“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves…” Cheryl Strayed
We all have a story to tell. Some of us, many stories. We sit around the dining room table and tell our family about our day. We gather round the campfire with friends and tell ghost stories. We sit at a lonely wooden desk and sketch out stories pulled from our imaginations.
But there are other stories we tell ourselves, stories born from the blurred lines between fiction and reality. Stories of what-ifs, stories of what-could-be. Stories enhanced by anxiety, depression, tragedy.
These stories all have the same title: Fear.
It took me many years to realize the very thing I was constantly struggling with was anxiety, and that the worries, fears, and constant doubts that I struggled with weren’t normal.
I tend to dwell in my own head much of the time, over-analyzing every single thing that comes across my path. I worry about the last conversation I had with someone, turning it over and over in my mind to see if I said something wrong. I fall into small panic attacks when I know there is a confrontation with someone upcoming. I am knocked off balance by the unknown variables: unexpected visitors, unexpected events, unexpected outcomes.
These issues in my head easily morph into actual fears. And those fears tend to debilitate me, block my progress, and leech the very life from my spirit.
Nevermind that much of what I fear regards something that hasn’t actually happened…yet. The confrontation with a neighbor, the unknown variables, an impending financial hit. These things are hypotheticals, but my mind wraps itself around them as if they are truth.
“The Fears we don’t face become our limits.” Robin Sharma
Because to me, they are truth. They are the angles I can see, and so they exist to a certain extent, if nowhere else than in my head.
For years, I have feared doctors. Anything really to do with medical procedures, check-ups, or diagnosis. Fear has kept me in a place where I would rather NOT know if there is something wrong with me and live in ignorance (ignorance is bliss, right?) than find out that something is wrong early on and prevent it from getting worse.
I faced these fears recently. Through a series of procedures and scans, something was caught well before it turned bad, and now doctors know to keep an eye on me in the future.
But going to those procedures was rough. I had to muster every drop of courage I had to face the needles, the scans, the constant waiting and waiting and not knowing. I had to face it all, but in the end it was worth it.
Trouble is, I didn’t see it that way before I embarked on the journey. I had trouble seeing past the fear, to a near-future point where the fears were behind me and a healthy diagnosis was within my reach. I could only see my fear, like a great wall, blocking my vision from seeing anything but it.
I’m on the other side now, happy I took the steps that I did. I can breathe a sigh of relief, but in reality, I must know that I will have to face fears like this again. I will have the narrative in my head reveal to me all of the potential endings to the particular stories, and I will have to be wise and courageous enough to understand that just because I can see all potential outcomes, it does not mean that should stop me from acting.
Fear really is made up of stories we tell ourselves. We rely on our own knowledge and attempt to craft a narrative, and that narrative turns on us and prevents us from living a life of freedom.
“Everything we want is on the other side of fear.” Jack Canfield