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Punching One of My Greatest Fears In the Face

Over the last two years, I’ve faced a lot of fears head on, stepped outside my comfort zone, and experienced the shrill joy that comes from doing what I once thought was impossible.

But there was one fear lurking in a dark closet that I hoped I would never have to face again. I had shut that closet and locked up tight almost 10 years ago with no intention of ever finding the key. As far as I was concerned, it was done. Over. Past.

What was that fear you ask? The fear of playing my violin in front of an audience.

For those of you who didn’t know, long before I was a blogger, I was a violinist. I took violin lessons for many years, spent countless hours practicing, played for many different occasions and events, and taught violin for a number of years.

As long as I was playing in a group, I loved it. But get me up on a stage playing a solo or duet and I was scared sick and a nervous wreck. I can’t tell you how many times I messed up in public due to nerves nor how many opportunities I said “no” to because I was so afraid of performing.

Zipping Up My Violin Case Once and For All

When I got married, I zipped up my violin case and put it at the top of closet. I was sad to say goodbye to what was once a big part of my life, but also thrilled and relieved that I didn’t have to live in fear of my next violin performance.

Years past, babies were born, jobs changed, and the violin moved with us and got stuck at the top of a closet with each move. I pulled it out on a few occasions, but mostly it just sat there.

I Don’t Know What Got Into Me, But I Said “Yes”

A few months ago, my sister was planning her senior recital and she said that she’d love more than anything if all of her sisters could play together as part of her recital. I hadn’t touched my violin in over three years, so I don’t know what got into me, but I told her I’d do it.

Life’s been full and I didn’t think too much about it until last week as I was practicing in earnest for the recital. All of a sudden, all of those fears from the past came on with a vengeance.

I remembered those recitals I’d bombed. Those quartets I’d squeaked through and played wrong notes in.

And I started having major panic. “Why had I signed up to do this? What on earth was I thinking?”

Every time I thought about walking up on that stage and attempting to play, I got sick to my stomach and felt my chest constrict.

I Knew In My Heart I Was Supposed to Do This

I started concocting a lot of reasons why I could and should back out. I even hoped that maybe I’d get really sick so I wouldn’t be able to do it.

But I knew in my heart that I was supposed to do this. I was suppose (thanks, Jon Acuff!).

That didn’t make it any easier, though.

The day of the recital, I was a ball of nerves. I couldn’t think straight. And I had to keep stopping to pray, breathe, and remind myself that “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” {I even went and hid out in the bathroom twice before the recital to try and calm my nerves!}

Punching Fear in the Face

Before I knew it: the moment arrived. I went up on stage, trembling and fearful, but determined.

My hands were shaking. My heart was pounding. And I had no idea what kind of crazy squeaking might result from my violin because I was so nervous.

But, I made myself breathe, I said a quick prayer, and I told myself, “Go punch fear in the face.”

And I did it!

No, it wasn’t an award-winning performance, but it was the first time ever that I have made it through a performance where I was the sole violinist without making major mistakes or basically botching the piece.

It felt so, so good. And I am very happy I didn’t back out at the last minute. Because I would have missed the sheer exhilaration that comes from punching fear in the face.

P.S. I’m posting a video of the performance — not because I think my part was amazing (if you have a good ear, you’ll hear some slightly flat notes coming from my violin at times!) — but because I want to inspire you to face your own fears head on and punch ’em in the face. It feels really good. 🙂

Related: I loved t by David Molnar on

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95 Comments

  • Carrie L says:

    That was lovely, Crystal!! Thanks so much for sharing it with us! I played violin for about 7 years when I was younger, but haven’t touched mine since having kids. (my oldest is 15!) My dream instrument is the cello. Someday, when my youngest is a bit older… 🙂 Just gotta start saving my pennies! 🙂

  • Jenna says:

    That was Beautiful! And I know this may sound strange because you don’t know me, but I AM SOOOO PROUD OF YOU! So proud I have tears in my eyes. Because I know that feeling of just wanting to run away and you stayed, no matter how scared you were. Amazing.

  • says:

    Somehow this brings tears to my eyes. “Oh LOVE that wilt not let me go, I REST my WEARY SOUL in THEE” Beautiful words to that beautiful music. My sisters and I (there are 4 of us) sang together many times. In fact, we sang a lot as a family and now that we are all grown up scattered across the Americas, we still love to sing when we get together for the holidays.

    I’m proud of you, Crystal! You did great!

  • sarah says:

    Thank you for this post.

