How to Handle Fear Like a Boss: A Lesson from My 4 Year Old (+ A Lizard)

Close the door and let's go.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – FDR

“And lizards. Fear and lizards.” – NEB

Here’s the deal, friend: There was a lizard in my car this week, and while I’m not necessarily PROUD of how I handled it, I learned a valuable lesson through it all and I’d love to share it.

If you frequently find yourself stuck in limbo, going ROUND and round taking inventory of your fear(s), this video is for you.

Click below to watch (or take a listen):

Click here to watch directly on YouTube.


I took my boys to the commissary (that’s a military term for grocery store).

Went super-smoothly.

(Especially once I challenged B to say “can I have that?” at least thrice on every aisle.)

All was well, until we got back to the car.

I opened the door to put Deke in his carseat and ALO-freakin’-HA …

There was a lizard in the car.

Yes, yes, yes, I know. It was more afraid of ME than I was of it.

Which is precisely why it wriggled away to seek refuge UNDER MY SEAT.

Double U. tee. EFF.

For the record – I’m not the type of mom to charge my four-year-old with being “the man of the house” when my husband’s gone for work. No sir. (I’ve got a really great Batman voice – so we’re covered.)

And yet – B’s a pretty slick catch-and-release technician.

A quick “you can have Lucky Charms for dinner” bribe and we were off to the races.

We tried to get this guy out. We REALLY tried.

Scooted the seat back, forward, and back again.

“Get IN there, bud! You’ve got this! I’m SO proud of you.”

We used the flashlight on my iPhone. The straw from my Tervis Tumbler.

But not long after that, we lost our visual.

After no fewer than 15-20 highly adrenalized minutes, once getting verbal confirmation that he’d STILL get his Lucky Charms (E for effort!), my precious four-year-old looked me in the face and said:

“Mama, close the door and let’s go.”


What we can all learn from this story

Whatever you’re afraid of – criticism, failure, embarrassment, LIZARDS, the world realizing you’re not perfect….

There comes a time when you’ve got to just close the door and GO.


This whole experience helped me see three main options for dealing with fear:

OPTION 1: Stay stuck.

I mean SURE, I briefly considered camping out in the commissary parking lot overnight.

But I knew we couldn’t stay.

The shenanigans could only go on for so long before the boys AND our frozen goods would melt down.

I had to zoom out.

See the bigger vision (grown up in charge of two little humans who needed dinner + bath + bedtime).

Come to terms with the situation (lizard perched RIGHT beneath me, ready to run wild at any moment).

Take a deep breath, buckle up, and (literally) move on down the road.

(As we’ve discussed before – quitting is not an option.)


OPTION 2: Phone a friend (+ still stay stuck).

During Lizardgate, I vented my fear by:
1) posting an Instagram story (as seen in the video above),
2) sending my sis-in-law an audio text for general awareness, AND
3) asking my sis to stay on the phone with me (safely in my cupholder) while I drove home.

(I figured if it ran out while I was driving and things got crazy she would’ve known how to call for help!)

Thing is, as priceless as they are, friends and fam can only support you.

They can’t do this for you.

Just like a personal trainer can’t move your body for you, your inner circle can’t move you through your fear.

Pray on it, tap on it, talk about it, journal about it, YES.

But at the end of the day: Moving forward is a choice. And it’s up to YOU.

Which brings us to:

OPTION 3: Move on with it. Literally.

“It seems to me that the less I fight my fear, the less it fights back. If I can relax, fear relaxes, too.” – Liz Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear 

Fear is part of the human experience – we know this. We’ve seen Inside Out.

So how do we move on with it?

Deadlines can certainly help light a spark under your buns (i.e. I had melting cream cheese and, the next morning, a school run), but perhaps the most powerful reframe I can offer up is this:

Focus more on your WHY than on your fear. 

Let your purpose – mission – drive – your REASON for going for the proverbial it – take the wheel.

(Fear can ride in the back with headphones, a snack, and a movie. You’ll barely notice he’s there.)

When all else fails, imagine someone who truly DEPENDS on you moving forward looking into your face to say:

Close the door and let’s go.


In the comments below, tell me:

When you look back, what’s ONE great thing that’s come from your decision to move forward with fear in the back seat?

Also – if you’ve read Big Magic, share one of your fave quotes! #commentsectionbookclub

To being big girls (and boys),


P.S. #bigquestionalert: Wanna work together 1:1?

