Restorative repatriation and facing fears in NYC

What’s your juiciest fear?

Cheeky boob grab by Cooper!

A restorative week of repatriation in NYC! Facing fears by giving a talk about fear (meta!) at Out Women in Business conference, bowling with new friends, chilling with my favorite four-legged and two-legged buds, managing to find the worst of the worst on Netflix, and of course, pizza.

The talk (see below for speech notes) went really well after preparing for weeks, rehearsing to myself on long, flat stretches of Torres del Paine, only to be incredibly spooked and embarrassed when another hiker would appear right behind me!  It was agonizing to watch a truncated cell phone video of me flailing my hands with every single word!  Oh well, as I say, it’s not about perfection…something to improve on next time!  It was incredibly fulfilling to share my story and insights about a topic near and dear to my heart that has guided my life for the last 5 years (and indirectly before then).  There is something incredibly terrifying and empowering to speak your truth and vulnerability, especially if it helps just one other person pursue their path with more strength, wisdom, or acceptance.  I have a ton of other topics I’d love to share about and have started to consider media other than books like podcasts to tell that story.

I spent most of the rest of the week relaxing with Kersch, one of my Burning Camp co-organizers, and his totally zen pitbull, Cooper.  Seriously, dog therapy, reliable internet,…and pizza!

I also made a few new friends through the conference and went bowling with one of them.  It’s so beautiful to make real connections with people, no matter how long they last…


Good morning everyone!  My name is Nicole Lim. Today, we’re going to focus on fear, why it’s a great guide, and how to “overcome” it to live your best life.  Throughout this talk, keep in mind a couple of your major fears, but before that, let me introduce myself and what compels me to talk about fear.  First of all, I’m extremely qualified as I’m incredibly terrified standing up here talking to you guys and thinking of all the things that could go wrong…(pause)…anyways, let’s jump in!

  • In the past 10 years, I was in a lot of your shoes – applying to business school, going to Wharton, and climbing the corporate ladder at eBay.
  • After 5 years at eBay at 32, I was generally killing it! I was living with my boyfriend in SF, killing it at work, and doing crazy, fun things with my friends on the weekend.  I had everything I thought I was supposed to want to have and yet I was still so unhappy. I thought that maybe there was something wrong with me and I was doomed to be unhappy.
  • When that relationship ended, it was existentially devastating.  I knew without a doubt that the Plan wasn’t working anymore, and that i needed to move to a no plan plan.  I had no idea what that meant but I was tired of living in fear (of uncertainty, failure, rejection, not being good or (blank) enough…you name it!) so I decided to do a 180 and go towards the fear.
  • So I quit my job, shipped my things back home to Hawaii, and went nomadic, letting fear guide me for at least 6 months.  Sometimes, I actively sought out things that scared me.  Other times, it was more opportunistic!
    • To combat my fear of uncertainty, I kept moving cities and sometimes continents every 2-4 weeks.
    • 2 months after the break-up, I found myself sitting for 10 hours a day, 10 days in a row in silent meditation. There are few places scarier than inside your own head for that long!
    • I had just read Wild, but I thought the PCT was a little too hard core, so I walked the 500+ mile Camino de Santiago in Spain and took a much younger lover, because well, the opportunity came up, and I was afraid of what others would think of me.
    • I got back into diving, especially with sharks, after a scary dive in Indonesia, which I’ll talk about in a little.
    • I was afraid of drugs and Burning Man, so I took as many psychedelics I could get my hands on and went to my first Burning Man, where I eventually came to co-run a camp of 140 (Love Cow)
    • I was super curious about dating women and terrified that maybe I had been living a lie my whole life, so I thought why not just go find out? Spoiler alert: I liked it! I dated my first girl about 2.5 years ago and eventually came to run queer womxn events for HER in SF, including this amazing lube wrestling event!  That’s me with 55 gallons of lube between my legs!! Just another Sat. afternoon!
    • I also became a yoga teacher and life coach to be a catalyst to help other people accelerate their own journeys and access their own inner wisdom and resources.
  • The no plan plan journey actually lasted 3 years, and I recently started another nomadic stint in January.  Following my fears and curiosities have pushed all types of emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual boundaries, allowing me to live my best life.

  • People often say growth often happens at the edges of our comfort zone, so I thought should I be taking up skydiving and heroin at the same time? No, because there is a difference between your comfort zone and your safety zone.
    • For example, You won’t die from asking a girl out and she saying no (though it can feel like it…)!
  • Fear does have a survival purpose to protect us from saber tooth tigers, high cliffs), but just like walls that keep the outside world out, they can also keep us jailed inside.
  • And what is on the other side of this wall of fear?
    • Sometimes it’s nothing, sometimes it’s freedom, and oftentimes, the thing you are afraid of is actually keeping you from its opposite, what you really want or need.  Fear of rejection is keeping you from connection and acceptance. Fear of death is keeping you from really living in the present. Fear of failure is keeping you from success. Even fear of success is keeping you from embracing failure and the growth that comes with it.
    • So, it is our deepest fears that can actually guide us to what we really want.