    I too am a violinist who has basically put the violin away because of fear. I struggled through college violin lessons and orchestra rehearsals, so overcome with fear and feelings of inadequacy I was unable to practice or perform without breaking down to tears. I had nightmares about being rejected from the Peace Corps because my violin professor declared I “had to skills”. It’s as if every fear, doubt and insecurity about myself, manageable on its own or neatly tucked away so I didn’t have to manage it, manifests at once when a violin is my hand and I’m crippled. I still play for church praise bands on occasion, but I dread it more than enjoy it. Another one of those events is coming up next month. But you give me hope; if you were able to ‘punch fear in the face’ perhaps I can too.

    (I haven’t seen the video yet because my work computer blocked it but from the comments I’m sure it beautiful. Way to go!)

  • says:

    That was beautiful!

    My parents did me a huge favor when I was little. As soon as my piano teacher said I was ready to play in public, I had to do it. I was made to face those fears at a very early age, and now that I’m an adult it’s not something I have to worry about.

    I also used to be afraid to talk to people, so they would make me do things like go up to the counter at McDonald’s and order and pay for my own ice cream. If I wouldn’t do it, I just wouldn’t get any dessert. It has helped me tremendously having had to learn to face those fears!

    I’m glad they didn’t let me run away from my fears! I now have other fears I have to face, but I already know what it’s like to be on the other side of fear and that it will be worth it to “punch it in the face!”

  • says:

    Awesome job! I have done the same thing! I played my flute until college and in the last ten years have only taken it out a handful of times, once for church but I wish I did more often. I don’t mind playing with people but on my own is scary, it feels great to punch fear in the face though! Great performance and how great to play with your sisters!

  • RuthS says:

    You guys are talented! Bravo to you for standing up to your fear.

  • says:

    Crystal, that is AWESOME! Yay! Way to go! I had no idea you were a musician. How cool is that. Thanks for sharing the video!!!!!

  • Kelly says:

    The video was so very lovely. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • says:

    Way to go, Crystal! That was beautiful! I’m inspired by your message, as well. I find I avoid things that I’m afraid of…but then I would never grow as a person if I continue that habit! Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    WooooHooooo!!!!! Way to go, Chick!!!!!
    As one who was AT that (awesome) recital, I can confidently say, you didn’t just punch fear in the face, you full-on beat.it.to.the.ground!!!! 😀
    I watched you gracefully walk on that stage, saw your composed expression, heard first-hand those strong, beautiful notes… and had NO IDEA you were nervous.
    I’m totally doing a happy-dance for you. 😀

  • ClareC. says:

    I’ve been following you for years, Crystal, but somehow I missed that you were a violinist. Thank you for sharing the inspirational story and the beautiful video. What a special memory for you to to share with your sisters.

  • says:

    Congratulations!! I played piano and it go to the point where playing in public gave me panic attacks. I am so proud (and I am sure your family was ) that you were able to overcome it and face your fear!

    Recently I joined my church choir after having an 11 yr span of time since I was in my college choir. When the performance came, I was so nervous I had to wear my jacket because I was sweating so bad. But, I did it and I felt great after.

    Thank you so much for sharing this!

    Kate

  • says:

    What a beautiful hymn! And how special to be able to play with all of your sisters. Very talented family. 🙂 I’m sure you would have been sorry later if you hadn’t overcome your fear of playing on stage. I don’t blame you for being afraid, though. I get nervous every time I sing a special in church, etc.

  • says:

    WOW!
    You really should punch fear in the face more often 😉
    You did great!

    (I’m learning guitar- my kids are teaching me 😉

    Alright- I’m gonna go put on my boxing gloves and see if I can knock ‘im out today 🙂
    Very inspiring! Thank you!

  • says:

    Awesome! Congrats 😀

  • RachaelP says:

    Well done! Thanks for posting the video. It brought me back to my college days when I played the harp with different groups. I so miss playing the harp regularly. Life changes and it’s not a priority like it used to be and that’s one of my biggest regrets. Does one of your sisters play the harp?

    Anyway, thanks for sharing, it was a very relaxing 2 minutes that made me smile.

  • Summer says:

    Well don’t play the violin or any instrument…. but have this awful fear of driving and its gotten worse since my brother was killed by a drunk driver..being a mom of 4 makes this fear cause extra stress on my hubby…he tries to be encouraging about it but doesn’t really understand…here’s to punching fear in the face…praying I can do this

  • Cindy Brown says:

    You & your sisters did a beautiful piece. I know you are proud of yourself for doing it. Great job for overcoming your fear!

    One of my fears is of heights. I wouldn’t go to the edge of something even if there was a railing around it for fear that I would slip and go tumbling down. Last week we were on spring break with our kids in Gatlinburg, TN. The kids had gotten 3 free tickets to go zip-lining. Boy were they so excited!!! When we get to the place we are told that since the kids are under 16 an adult would have to zip with them. Well that left me to do it because my husband couldn’t do it. I was a nervous wreck before I finally agreed to do it because I didn’t want to disappoint my kids. I am proud to say that I zip-lined with my kids that day and it was an experience I will never forget. Have I gotten over my fear of heights- no not really but I think I have made a step forward. So I guess you could say that I just slapped my fear instead of punching it in the face! LOL

  • Barbara says:

    That was lovely. Good for you.

