I don’t have a lot of phobias – a fear of heights, a slight fear of enclosed spaces, a fear of freefalling (you may correctly assume that you will not soon find me going over Niagara Falls in a barrel) – but for almost as long as I can remember, I’ve been afraid of pretty much everything.
My fear manifests itself in an expectation that whatever new or disliked thing I am about to undertake – as simple and silly as making a pie crust or a phone call, as normal as starting a job – will be unpleasant and unsuccessful, even when past experience may have demonstrated otherwise. As a result, I have spent most of my life in apprehension of even the most ordinary things. And let me tell you, that is one really stupid way to live: it holds you back and completely sucks the joy out of life.
I have a friend who shares many of my fears – she even gets the flop sweats when she’s under pressure. The difference between us, though, is vast: she’s persistent, determined and competitive. So she pushes through regardless, even sometimes against reason or her better judgment. As a result, she achieves most everything she sets out to do, still has buckets of energy left over, and laughs herself silly when it’s over, amazed at her brazenness. As am I.
At times I have debated whether I have a fear of failure or a fear of success – or both – although the distinction is really irrelevant. I could point to many places as the source of my fear, but no amount of intellectual argument inside my head can make it go away.
We are all products of our genes, our upbringing, our environment. But in the end we each write our own story. We can hold back, afraid, or push ahead, open and resolute.
Slowly, I’m taking steps away from those lifelong insecurities and out into the great beyond. Each time I move forward, I gain the confidence to keep going. I will never be fearless, but if I can just let go and learn to laugh in the face of failure, I can finally learn how to live as though I were.