If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They’re Not Big Enough

If Your Dreams Don't Scare You, They're Not Big Enough | thefreewoman.comDreams are intimately intertwined with fear. Anybody who says otherwise is lying. And, if you don’t experience the sensation of sweaty palms or a churning stomach, then your dreams aren’t big enough.

A dream worth achieving is one that produces nervousness, that “what-if” anxiety, and panic. But it also produces simultaneous feelings of determinedness, serenity, and joy. It isn’t comfortable, but truly dreaming shouldn’t be. Some might vehemently disagree with me. Some might say that I’m wrong. That dreams are those that are just larger than our current reality. That dreaming is attainable, feasible, and practical. But isn’t that playing it safe? Is that really dreaming at all? Staying within the confines of what is known, what is ‘doable,’ is unsatisfactory. Not only is it unsatisfactory, but it robs us of opportunity. It screams to us that we are only as good as our limitations. Most of all, it’s the easy way out.

This begs the question, how many people don’t ‘truly’ dream? In my experience, I don’t think I ever ‘truly,’ dreamed until this past week. In the midst of expectations, family pressures, and economic realities, I decided that I wanted to pursue a double major in Communications and Art … and it scared me. Even writing that sentence right now makes me shake a little.

So let me emphasize this: I am no expert. But what I do know is this past week I experienced the utmost fear. I wanted to run away, ignore, escape. Why me? Why should I be an artist? What if I starve? What if nobody supports me? What if I go through all this effort, and it’s for nothing? Those were the what-ifs that occupied my mind, almost obsessively. But I chose to embrace those fears and not suppress them by pressing onward, submitting my portfolio, and getting admitted into the major. Doing so because I know that without great risk, there is no reward.

Reward – what a strange concept. While I am overjoyed to have been admitted, I realize that this is only the beginning of the journey. There are financial obstacles to wade through, logistical realities that can’t be escaped, but the reward is not the result. It’s the process. The process of knowing that what you are going after is terrifying, yet exactly what you know you must do. As Brené Brown says in Daring Greatly, it is the intersection of vulnerability and wholeheartedness; the place where the magic happens. It isn’t about tangible titles, payment, or predictable outcomes.

Truly dreaming is the concept that you are making the statement I am going to bet on myself. It is acknowledging all the success you have made in the past, and saying: Yes, I can do that again. Yes, this is a worthy cause. Yes, I am capable.

In a world that tells us to live up to socially constructed American-dreams, to carry on legacies we might not want, to do what is likely, I think that the initial terror is what can wake us up. Dreams shouldn’t remain perpetually distressful. In fact, at some point they should turn into this organic form of thriving, purpose, and grit. But if your dreams don’t scare you, then maybe you should dream a little wider. Maybe you should trust yourself, even dare to bet on yourself. Eventually, this kind of true dreaming will develop into a reality. And when it does I hope you experience the fearlessness of this bit of wisdom from Rosa Parks: “I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be one does away with fear.

Dreams should scare you, but then as you live them out, they should embolden you abundantly.

– image credit: Brooke Cagle

Author: Alli Marie

Alli is a Seattle-dweller with a penchant for black coffee, grey photos, and hitting the road. Her hope is that she can use art and writing as a means of documenting the unrefined bits of life - the grief, joy, resilience, and triumph of being human. She enjoys reading up on feminist rhetoric, dying her hair various shades of the rainbow, and having black coffee and tacos for breakfast. Read her creative endeavors on her blog Bonafide Ruffian.