Whether you’re stuck on words, low on confidence, curious about course Qs, community building, orrr you’ve just been wanting to pick my brain on something reeeeally specific for a while now, I. am. here. 

Years ago when I started my business, I *only* worked with folks 1:1. I loved it! But once I created ACAC and we started traveling more, I shut down the queue. Willy Wonka style.

I worked at a high level with just a handful of clients in 2014 – only ONE in all of 2015, and the truth is: I REALLY miss that live, fully engaged, how-can-I-best-support-YOU connection that only comes with 1:1 work. 

So this month I’m quietly opening up a limited number of spots at my 2014 rate. If you’ve got a hunch that one of these sessions should have YOUR name on it, sign up here so I can give you the scoop.



  1. Claire

    It is good to be brave and do what you need to do but it can also be an opportunity for someone to help you . In the commissary parking lot you may have found someone who could’ve been your hero for the day .

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Definitely considered it, Claire! Honestly it was so tucked into the seat frame – even my little man’s (little) hands couldn’t reach. And once we couldn’t see it anymore, well, nobody else would’ve been able to either.

      Think you’re missing the moral of the story. ha

  2. Traci Jackson

    OMG, you are so much better than me. I would’ve stayed stuck and called a friend and stayed stuck. I’m deathly afraid of lizards!!! Deathly!!! There’s no way I could do it.

  3. Jessica

    Fear can be paralyzing, and it’s usually fear of something that hasn’t even happened yet! I can go down Google wormholes and waste so much time in the present fearing what “might” happen. This is a perfect lesson on just moving forward!!

  4. Stephanie

    LOL! You don’t know cringing, skin-crawling fear until you’ve driven home from the Hilo dump (because you can’t just camp out there forever) with a frickin’ cane spider hiding somewhere under the dashboard of your car. Granted, I did have a lizard drop off the underside of the steering column and onto my knee once while driving (on a quiet road, no traffic, fortunately). That was more of a surprise than you want to have while driving. It was the second time we found a cane spider in the car that I started to seriously consider moving back to the mainland. Which I eventually did, although mostly for other reasons. Next time there’s a lizard in the car, just remember: it’s a lizard, not a cane spider. ;-)

  5. Claire E

    Just watched this, Really great message and brilliant story! 🐉

  6. River

    The message is to keep moving and take action – staying stuck and complaining is never, ever, ever going to get you anywhere – except perhaps surrounded by people listening to you complain. More power to you Nikki, this is real personal growth in action!

  7. Bek

    I’m about to launch an online yarn shop – I have a literal ton of yarn arriving (at my house!!!) on Monday, and suddenly I start thinking, “What if I just don’t do this? I’d have so much more spare time…” But then I know that there is something driving me to create opportunities like this, and the possibility to really change people’s lives by buying fairtrade and giving a portion of profits to overseas aid organisations. Oh, and the fact that I’ll soon have a TON of yarn to deal with. Time to suck it up and step out!

    Oh, and I hear you with the lizards, and anything reptilian, or rodent, or avian….

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Ha! How’s it going now that you’ve got the yarn in-house, Bek?

  8. Michelle

    Wow. What a timely email. Glad you moved past your fear. I have been stuck recently between deciding to take an offer of a highly-competitive job, or staying in my comfort zone. All the while, still in the brand new phases of my personal business. And baby #4 due in a few months. Holy Guacamole am I starting to feel the overwhelm. I love the comment, “Close the door and let’s go.” Seriously, if I can’t handle it later, I can change. I shouldn’t let fear of failure or change hold me back. Thank you.

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      Congrats on baby #4! Superwoman status. (I”m #4 of 4 girls in my fam, so I’m guessing you’re in for a TREAT ;))

      Thanks so much for sharing, Michelle.

  9. Melanie Kernodle

    What a great story with a great message! We all have moments like that where we just get so paralyzed be fear(or lizards!). I just recently took the leap to become a freelance writer and let me tell you, that was scary. It is still is sometimes. But I love it and I love making my own path for myself in life, so I have no regrets. Thank you for sharing and inspiring me, Nikki! Here’s my fav quote from Big Magic: “What is creative living?Any life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

    1. Nikki Elledge Brown

      From one word nerd to another: Congrats on taking the leap, Melanie! Keep me posted :)

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