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At a Karaoke bar in Adams Morgan, Molly Kinder steps up to the mic, blushes a deep crimson, and slowly begins to sing. Kinder hates singing in public. But to truly understand the significance of this moment, we have to start our story a year ago, when Kinder was watching The King's Speech with a group of friends.
"We were talking about how much we admired the King for taking on this fear of public speaking," she says. "And I just posed the question to my group of friends, 'What's your version of that?"
At first glance, Kinder -- who's 6 feet 2 inches tall, with flaming red hair -- isn't someone who seems driven by fear. She calls herself a walking exclamation point. Her friends describe her as confident, assertive, energetic, brave -- even fearless. And Kinder agrees she's done some courageous things in her life. For example, for her work in international development, she's traveled the globe, sometimes stopping in some of the world's more volatile regions. Closer to home, she helped keep the peace among rowdy D.C. partiers, as a bouncer at Madam's Organ on 18th Street. But, like everyone else, Kinder says she encounters things that scare her every day.
"Whatever these things are that we're intimidated by, or avoid, or are threatened by, we hold ourselves back," she says. "If we just got over that, we would open ourselves up to all kinds of possibilities."
So, exactly a year ago, Kinder decided to face her fears head on.
Face Your Fears February
"I thought I'll just name this Face Your Fears February and take a whole month of slaying fears that make me uncomfortable, putting myself in situations that are outside my comfort zone and doing some deep thinking about what are my bigger, deeper fears that I need to take on," says Kinder.
She started by taking an African dance class.
"I was like a gazelle next to very talented dancers," says Kinder. "I wasn't very good at it, but I enjoyed the experience."
Even though she hates pictures of herself, she decided to pose for a photo shoot. Then, she took on rock climbing. Kinder finally asked out a guy she'd had a crush on for years. And when that didn't work out, she decided to go on a date -- to a blues club in Bowie, Md. -- all by herself.
"My big fear -- one of those existential fears that many women in their 30s or 40s who are single have -- is this fear of not finding a partner and not having a family and ending up alone," she says. "I think I just wanted to feel that my life is full and I'm enough. And I think it did teach me that."
In fact, the months that came after February were full of new challenges for Kinder.
"I bought a house," she says. "I moved into a new neighborhood. I took on a job in the government that was much more senior. I fell in love after that. There's been massive changes in my life."
And Kinder says the February she spent facing her fears helped make her stronger to embrace those changes as they came.
"There's a lot of things that we're afraid of or shy away from," she says. "And once I started noticing, I almost felt like I had a sword in my pocket. I wanted to go slay those fears. It was so empowering and pretty profound. I feel like to really changed my outlook and made me a much more confidant person."
After all, she says overcoming fears is a learned behavior.
"I remember in seventh grade, my parents made me walk to the orthodontist and cross main street and I cried the entire way," she says. "Years later, I went on to live in India, and Pakistan, and Liberia and live on my own. Most of us are not born fearless. I've done some pretty brave things in my life, but that takes a lot of work."
So this February, Kinder is facing her fears once again. She's determined to tackle the challenges of homeownership. She's tightening her budget.
"I think it's going to be frugal February," she says.
And she's tackling her tool belt.
"I'm really daunted by the power drill," she says.
Meanwhile, she's stepping up to the spotlight, and getting ready to face the music.
[Music: "I Won't Back Down (In the Style of Tom Petty) [Karaoke Version Instrumental Only]" by ProSource Studio Musicians from Karaoke - I Won't Back Down - Single]