Fear: What’s Stopping You From Being You
A Celebration of Uniqueness and Potential
Fear is a real, alive, and persistent storyteller, brandishing its arsenal of weapons of insecurity and past failures and impacting our lives in tangible ways. We are often taught ways to overcome fear - “breathe deeply!”, “visualize success!”, “rationalize your fears!”- and these are effective tools.
But there are times when our fears paralyze us and grapple us so tightly, that it prevents us from doing what we want to do - or are even meant to do - no matter how hard we try to fight it.
Fear is the the bully in middle school recess whose opinion you value like that of a college professor. And you’re just a little kid, so of course the adult is right. That’s how fear feels. Like truth.
"That’s how fear feels. Like truth."
Last summer, I was given the opportunity to volunteer at a weekly women’s seminar to encourage and empower a group of about thirty women. As a volunteer, I was expected to facilitate small-group discussions and interact with the participants. On top of that, many of the all-female volunteers already knew each other and had worked together before. As excited as I was about the opportunity, I felt a lot of fear rise up at the thought of being in a completely new environment with a group of women I didn’t know.
I genuinely felt like I couldn’t do it, the Fear was just too great. My written prayers at the time went something like this: “I do not know if this is what you want me to do- I certainly don’t think it is smart. I have been created and purposed to listen and speak truth. I pray that you instill a deep wisdom in me to care for people without fear.” (Basically, “Ahh please help!”)
The FEAR of putting myself out there and being rejected, excluded, or misunderstood felt like HEAVY SAND on my feet. It was easier to hide, keep a distance, be alone. In the past, I had experienced being left out, talked about, and misjudged. I had been called too “loud” when I got excited and “fake" when I expressed genuine concern for other people. In high school, my best friend decided she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore out of the blue. In college, people were cliquey and judged me without giving me a chance to show them what I was about.
These experiences were painful and confusing. And I learned to dim my light and hide from attention to keep me “safe” from judgement and rejection. I was myself (because being authentic is part of who I am), but just not… “too” much of myself. Because that would be a surefire way of being deemed not good enough.
But somehow, I did it. I volunteered at the women’s seminar and met so many women with different backgrounds and experiences. And it was awkward, wonderful, uncomfortable, and astounding. More than anything, it helped me see that my voice, my experiences, and how I was made, can make an impact on others in ways that I am only beginning to understand.
I allowed myself to only take on what I had the energy and capacity to do each week, but I made sure to just SHOW UP. Once I was there, I had come that far…why not make the most of it? And I survived. It wasn’t a horrific experience, denying me the opportunity to shout at my insecurities, “I told you so!”
I still feel all these fears (even as I write this right now!), but the dimmed lights are getting too dark on the inside, not just on the outside, and I don’t want to hide myself anymore. The stakes of not being fully and authentically myself have grown high…. to not be able to enjoy what can be (or even what is). I imagine a profound freedom I have even yet to experience. And I have decided to just….be.
Simply put, Fear has become too much of a burden to bear.
The risk of disappointment has become worth it, in the light of dimness or glory.
I don't know where this will take me, but I think it’s a journey worth taking - even if Fear decides to join for the ride. How to do we fight our fears? MAYBE YOU JUST DO THE NEXT THING that defies fear that you can. With tons of grace and compassion for yourself, along the way.
And maybe you’ll even come to believe….
That fear was wrong about you all along.