Fear comes in many shapes and sizes:
Fear of Failure
Fear of Embarrassment
Fear of Not Being Good Enough
Fear of Being Judged
Fear of Letting Others Down
Fear of Success
Fear of Discomfort
Fear of… (fill in the blank)
Fear has personal meaning to each of us. What you are afraid of is not the same as my fears. Also the reason for your fears and the intensity in which you experience those fears is unique to you alone.
Since fear is a common human experience, I want to share a recent personal event… My daughter is 6 years-old and, since a few of her close friends joined a recreation field hockey program, we decided to sign her up too.
One thing you should know about my daughter is that once she experiences a little success in an endeavor, she goes all in. The first practice, she seemed a bit apprehensive but was all smiles after it was over. The second practice, she cried midway through and the coach had her sit out to regain her composure. No big deal… kids cry. The third practice, she wanted nothing to do with field hockey. My wife stood by her side on the sideline but, after 30 minutes, things were not getting any better and we decided to leave.
My heart was breaking for her. You could see the anxiety on her face. She was overwhelmed by fear and, in particular, she feared the other kids and coaches seeing her cry. She felt she had let us down and could not seem to calm down. I didn’t know what to do and I realized trying to be logical with a 6 year-old was not the right angle.
So I decided to put up or shut up. I asked her what daddy’s biggest fear is and she quickly smiled and replied, “MICE!” It is true. I am utterly petrified of mice. In fact, after one hurricane, I went in the basement and saw two dead mice. I was practically frozen in fear by the sight of DEAD mice. I did what any rational human being would do… I asked my wife to take care of the dead mice. She returned 10 minutes later and said, “I got rid of all three of them.” I was panicked and said, “THERE WERE THREE OF THEM?” I didn’t go in our basement for a month.
So now that we established that I have a fear of mice, or musophobia, let me go on with the story. I asked my daughter if she wanted to go to the pet store with me. She asked, “Why?” I said, “I’m going to pet a mouse. It’s time for daddy to face his fear.” My two kids quickly got ready to go to see this spectacle. As we neared the pet store, I told them what I was thinking and feeling. My heart was pounding. I was sweaty. I wanted to turn around and go home but I knew it would send the wrong message.
As luck would have it, a worker was cleaning out the mouse tank. When the worker asked if she could help, my son told her I wanted to pet a mouse. The worker asked if we were interested in buying one and I said, “No, I am petrified of mice but I couldn’t ask my kids to face their fears if I was not willing to do the same.” Within 10 minutes, I was petting a few and put my hand in the tank with those not-so-cute rodents jumping up and down. My daughter said she was proud of me. I told my daughter that we all have fears and that we need the fear if we are to become brave.
Now, I haven’t overcome my fear. I merely faced it. I moved one tiny step forward past the fear. I don’t expect my daughter to be over her fear but my hope is that our shared experience can alleviate a tiny bit of her anxiety.
Fear is normal. Fear is okay. But fear shouldn’t stop us. Just because we have a bit of fear doesn’t mean we cannot do something and be successful at it. If we expect to eliminate fear or see fear as something abnormal, we fan the flames of fear and intensify the experience. We can act despite fear and that act is what is called BRAVERY!