Paul Jarvis on fear

Image by Levi Saunders via

Image by Levi Saunders via

Once upon a time I was offered a course of CBT to help my anxiety. Great, I thought, I’ll do this course and then I won’t be anxious again. Sadly, it didn’t quite work like that.

For me, being an anxious person means being in constant negotiation with my own thoughts. These days I’m mostly winning: I use a combination of mindfulness (observing a feeling but not letting it affect my behaviour) and CBT (challenging unhelpful thinking patterns to break the cycle of anxious thought > anxious feeling > physical side effects > more anxiety > more physical affects) to get myself through each day. But I’m terrified of everything: even making a phone call to someone I know can make me want to vomit. So it’s helpful for me to read people I admire admit to being afraid or anxious. It reassures me that it won’t inevitably hold me back or stop me achieving things.

I’m currently working my way through Paul Jarvis‘s book Everything I Know. Here’s what he has to say about fear.

“Fear plays your against yourself. It can’t actually do anything to hurt you, but it makes you think that it’s the biggest, baddest bully in the playground, ready to slap you down if you stand out too much.

Fear only has the strength you give it. Its power lies in making you too afraid to try something. So if you’re afraid but try something anyway, fear loses its power.”

One of my biggest fears is focused around my social anxiety. I have difficulty reaching out to new people: in person or online. They’re so much more interesting than me: what do I have to offer? Why would they want to talk to me?

A perfect opportunity came after I signed up to Paul’s mailing list. His automatic thank you email invited me to reply, and joked about having his subscriber’s named tattooed on his body. I took a deep breath and wrote this reply.

Hi Paul,

Coincidentally, I signed up to your mailing list whilst on my way back from a tattoo session. I’d forgotten to pack my headphones, and this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Instead of passing the two hour train journey listening to music and looking at the scenery like I would usually do, I got back into a few of the books that were languishing half-read on my kindle homepage. One of them was Everything I Know.

So thank you for making my train journey more interesting, and for inspiring one of my new year’s resolutions. In 2015 I am going to work on acknowledging my fear, and then doing it anyway.

Looking forward to reading your email updates.


It wasn’t long before I received his reply.

hey kate – happy to hear my words helped a long train ride!

now, more importantly, what’s the tattoo of? i’m itching to get more work, but i’ve been living in the woods in the middle of nowhere for a while, so there aren’t many (any) good tattooers around.

happy new year.

We then exchanged a few more emails and I shared a photo of my latest tattoo. He might not remember this exchange in a few months time, but I’m glad I took the time and courage to connect.

One thought on “Paul Jarvis on fear

  1. Paul Jarvis

    Hey Kate – I deal with similar social fears/anxiety too – so neither of us are alone in that! And I actually have a fairly decent memory for good tattoo work 😉


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