(About this post: This is a great example of what I share with clients and students about being the focus of attention, such as in public speaking. It illustrates where fear comes from and how being confident and understanding while taking control can help you realize that nothing bad is going to happen and that fear is unfounded and unnecessary.)
To start, I’m doing everything I can not to dislocate my shoulder by patting myself on the back so much! I was out for a jaunt on my motorcycle, heading down a busy boulevard here in southern California. I can’t speak for rest of the country, but here there are traffic lights at just about every intersection, and they almost always turn red just as you are coming up on them.
So here I was, taking a trip of just a few miles, when I had to stop for a red light. While waiting, I felt something tickle the back of my hand. I looked down and there it was … a bee (the photo is a dramatization but it does show exactly how and where the bee landed). For most people the natural reaction would be to freak out and try to swat the bee away. But that could have just as easily lead to a sting.
Now let me diverge from the subject for a second and share some perspective. If you get stung by a bee, yes it’s painful, yes it’s inconvenient, and for some people who are allergic, it can be deadly. But for the bee, it’s always deadly because once they sting you, they die. I got to thinking about that and figured, this poor bee is in a much worse position than me if I get stung. So I decided to let him be, and he would probably just float away as soon as I started moving again. I made my higher-functioning brain force my primal instincts down and just let him sit there on my hand.
The light turned green, and we were off. But he didn’t float away. Instead he just sort of hunkered down and waited for the wind to pass. And of course, another red light. Long story short (and believe me, when you have a bee perched on the back of your hand, everything runs in slow motion) I must have been caught at 6 or 8 red lights! Well, that little guy just hunkered down and waited each time we took off. And when we did stop, up came his hind legs and I thought, “uh-oh … here it comes!” But no, he just started preening. After a few lights, for me it became less about getting stung and more about how fascinating all of this was. I finally hit the freeway and figured, for sure he’s going to blow away now. But remember, this is southern California near Los Angeles, so there was less wind on the freeway than the boulevard because I never got over 5 miles an hour.
In the end I reached my destination and saw a nice flower bed as I pulled in the drive, so I gritted my teeth, thanked Mr. Bee for not stinging me and gave a short, gentle but forceful puff and blew the bee into the flowers. In the end I think we were both happy the adventure of was over and nobody got hurt. I just hope he was able to hitch a ride back home!
The moral of the story? That’s easy. Evaluate the circumstances and take control of the situation. First, I knew that bee didn’t want to sting me any more than I wanted to be stung. Second, I was ready if it did. I know what a bee sting feels like, so I was prepared to take the hit, remembering of course that the poor bee would pay the ultimate price. And finally I had a plan to deal with him when the time came by gently ushering him on his way. Of course I was afraid, worried, anxious. But I made myself put those feelings aside and talked myself down. I analyzed the situation, evaluated the possible outcomes and forced my self to relax and enjoy the ride.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation where your primal fears start taking over, remember that you have the capacity and ability to talk yourself down and work through it, and nobody needs to get hurt in the process!