I’m afraid of a lot of things.
I have so many fears, I can categorize them. My least favorites? The ones that have to do with my self worth. Being afraid of my physical health failing in some horrible way will keep me up at night, but I usually fall asleep sooner or later.
What keeps me up at night is the feeling that I’m just not up to snuff as [a blank]. Some of my blanks are:
- a writer
- a friend
- a partner
Do you have these or similar fears? Ever get the feeling that you’re putting your all into being the best person you can be, and it’s still not enough? That’s okay–we’ve all been there at some point or another. One minute, you’re riding high, and the next minute something comes along to completely take the piss outta ya.
I personally might be temporarily demolished by a careless word from someone close by, or a rising worry about a relationship and how I’m not being present enough, or pulling my weight to meet the other person’s needs. Someone might leave me really unhelpful negative feedback on a piece I’ve written, and leave me feeling as if my writing’s just not very good, and totally without hope of improvement. Depression might hit me at an inconvenient moment and leave me on the floor wondering if I’m “good enough” for something–anything.
Well, here’s the deal. I’m good enough.
You are, too.
The problem with not acknowledging your self worth is that it locks you into a pit in the back of your mind where you’re constantly free falling. You might look for answers to questions and solutions to problems, but if you’re falling, you don’t have the wherewithal to reach for an answer or solution that works. It all just slips away.
When I was young, and crying over something that would prove to be insignificant–often nameless, childhood anxiety, in my case–my mother would tell me to “pull yourself up by the bootstraps.” What she meant was that I had to break the pattern of falling through the floor of my own brain. Find a solution, and put it into play. Make yourself feel better, because at the end of the day, you have to learn how to comfort yourself.
Another thing I heard slip from her lips often: “Do something that scares you every day.” This advice sometimes had devastating consequences. There was the time I fell from the top of the ridiculously long rope swing and landed with my legs over my head. (Age 11.) There were school presentations I chose to rattle and shake through, only to hide in embarrassment the rest of the day. (Age 14.) There was that time I broke the law and got busted–and then, the other time I did that other thing and got busted. (Age 20, 21.)
But there were really good moments that were a direct result of listening to my mother’s advice. I’ve successfully taken care of a newborn (no, not mine), I’ve gone off meds for fun and gotten back on them, despite being terrified of the side effects they might unleash on me. I’ve asked people out, made friends, and made connections when I was scared of reaching out to anybody. I have a dog now, and of course I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed to walk her when I was depressed. I’ve gone to work, while I was dealing with panic attacks, alone and without anybody to talk me down.
I started this blog as a means of communicating openly with other writers and readers so that neither I nor the people seeking my words out would have to feel totally alone. How long did I procrastinate this project? Only, like, eight years. What made me finally sit down and start formatting images and mashing them into editted words?
I got fed up and decided I needed some kind of a writing sample, and a place to work out my least comfortable form of writing: straight forward non-fiction.
So far, I’ve been pretty disciplined about writing every day, but yesterday was a blank calendar page. Did I get held up in traffic, you ask, and didn’t have time to write? Did a work meeting go awry and keep me late? Did I see another injured bird and have to walk twenty minutes with a pidgeon in shock in a friggin cardboard box to catch a forty-minute bus ride to an animal shelter?
NO! None of those things happened to me. I actually wrote a blog post yesterday, edited it, and brought it up to the standards I’m working with when posting to this blog. I did it. So why didn’t I post it?
Because I got afraid, and forgot to listen to my mother’s advice. I wrote a post called “how to improve your writing in 5 steps.” But then my other fears swarmed me, and I thought–well, I thought that I wasn’t good enough to write a blog post on writing, and that my blog post wouldn’t be good enough to help anybody. My goal here isn’t to write rehashed sentiments from other writers, and that’s what I was afraid my post would read as.
So what did I do?
I called my mom, told her the gist of my writing advice, and listened to her tell me it was just as fine as the other posts I’ve been writing (yes–I do make her read everything I post here. I’m not an authority on bipolarity, but for all I know, she is). Hell–I figured that if it was as okay as the other posts I’ve written, then maybe it was okay enough to help someone with their writing, or at least remind them of how they help their writing with their own idiosyncratic methods.
I feel good now. Nobody’s left a nasty comment. It’s gotten the same amount of attention as anything else I’ve written and felt fairly confident about. Basically, nothing’s on fire, and I’m cool with that. The real plus side to overcoming this fear is that now I have a stronger sense of what happens if I’m afraid to post something, but post it anyway.
That’s the thing about fear. If you get through it and reach the other side, you’re able to recognize the patterns that fear creates, and understand intellectually, if not fully on an emotional level, how to cross the ditches it creates in your mind. The trick here is not to fall into the ditch, because that’s when you inevitably start falling again.
What scares you, and how do you overcome your fears?