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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

64. The Power of Fear

A positively glass-half-full kind of girl who has mostly grabbed life by both horns, as I inch ever so closer to the big 5-0 (WAIT!  Can I still call myself a “girl”?!?), I am mindful I must have been exhausting to those around me in my younger years. But I make no excuses because I am what I am and there has always been so much to accomplish. And yet, I am far from fearless.  For while this organised chaos is a deliberate choice I made for myself many years ago, whenever I press the pause button from the whirlwind of life, I find myself slipping into the dreaded overthinking gear – the one that sends me into a cyclonic tailspin of irrational fears. And then, the horrible inner chatter begins – the kind that turns me from a ball of energy into a quiet mouse as I withdraw and hide within the walls where my mocking self-doubt bounce about and echo.  Next, the physical manifests: a knot takes up permanent residence in my stomach, sleepless nights, a loss of appetite and a need to go ‘underground’.  And that is where the fun begins.  You see, whilst helpful to have a football field full of people who believe in you, I have learnt that at the end of the day, you have to be your own strongest advocate.   It all begins with self.

Many a book has been written of how the sum of all battles is two-fold and has to be won twice – the first time, in your head.  They say in order to succeed in any endeavor, the first step is seeing it in one’s own mind, walking through the steps necessary for success and then believing – all before even taking that first physical action.  That AND the acknowledgement that any failure encountered along the way is part of the learning process and integral to the whole journey.  While it all makes sense, it does not necessarily spur me into action either.  After all why would anyone want to sign up for anything knowing that both “fear” and “failure” were lying in wait?  Is not the status quo better?  Everyone will have their own answer but for me, because of the alternative, the answer was and always will be “no”.  As such, I have had to learn to make the power of fear work positively for me.

Growing up, I was often told of how I could NOT.  NOT smart enough.  NOT pretty enough.  NOT capable enough.  And certainly NOT worthy enough to have any sort of voice or opinion – not one that would be listened to, less respected.  They told me that if I dared to even step outside of the confines of that existence, I would fail not just miserably but spectacularly.  And you know what?  I believed those messages and adopted that narrative as my own.  Thankfully, I guess at some point in my late teens, I must have unconsciously thought: “hmmmm.. what if I at least tried?”  And so I did, taking small steps to find my voice, however small.  And as time went by, I realized I had nothing to lose by taking that proverbial leap -- whatever the “leap” was at the time.  And there have been many.  Some bigger than others.  Leaving home with nothing but a swollen lip and a bag of clothes at 17.  Applying for the multiple jobs I had zero experience for (but drive aplenty!).    Walking away from situations/people that were not right for me. Taking control of problems created by other people – regardless of my lack of expertise.  And just saying “yes” even when I felt intimidated by the unfamiliar.

Each and every time, fear has been my companion.  The fear of being stagnant.  The fear of being taken advantage of.  The fear of not being authentic.  And the biggest fear of them all?  The fear of being too much of a chicken-shit to at least try.  After all, the faint-hearted do not command respect nor inspire.  Which leads me to my now.  Whilst I had unknowingly harnessed the power of fear in my younger years to achieve and ‘conquer’ new adventures and worlds for myself, it was not until I became a mother (thanks girls!) when I started to conscientiously harness my fear (whatever it happened to be at any point of time) to believe in myself, trust in my own abilities and unlock all sorts of opportunities and possibilities.  My girls make me want to be my best possible self -- if only to lead by example.

With over sixteen years now under my belt of embracing the positive power of fear, as I step into 2016, I aim to continue to step outside of my comfort zone to deal with the new challenges and opportunities that await.  Getting back to glass half full, in the book The Upside of Stress, Kelly McGonigal writes: “stress happens when something you care about is at stake.  It’s not a sign to run away – it’s a sign to step forward”.  So I take a deep breath, give myself a pep talk, and take a gigantic step forward. 

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