The Fear of Leveling Up

By October 21, 2016Blog, Mindset

I was reading a book last month — surprise! — and I read this quote that I didn’t think much about at the time. It was just one of those things that you gloss over and doesn’t seem like a very big deal at the time. It’s just words on a page. But since I read it, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous. Actually, who are you not to be?”


For some reason, this resonated with me. The idea that, in reality it’s not that I CAN’T do those big, amazing things that I dream of doing, but that I’m AFRAID TO. And I let that fear hold me back.


One of the questions I see come up most frequently on roller derby boards and forums (aside from “What should my name be?”) is “How do I get out of my head?”

Think about that for a second: the biggest thing holding skaters back is themselves. It’s not a skill or a strategy; it’s inside their own brains.

Some of this mental fuckery comes from the fear that we’re not good enough or worthy enough to occupy the space that we are in. The thought that other skaters have more right to be or do something than we do by virtue of their age or experience.

Some of it comes from the (often unconscious) thought that life is somehow a zero-sum game. That in pursuing something amazing for ourselves we’re negating someone else’s opportunity to pursue something amazing.

If you look closely, you can find examples of this everywhere.

Skaters refusing to play in higher level games that would ultimately benefit their skills. Skaters sandbagging it at practice and never really improving because they’re already “the best” in their league where they are. Skaters that are always tying their shoes or sitting out of drills; not because they have an injury, but because they’re scared.

All of us have these limiting beliefs. They limit what we do and what we can accomplish and they’re mostly powered by fear. What’s the antidote to fear and limiting beliefs? It might surprise you…


Realistic pessimism is not what you think. It’s anticipating the worst that could happen, not to deter you from doing the thing, but to make sure you’re extra prepared for success in the face of whatever barriers could pop up.

If you want to practice that apex jump, but you’re scared, ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Is the answer that you fall? Is it that you look stupid? Is it that you might get hurt? Using realistic pessimism can help you pinpoint what you’re really afraid of:

  • You’re afraid to fall. But is that really so bad? You probably fell a lot to even get to the point of thinking about trying an apex jump.
  • You’re afraid to look stupid. But is that really so bad? Because you’ll look pretty rad once you finally land it. (And who cares what other people think anyway. Most will just be impressed you tried.)
  • You’re afraid you’ll get hurt. Okay. What do you need to do to make it feel like you won’t get hurt trying it. Do that. Then come back and try the apex jump.

When you’re always afraid of trying something new, you can never level up. It’s through trying new things, trial and error — through testing ourselves — that we build the skills to take the next step.


  1. Confront that shit.Look it right in the eye and realize that the worst thing that can happen probably isn’t that bad. And, more importantly, that you can handle it. Read that last sentence again. If you try something and fail, you WILL be okay. Put your hair in a ponytail, put on some gangster rap, make yourself a cup of tea, and handle it.
  2. Get over yourself. Are you afraid to perform at a high level because you can’t ALWAYS perform at that level? No one runs on all 8 cylinders all the time. Instead of worrying that you won’t perform at that level all of time, hope for it. It’s through the struggle that you improve. Perfection is boring (and unattainable).
  3. Show up and do your best every day. If I had a number two rule as a coach (because number one is that “Physics is your friend,” duh…) it would be this. You won’t be the best every day, but you can do your best everyday. Even on days when you don’t crush it, the hard work matters. You never know if the skill you sucked at today leads to tomorrow’s one-footed hockey stop.
  4. Do it anyway. Tim Ferriss said it best, “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” Barring the potential for horrendous injury — do it anyway. Just to say you tried. You never know, it might be easier than you thought (probably) and you might even like it (maybe).

If you want to level up — in life, in your job, in roller derby — now’s the time. Seriously. Right now. What have you been holding yourself back on that’s keeping you from leveling up? Go. Do. That.

Want more?


My new in-season training program, Clear the Pack, has launched! It’s 12 weeks of goal-oriented workouts that will help you become stronger, more agile, and more powerful.

I’m super excited about this program because of its focus on specific goals.

  • Just want to maintain your fitness and put energy into skating?
  • Interested in building your strength during the season?
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It’s time to level up your game without giving up your life. Get focused & get results!


About IronOctopusFitness

Online athletic training and nutrition coach, full-time mom, okay skater, and connoisseur of all things tea, chocolate, and roller derby. I'll help you unleash your inner athlete by building a strong, capable body that can withstand whatever life throws at you.

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