part of the test, fear.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear…Only I will remain.”
This movie and quote came to mind last week as I was facing a test of my own. I am in the deep weeds of my dissertation, and I am making great progress. Well, I was making great progress…
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this process, I am drafting my proposal, a document that explains all the details on how I will conduct my study. Once this document is approved by the committee chair and committee member, it needs to be approved by a university reviewer. Friends, I can’t tell you joy I experienced when I hit this milestone. My joy quickly turned to anguish, when I receieved feedback from the reviewer. The amount of questions, edits, changes, and suggestions threw me for a loop. I expected a few naturally, but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.
I became mentally paralyzed. The imposter syndrome reared its ugly head in full force. I was stuck. So much so, that I could not look at my proposal for weeks. I would open it, wander through to attempt the changes only to close it after a few minutes. I began to substitute other tasks during the time I needed to be working on my proposal. I wanted to move forward, but I could not get past what was holding me back.
Finally, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had friends who were moving forward in their studies — getting to the next stages of their dissertation process, graduating even. My husband, who is also in a doctoral program, is currently collecting his data. I was under pressure, the end of the quarter was fast approaching, and I was running out of time. I had to get my rear in gear! Here I had this awesome privilege of obtaining a PhD, and I was lost.
I needed to be a good steward of this awesome privilege I had been afforded.
- First, I had to identify my problem. I couldn’t understand why I kept putting my task off. I was shown that I was wrestling with fear. Fear of not meeting the standard of the university reviewer, fear of not acheiving the quarter goal I set for myself, fear of simply not being enough. Perfectionism and procrastination had a rendezvous on my dime and created the perfect storm of apathy and self-pity.
- Next, I had to take my own advice and ask for help. I requested prayer from friends, I scheduled phone conferences with my committee chair, and I asked fellow classmates to tell me how they had pushed through. I had to believe I wasn’t in this alone.
- Last, I had to sit myself down and get it done. No distractions. I created space in my heart and schedule to grind through the doubt and fear, and put in the work. Guess what? When I actually began, it didn’t take long to complete my task. All this wasted time and feelings of anxiety, were for nothing. I had all the tools I needed and I was mentally capable of getting it done. Lesson learned.
Like my buddy Paul said in the movie, fear is the mind killer. I had allowed it to take my mind and heart hostage, and it almost compromised my mission. I was called to complete this task long before I began, and I am more determined than ever to get it done. Friends, if you have found yourselves wandering, procrastinating, fretting, avoiding, take a page out of my book and be encouraged. Face your fear, call it out. Shine a light in those dark, hidden places and ask yourself what is holding you back. Don’t give fear a place to take root. You too are called to a purpose, and only you can complete it. We’re in this together!
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From My No-longer Fearful Heart to Yours,