Dear friends, here’s the story of my 23-year relationship with Fear…
Hiding from Fear
For the first 20 years of my life, I saw myself as a fragile being living inside a bubble.
I come from a line of fierce, strong women in my family. Both my aunt and my mother have big voices in the household. Even my older sister is very loud and opinionated. Yet, somehow I didn’t catch that memo growing up. In fact, I was very timid and naive as a child.
Because everyone around me thought that I would be scammed or possibly kidnapped one day, I was always looked after and taken care of by my family and friends. I didn’t have that many life experiences growing up.
After my family came to Canada, I became the definition of a “scaredy-cat.” I was scared to talk to people. I was scared of confrontations. I was scared to take the bus, cross the street by myself, or even go into a convenient store to ask for change (true story).
When I was around 15 years old, I remember one night sobbing uncontrollably in my room because I was so afraid to go to school the next day – to face my peers, my teachers, and to speak in class. I felt so worthless that I honestly didn’t know how I was going to survive in life (yes, pretty dramatic as a kid… )
After I entered university, I purposefully decided to face fear head-on. I decided that I was going to try every possible (safe, don’t worry) thing that I was too scared to do.
And I went for the extreme, literally. In my college years I’ve done bungee jumping and skydiving. I was also very attracted to extreme sports such as snowboarding, surfing, and scuba diving. I went backpacking for two weeks and every day I went to sleep with an anxiety that I would not be able to go home. You see, I wanted to understand and feel every fear possible so I could overcome it.
Besides physical fears, one of my biggest social fears growing up was public speaking. I was always conscious and sensitive when I am in the center of attention. I am a deep feeler. When I feel fear and anxiety, I feel it to my very core. Whenever I had to make a presentation, no matter how hard I practiced the night before, I would blank out during my speech and forget my lines on the spot. My voice would crack, my hands would tremble, and my heart would beat so fast and loud that I was sure the people beside me could hear.
Ironically, that was one of the reasons why I chose business as my major after high school. So I had no choice but to consistently be out there and present myself in front of people. Looking back now, I realized the majority of my decisions during my post-secondary years ultimately stemmed from an underlying element of fear – from choosing my major, to joining student clubs, to making presentations in public, to meeting new people…etc.
So by this point you’re probably anticipating and waiting for my big announcement saying – Woohoo! After so many times confronting fear, I finally learned to overcome my fears! I am now fear-less.
Sorry but that’s not exactly what happened. In fact, the more I experienced fear, the more I am certain that I will always be afraid. Public speaking is something that will just never be my nature. It doesn’t matter how many times I practice, I will always feel the anxiety whenever I’m speaking in front of a group of people.
But because I now understand what that feeling is like, I am able to tame it better. I choose to embrace the fear of public speaking, sit with it, and ultimately make peace with it. And you bet that I practiced damn hard throughout the past three years, how scared I felt every time when I was on stage, and how I embarrassed myself in front of people countless times, in order to be at where I am today.
> Related post: The Truth to Shining Brightly and Letting the World See You
Sitting with Fear
” Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield
Be aware of what fears are surfacing for you. There is a reason they’re there and that they mean something to you.
You can not get rid of your fears, because they make up who you are. Everyone will have different fears depending on their personality and values. There is the fear of social anxiety, fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of failure. And as you move on to different stages in life, you may be forced to meet brand new fears that you had not even known before.
It is then in those moments when you have the choice to avoid them and run away, or you can choose to feel them and sit with them.
Dear friend, to live a wholehearted life means to embrace and accept every piece of us, including our insecurities, our imperfections and our fears. I know very well that sometimes that feeling is so daunting that just thinking about it makes your stomach turn, your voice tremble, and your fingers go cold.
But during those vulnerable moments, if you feel them and still decide to show up to do what you wanted to do anyways, repeatedly, again and again, that is called courage.
You need to be afraid to be strong. You need to face your fears to be better than who you were. And it is only when you embrace yourself completely, can you truly live a more honest, courageous, and daring life.
Cheers, I’m rooting for you.