  • Patti King says:

    Loved the video! That is such a beautiful song. Thanks for sharing it.

  • danielle says:

    that was very beautiful! 🙂 You are all so talented! How wonderful 🙂

  • Karen says:

    Beautiful post Crystal! I have to punch fear every time I sit at the church piano….and I play every week and have for years! I still get uber-nervous. But, I know it’s a blessing to my church family and they appreciate even my stumbling fingers. God bless you!

  • Grace S. says:

    That was beautiful! How nice to hear all you girls play together. (Did you hide behind the music stand on purpose. 🙂 ) I hope this post inspires my daughter who has a talent for the piano but is terrified to play for people. Thanks for sharing!

  • says:

    You are such an inspiration, Crystal! The performance was beautiful.

  • Erin says:

    Good job! I’m another one whose violin got shelved… not really out of fear (although solos do frighten me) but when I went to college, I no longer had an orchestra to play in, a teacher to guide me, or a convenient place to practice. Without a reason to practice, I got busy with other things. Now its been 10 years and a couple kids later and its still hard to get out my violin and play. Maybe I need a performance to motivate me to practice 🙂 But there is NO WAY I could pull together a performance like that! After 10 years of minimal playing, I am beyond rusty! I sound scratchy and out of tune and forgot how to count. I usually get frustrated with how bad I’ve gotten and put it back away 🙂 But my grandfather has always requested I play at his funeral and he is now 96 and so this is a good reminder to re-teach myself to play.

  • Kim says:

    Way to go, Chrystal!! It turned out beautifully…you should be so proud of your self for doing this. I wish we could of seen, your lovely face, but other than that it sounded flawless to me. I don’t play a musical instrument but have always wanted to play the piano. I started taking lessons, but became very ill shortly after that. I have been fighting for my life for 7 years now. But one day, I would love to start taking those lessons again.

  • says:

    This was really great! I am a former violin player, so I loved hearing this. There are many violinists in my family. My sister is a violin teacher, so she actually has my old violin now. I know I would play if only I had a violin!! Maybe someday 🙂 Thanks for sharing and way to go with facing your fear!

    • says:

      This post has hit a chord in many I see. Would you consider turning your photo of PUNCH FEAR IN THE FACE into a button that others can display on there blogs ..joining with you to face fears. I love this post. I have been struggling with fear for a lifetime. To me it seem that my job is simply to overcome them. I told a group of friends yesterday that everything I do I have to walk through the door of fear. I am so proud of you for doing just that!! INSPIRING!!!

  • Beka says:

    That was beautiful to listen to, you should make it background music on your blog. =)

  • says:

    This post has hit a chord in many I see. ..joining with you to face fears. I love this post. I have been struggling with fear for a lifetime. To me it seem that my job is simply to overcome them. I told a group of friends yesterday that everything I do I have to walk through the door of fear. I am so proud of you for doing just that!! INSPIRING!!!

  • Michelle Owings-Christian says:

    What a lovely piece. I have played flute for 52 years, and your sister is amazing. The fact that she wanted her sisters to join her says a great deal about the love you have for each other. You sounded fine to me! I am so glad you went out there and did your best. I am even more glad that you shared the process with us. A Native American Teacher once told me “Sit at the feet of your fear and learn it’s lessons.” So many lessons — whittling away at the fears little by little.

  • Karissa Sjaarda says:

    I am crying through your performance. I love that it’s not just a beautiful piece, but that you came together with your sisters. I did a 30-day challenge of learning to play the violin this past October (with a piano background) and it was amazing. I only performed for my husband and parents and never posted the video we made. Maybe I should do that.

    I teach piano and I love what one poster said about her piano teacher–as soon as her teacher thought she was ready, she had her students start performing. I think it’s such an important skill to be able to speak/sing/play in front of a crowd. There are so many missed opportunities if fear stops you!

    Thanks for posting this–and I’ll see if I can find the courage to post my violin piece after taking violin for 4 weeks. 🙂

  • says:

    Wow – love this!! Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable. I also love how this was arranged – the melody flowing from one instrument to the other. Beautiful! My two sisters and I all played the piano growing up and it was so much fun to play together. After hearing this, though, I wish we had played a variety of instruments so we could play together more.

  • Domonick says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story, this along with the moym course has really inspired me to live on purpose I am still working on “punching fear in the face” but I am not apposed to it as much as I was before.

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