Updated: Mar 16, 2021
I honestly think I have enough to say about fear that I could write a book it but since the objective is a blog post and podcast to follow, I will restrain myself. Fear is something I have lived with my entire life. It played a huge role in my life as a child, adolescent, young adult and even now at this point in my life. I actually did not think it was totally unusual for fear to be a constant companion throughout my life until I started speaking to other people about it as I got older. Turns out not everybody was a scaredy cat like I was!
As a child, I was always afraid of everything! It wasn’t anything specific, just everything in general. It always got worse at nighttime. I never really thought of it as being afraid of the dark but maybe that’s what it was partially. Almost every night I would find my way to my parent’s bedroom to knock on the door. My mom would answer the door (probably with a mixture of annoyance and compassion) and I would always say “I’m scared.” She would come to the bedroom with me, lay down next to me, and try to make me feel better. I would feel better while she was there, but the fear returned the second she returned to her room. As I got a little older and was on the verge of adolescence, the fear took on a different look. It became more specific to what I was exposed to in the environment. For instance, if there was a show about fires on TV, I would obsess over our escape route and worry that we did not have a ladder in place to get us to safety in the event of a fire in our home. Another example is when I would watch scary movies (like the double feature my brother Donny took us to at the Drive-In theater called The House That Dripped Blood and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed) and then be up all night terrified. In addition to the television stuff, my dad also passed on his fear of cats to me which has plagued me for decades!
As an adolescent, my fears took on a new look and came from a different source. I grew up in a community with racial tension and a bridge that separated the public school from the private school. I was accosted on multiple occasions and would avoid walking home alone at all cost. I had so many brothers and sisters so a ride home from school was not in the cards for me. The fear that accompanied the commute to and from school was something I did not even think about. This is not a statement about race to be clear, it is about the experience of a high school girl being afraid to go home alone. It was just a part of my life but looking back now, it was real and significant. Added to that, I also started to become afraid of social situations and dealing with boys, making friends, and the challenges of school. I dreaded gymnastics in gym class, anything related to running, and the pressure of team sports due to a persistent fear of not being good enough.
As an adult, my fears took another turn that focused primarily on safety in my various homes, going to college, technology, and how I was different from everybody around me. The fear for my safety came from two apartment invasions, a roommate being attacked, a break in in one home and a peeping tom in another. I feared college because I did not think I was smart enough and was very worried about navigating the parking deck at the University. My technology fears started when we had to start typing our papers in college instead of handwriting them. I was terrified of computers from day one and would remain that way for decades. The emotional fear stemmed from not starting college until I was 27, not having a serious relationship until close to 30yo, and not marrying until 40yo. I also was not able to have my own children and had no idea what I was doing as a stepmom. My timeline in life has always felt off from other people and at that point, I saw that as a problem. I feared there was something really wrong with me that I was not like all the other people around me. I questioned why I spent so much time alone and was not more driven to be social like I was when I was younger. The truth is I was afraid of being vulnerable and exposed to the possibility of rejection and it just felt safer to be alone and not risks regarding relationships of any kind. That eventually led to fear of long weekends off from work and the loneliness that came with that time as all of my friends were getting married and in relationships and unavailable to socialize with me. In order to make it all of that more tolerable I relied on “partying” quite a bit and superficial friends which I eventually became fearful was a problem as well. I feared the reason I was so alone was because there was something fundamentally wrong with me and never considered it was the choices I was making.
As a middle-aged adult who has now been married with a family for over 18 years, I can check off many of my fears. I decided when I was approaching 50 that it would be the Fearless Fifties decade and I started tackling one fear at a time.Driving to O'hare airport, check. Driving to Chicago from the burbs, check. Getting a doctorate online, starting an online business, writing a blog, and creating a podcast would make technology a check, check, check and check. Staying home alone when my husband has to travel for work without fear, check. Looking forward to birthdays and embracing the present moment instead of dreading getting older and the passage of time, check. Worrying about what anybody else thinks of me, check. Fear of rejection and not thinking I am good enough, check. Worrying that there is anything fundamentally wrong me, check. Initiating uncomfortable conversations, check. Speaking up on my own behalf and having my own back, check. Managing my alcohol intake in a way that feels good and empowering to me, check. Fear of experiencing uncomfortable emotions, check. Fear of dying, check. Fear of missing out, check. Fear that my life is not what it is supposed to be, check. Fear of failure, check. Fear of cats…that is the only one I have not tackled and the only real phobia I have ever had. So far, with being the owner of two dogs and not being exposed to cats much, I have not felt the need to deal with that one. Stay tuned:)
Oh if only somebody had told me that fear is optional and I could eliminate it with the way I was thinking decades earlier! I know, that was not the way it was supposed to happen because it did not happen that way. The funny thing with me and fear is that no matter how scared I have been in life, I might stall for a bit, but I always go for it anyways. I never let it stop me once I became aware fear is the only thing getting in my way. Now I want to be clear about how challenging it was to tackle each and every one of those fears. I had to tolerate many uncomfortable emotions, give myself plenty of grace, and develop a truly loving relationship with myself and the Universe. I had to trust the process that if I was attempting to manage these fears from a good intention, I would be successful, and my life would feel much better and develop in amazing ways. Take note though that when I first attempted to conquer a fear or make a change, that is when I felt the worst. As time went by and I tackled one additional challenge at a time, my confidence grew, and the fears dissipated more and more until they just disappeared.
As a life coach and somebody who has been creating a new business to help other women, it dawned on me yesterday that this is my gift to share. Many people stop dead in their tracks when they are afraid of something and I know how to get them moving. I know how to tolerate the discomfort of fear, not make it a problem, and go for it anyways. I want to help women over who feel painfully stuck in fear to achieve what they once thought was impossible with passion and confidence. Have you considered it might be time for you to start tackling your fears? Join me in Episode 10 of the Brain BS Podcast to discuss this further.