  • Since this is a business conference, it’s only fitting that we have a 2×2.
    • 1) on the x axis, the reward/risk of overcoming the fear
    • 2) on the y axis, your perceived probability of success
  • What I want you to do is plot your major fears on this 2×2, while I talk about the quadrants
  • Top right: these are slam dunks! High reward and high probability of success! So just go for it!
  • Bottom left (red): not really worth focusing on; these could be phobias (like spiders) that are low reward and hard to overcome. Avoid unless you love dark places and spiders!
  • Top left (light green): these are curiosities, which are just another form of fear with lower risk and a higher probability of success.  You should go for these as well!
  • Bottom right (light green): these are the juiciest fears with high rewards but low chances of success so you’re more reluctant to just go for it.  For example, telling someone you love them for the first time, starting your own business, quitting your job, staying in your job…I’m going to focus on this quadrant today, because these are the hardest ones to overcome
  • Everyone, should have a juicy fear they can keep in mind for the rest of this talk.
  • Next, we’re going to make sure we’ve correctly identified the fear.
    • This is really important, because you are going to have to first accept that you have this fear before you can move forward and juicy fears tend to carry some shame.
    • Is my FOMO really a fear of missing out on what others are doing, or is a fear of rejection and disconnection with myself?
  • Once you have the right fear, you can apply the relevant reference points from your own history or someone else’s to provide the knowledge, resources, and strength to tackle your fear.
    • For me, scuba diving is a reference point for staying calm during overwhelming emotions and accepting imperfection. In 2012 after 80 dives, I had a gnarly dive in Indonesia and I would panic in almost every subsequent dive.  I had hoped that diving more would get rid of the panic but it would still hit half of the time. I came to accept the panic as part of my diving experience and learned to breathe through it so I could continue to enjoy diving.

  • You’re ready to go for it, but you’re paralyzed by thoughts of “what if I fail?” especially since these are your juiciest of fears.
  • That’s a great question to ask yourself!  In our positive psychology society, we are discouraged to think negative thoughts but preparing for failure is the best way to be prepared for falling down so we can get back up more quickly when it happens.  Here are some tips:
    • Get comfortable with being uncomfortable: Facing your juiciest fears is uncomfortable or else they wouldn’t be so juicy. The more you can surrender into the discomfort, the more you can let the fear transform you.
    • Build a support network: When like a teenager at 34, I had to learn how to hit on girls (I guess I still am learning), I leaned on my dude buddy Pawel to give me tips and encouragement.
    • Practice self compassion:  I tore my ear drum pushing myself too hard during a free diving course – a perfect time to practice self-compassion, but I didn’t, and I have self-compassion for that as well!
    • Adapt and change your strategy but not your goal: a baby doesn’t stop trying to walk when it falls down the first time.  She doesn’t say “oh well, walking, not for me!” she gets back up and tries again.  Remember, this isn’t about perfection.
    • On the flip side, sometimes it is about knowing when to walk or crawl away…fully embrace “failure,” remember nothing is supposed to last forever and everything ends including relationships, hobbies, life phases, etc..
    • And it can be helpful to create an exit plan.  Pushing boundaries doesn’t mean you have no boundaries.  I worry about money, which is a legit concern, so I set a reasonable floor for money and will go back to work if I hit it.

  • The last step is to take the leap, and “just do it!”  But who wants to learn things the hard way?!
    • If the “hard way,” means through experience, I think sometimes that is the only way.  It’s not the same thing as reinventing the wheel…you can be resourceful and learn from others but at some point, you just have to experience it yourself.
    • When I was curious about dating women in my last straight-ish days, I watched a ton of L Word and talked to lesbian friends (long since coupled up and out of the game for years), but nothing could replace just trying to date women.
    • [Refer to slide pic]  This is a Spanish phrase I found on the Camino on a napkin.  It translates to: “sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.”  Basically, there’s no downside to trying things…it either turns out how you want it to, or you learn and grow from it
    • Remember, sometimes overcoming a fear is not necessarily about getting rid of the fear.  Sometimes it’s about simply accepting it and rolling with it like my panic in diving. I’ve ultimately come to enjoy diving even more, since I don’t take it for granted.

  • Which brings me to the point. Embracing your fears can get pretty addictive.  I found myself trading a career ladder for a fear conquering ladder!
    • The key has been realizing that I am good enough, no matter how many fears and failures I have, and treating myself as if I were my own little baby girl. Like a good parent, I need to find the balance between unconditional love and pushing myself to learn and grow.
    • Remember, the hero’s quixotic journey to embracing your fears IS the ends, not the means.  It can guide you to living your best life…to what you really want, to growth, to freedom, to self-discovery, and ultimately to unconditional self-love in knowing you are good enough no matter what.
    • People ask me if I’m happier now, and I usually respond, yes, I’m happier but also sadder, angrier, all of the emotions pleasant or unpleasant.  I am more present and at peace and in flow with the ups and downs, which to me, is living my best life.
  • So, I wish you a happy journey following your fears and living your best life! Thank you!

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