I’ve been thinking about ‘fears’ a lot recently.
How they affect my life, how they hold me back, how they transform into doubts and how I can overcome them and become the fearless Amazonian I always knew I could be.
Since becoming a mother the lever of fear and doubt has increased in my life which is why it’s been on my mind lately. I mean, I doubt myself nearly every day as a mom but lately since trying to get back into doing what I love doing professionally (from the time before I had kids), I realised that I’m not so sure I can do it because it’s freaking scary to start something new when you’re 41 years old, right?!
And then this happened:
I was trick or treating with my five-year-old earlier this week, and we passed a house that had, what looked like, a full-on scare show in their driveway. My daughter didn’t want to walk through that driveway because she was too scared. I said ‘fine’ and we walked away.
A few houses down she asked whether that house would have any candy to give out and I said that probably they would, to which she replied – “then I want to go back”.
I obviously explained that there were plenty of other houses we could go to and that we didn’t have to visit that specific house if she was scared, but she insisted so we went back.
We stood outside the driveway and she was hesitant. Again, I mentioned we did not have to go in if she was afraid, and I was sure she was going to change her mind.
Instead, she did the most extraordinary thing I have ever seen her do: she took a deep breath and said ‘let’s do it mommy. It’s only scary’.
I was still trying to digest what she said, when she started marching ahead, facing her fears and looking them straight in the eye. She even made me take pictures of the monsters and scary figurines!
When we came out on the other side I asked her how she managed to do it and if she wasn’t scared, to which she replied (with a massive smile on her face): ‘I was scared! I really was!’.
This made me think about how I handle the things I fear and I realised the possible mistake I’ve been making for years.
You see, in the past whenever I had to face something I was scared of, (new job, public speaking, flying etc), I always tried to fight and push the feeling away because I did not like feeling it.
For example, with my fear of flying I have spent so much money, time and energy trying to change how I feel about flying – from therapy to taking medication when I fly, and if I am being totally honest, nothing really helped. I may be a better flyer today but I would be lying if I said I’m not scared out of my wits when I fly.
Point is, that it suddenly occurred to me that I may have been going about it in the wrong way.
What my five-year-old showed me in that moment of pure bravery was that perhaps, the key is to walk alongside your fear, instead of trying to overcome it and push it away. Perhaps it’s all about acknowledging and learning to live WITH our fears, knowing that despite how uncomfortable they may feel, at the end of the day – fear is just another emotion.
To explain – the monsters my kid was scared of were not real. They were still scary but they were not real. Did that help my child not be scared? No. Just like me knowing that flying is safe doesn’t change how I feel about it.
But my daughter realised that she WILL feel scared and she walked through the driveway anyway because she accepted that it would just be another emotion she would feel, nothing more.
And just like that, it was more bearable.
When you think about it then it totally makes sense. It’s very rare that we can’t bear our own emotions. It’s only when we try to fight them that we get overwhelmed.
At least I do.
From my own experience I have learnt that whenever I have tried to push away my emotions, they have come back doubled and tripled in so many other ways.
These days I know that if I’m sad, the best remedy is to cry my face off and cuddle someone I love. If I’m angry, the best thing to do is have it out, scream and shout and possibly go for a run.
So why would fear be any different?
I’m still trying to figure it out but for now, I have decided to say hello to fear and welcome it into my life. I don’t like feeling it but it beats trying to fight it or avoid it. Maybe next time fear pops its head to say ‘Hi’, instead of trying to not feel it, I’ll try saying what my five-year-old said – “let’s do it. It’s only scary”.
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