Cressida Bonas Fear Itself with OTO

Cressida Bonas might seem to have nothing to fear. But she’s overcome a lot to get to where she is now: comfortable, content and confident. As season 1 of her podcast Fear Itself, which is sponsored by OTO CBD, comes to an end, we sat down with Cressida to find out how she came to create a podcast about fear and what she’s learnt from her guests about managing her own along the way.

As a child, Cressida suffered from crippling anxiety over what others might consider small things. She remembers being terrified every time her mother got in the car that something bad would happen to her. This panic, over seemingly insignificant things, was hard to understand and process, taking over her thinking brain and not leaving much room for anything else.

To help manage and overcome these feelings of fear, she was encouraged to understand them, and in time, to use her fear as motivation and to push her forward. The digital age, with everyone sharing all aspects of their lives, has led to a fear-based culture, where the pressure to be perfect or even to be ‘fearless’ and brave dominates our subconscious - “it’s intended to make us feel empowered, but I wonder if it does the opposite, encouraging us to deny or run away from our fears”, she says. “I’ve begun to wonder if having fears can also make us brave - because fear can be an incredibly powerful emotion.”

It’s this acknowledgement that led Cressida to start journaling about fear - her own and that of others. She began asking people she met about how they process their fears, what fear means to them and what they have learnt from their fear.

cressida bonas in studio

The fear that she has experienced throughout her life has a negative side, leading to very powerful thoughts that risked limiting her growth. “As a teenager, my fears would manifest themselves into self-doubt which ultimately crushed my voice and sense of self. Now that I’m able to label the ‘fear’ and find the root of it, it’s not so intense, but my negative thoughts have often felt debilitating and at times very disempowering”. She recalls a quote from the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who once said that her fear can sit beside her, but she will not let it drive.

Cressida talks very eloquently about moments in the past when she’s frozen or panicked. She looks back at those instances sometimes and thinks, “what on earth was I worrying about?” - they can seem so insignificant in a world where some fear for their lives and livelihoods on a day-to-day basis.

But that is perhaps the key to the topic - fear is directly tied to one’s personal circumstances. Throughout her Fear Itself podcast, Cressida has interviewed a diverse group of individuals with different upbringings, stories and experiences that continually emphasised this personal aspect. Your greatest fear might seem irrelevant to someone else, but it does not make it any less difficult to confront.

Being in the public eye since childhood, and belonging to a high-profile family, can manifest certain fears, but Cressida acknowledges how this has encouraged her to develop. “It has made me grow up a bit faster and has made me understand what’s important and what’s not important in life.” She knew it was important to cultivate her own sense of identity and to fiercely protect what was true: especially when there is a danger of your truth being dictated by someone else, or something false being projected onto you.

Once Cressida had started journals of her conversations around fear with others, it was a natural next step for Cressida’s to transfer her written discussions into recordings, she has always been a big podcast fan, “I love hearing other people’s stories, thoughts and opinions and I think it can be a great way of connecting people”, and she thought that the topic would resonate with listeners - hearing other people’s personal stories around this subject, particularly those who have found a way ‘through’ fear can be hugely inspiring and she hoped, helpful. “I wanted to challenge the idea of fear as a negative, disabling concept – and encourage us to recognise it, share stories about it, channel it and ultimately channel it to move forward.”

cressida bonas in the studio

Ironically, however, she very nearly didn’t make the podcast because of her own fear. Recording your conversations is a very intimate activity, you’re opening yourself up to the fear of rejection and making yourself vulnerable. Especially when she’s fought so hard to protect her identity and privacy while being in the public eye, this exposure is difficult to ignore. However, she recognised that fear is universal, and there is no learning or growth in the comfortable. It’s only when we step outside of our comfort zones that we learn more about ourselves, Once Cressida realised that her explorations could inspire or encourage others - the fear and uncertainty lifted.

When she started this project, over a year ago, no-one had any idea that she’d be releasing the podcasts during a global pandemic, Cressida thought very carefully about whether or not to go ahead with the launch as many people are, understandably, fearing for themselves, the economy, their loved ones and neighbours. However, it seems that podcasts are more important than ever now. They can bring moments of connection, escapism and entertainment, making people feel less alone. At a time when most conversations are around coping with and managing fear, we can all draw some much-needed support and inspiration from Cressida and her guests. Frankly, it’s just a surprise that no one has covered the topic before.

cressida bones and Ellie goulding

CRESSIDA’S TOP TIPS TO HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR FEAR & ANXIETY

  1. Visualise. When I am anxious it feels as if there is a starfish stuck on my chest. I visualise the starfish, breathe deeply in and out and try to breathe through the starfish. Eventually, the starfish loosens its grip.
  2. Talk. As soon as I talk about it to someone I trust, in person or over the phone I feel better. This is sometimes hard because I can feel vulnerable and exposed, but I think it is often worse to repress it.
  3. Dance. Dancing definitely runs through me and it’s a big part of my life. I always feel better after moving to music. I will sometimes go to a 5 Rhythms class, a dance class which allows you to dance freely for 2 hours
  4. Take a moment for yourself. Planning in self-care time is important, I try to use the OTO night face mask twice a week and I know that this time is pure calm, spending time with my own thoughts in a healthy way and just pressing pause on everything else.

Cressida’s podcast Fear Itself Season 1 is sponsored by OTO and is available on Spotify & Apple Podcasts, or you can listen to it here.