“What makes you afraid? What makes you anxious? Write about that. Tell us your deepest fears or concerns, your greatest worries. But don’t just stop there–this is more than a confession. It’s a battle you’re waging with fear itself. In other words, you can’t just wallow. You have to do something with this fear. What will you do with it? And what, as we read your writing, can we do with it ourselves?”
I may not know too much about life, but something I have learned is the only way to get over the things you’re afraid of is to put yourself in situations where you have to deal with them. This is sort of bad news to receive if you’re a neurotic little baby like I was growing up. I wasn’t afraid of dogs or spiders or saying the wrong thing in front of people like most normal people are. I spent the entire year of second grade visiting the school nurses’ office because I was convinced I was dying of either a heart attack or stage four cancer.
Everyone was very patient; in hindsight I’m not sure what I would have done but they consistently would listen to my heart, look in my ears and tell me that I didn’t have cancer and heart attacks were for older people. That would usually ease my worries, but only for about 24 hours because I was obsessive compulsive and I would always find myself on the familiar brown nurses bed.
Thanks to a year of constantly being surrounded by dirt, germs, illness and questionable meats that had been previously baking in the sun which resulted in only two stomach flus, two fevers, jardia, worms, one severe case of dehydration and my ultimate survival I’m significantly less spastic about my health. I will almost immediately think I’m dying of appendicitis if I get a stomach cramp but I know how to talk myself down from that now. I can even have panic attacks with groups of friends and no one can tell because I’m so good at hiding it now.
Now that I’m a grown up I’m afraid of something far worse than bugs or stomach flus. I’ve cracked and succumbed to the fear of what other people think of me, at least when it comes to making mistakes. I did not outgrown my perfectionism, so the idea of performing or doing something in front of people and messing up really trips me up. Thankfully I do a pretty good job in most areas of my life, especially here in America. Life is easy and almost everything can be avoided with little creativity or effort.
So what’s the solution?
Look for places where I feel vulnerable and insecure and keep putting myself there.
The biggest thing area where I get to exercise this now is at my dance studio. It’s been almost a year since I began taking lessons (I started October 2014) and I really and truly enjoy it. The thing I don’t enjoy is performing in front of people because then I get nervous and when I get nervous I make mistakes and when I make mistakes everyone sees me and I feel like I’m being assessed as weak and stupid. It’s all a bit dramatic because I don’t think that way about others when I see them dance, ever. I’m just the exception to that in my head.
Still I go to my lessons each week and I’m even performing in less than two weeks at the studio showcase. As small as that may seem to someone else, it’s the thing I’m most afraid of right now and because of that, I am the bravest I can be for doing it. slowly but surely I’m getting better, and that makes me love it more. I love it the most because it’s been hard work and I have refused to quit like I did constantly all growing up after I didn’t excel after my first try.
Don’t give up. Even if everything in your head is telling you that it’s hopeless and useless and “you’ll never get any better”. The only way you fail is if you quit before you have a chance to dig in deeper and conquer the thing, whatever it may be for you. The success is in how we choose to react to the challenge, not necessarily how quickly we overcome it.
So, don’t give up.