We live in a culture of fear. Some of it is real due to living conditions around the world. Some of it is mass produced to manipulate society. Some of it is a conditioned response from having lived in fearful situations.
I recently shared some of my fear resources with friends, clients and colleagues who were experiencing fear. Given the relevance of the topic, I decided to create a blog post or two to share these resources with my broader community. As I considered how I would share my fear resources with all of you, I decided authentic, honest, vulnerable sharing was in order.
I’ve never publicly shared the origins of my fear. Only my closest, inner circle know the whole story. Today, the story feels relevant and ready to share with you to provide context, to let you know I understand and to give you real tools to take away the disempowerment of fear so you can stand in your true power and fully step into the life you desire and deserve.
I have a lot of experience with fear.
I have been afraid my entire life.
I do not know what it is like to live without fear.
Fortunately, I learned at a very young age to act in spite of fear; however, the fear always remained, nibbling at my edges, sometimes devouring me by lunch. I accepted fear as a normal, yet undesireable, part of my life. It was not my friend, rather a foe I couldn’t vanquish so I begrudgingly accepted and learned to manage it.
Fear is an emotion that has been ingrained in me since childhood. While I longed to have the special relationship with my father that other girls had, the security of knowing he was always in my corner, that he would protect me, that he was proud of me and wouldn’t dream of missing the important activities in my life, that’s not the relationship I had with my father.
My father was an emotionally abusive man who had an uncontrollable anger. I’m not sure how it developed or why, it’s certainly not a conversation point in my home. But by the start of grade school, he was quick to anger, and this anger evolved into his go-to emotion. We never knew what would set him off, but we always feared being on the receiving end if it did. And all too often, it did.
We knew the tell-tale signs – the angry flash in his eyes, the face contortion as he tightened his mouth over gnashed teeth, the fierce snarl before he lashed out and the ultimate fist slamming on the table as the beast unleashed. The harsh criticisms, menacing threats and vulgarities that followed should never be directed at anyone, let alone children. With every outburst was the very real fear of the impending physical violence. It rarely did, but the sheer terror of the expectation felt worse than any beating I could imagine.
I am the oldest and have two younger siblings. More often than not, when rage filled his face, I would end up provoking him to keep the wrath directed at me. While I trembled with fear on the inside, my game face expertly evolved, as was evidenced by the regular threats to get that look off my face or he’d knock it off for me.
At one point in high school as we filled in financial aid paperwork at the kitchen table, something triggered my dad and he was furious. This was an entirely new level of rage and I knew I was in serious trouble. I frantically ran out of the house, through a pitch black two car garage filled with crap strewn everywhere on my escape path. I fervently prayed I wouldn’t trip over anything as he ran after me. My heart was exploding in my chest as I was sure he would kill me if he caught me. By the grace of God, I made my way outside to a car and sped down our quarter mile long driveway, wondering where I should go for sanctuary.
My car drove me to my friend’s house and thankfully her mother welcomed me into their home and allowed me to stay with them. They also lived on a farm, as did most of my friends. Memories are a funny thing. I’ll never forget breakfast the following morning as she served me milk fresh from their dairy cows. The brain loves to attach memories to the feelings, sensations, scents and sounds that we experienced as the memory was created. I’ll always remember that milk.
And my dad’s contorted face.
And my body always remembers the fear response.
Fast forward. Every single thing I’ve done in my life, I’ve done it through feelings of fear. The fear response was deeply ingrained in me. It was incredibly hard to find my own way because I didn’t want to rock the boat and make anyone angry for fear of reprisal. Yet I’ve always been guided by a passionate desire to help people, especially the underdogs and those abused by bullies (helping others out of harmful situations happens to be a healthy side effect of living in fear). Eventually, through dogged determination, I finally found my own path.
Fear management was more or less effective over the years. It wasn’t until recently, when it began to take a toll on my health that I committed to finding a better way to manage or extinguish this anchor in my life. I haven’t been able to release the emotion of fear, it still raises its ugly head, but now I can control my response to it, my feeling of it, so it supports me rather than takes me out of the game. The following two blog posts share my discoveries, tools, techniques and highly effective ways to process fear, reprogram the negative feelings associated it and replace them with healthy, desireable emotions.
I’m blessed with tenacity and conviction to work through fear and not let it stop me. I’m here to advocate loud and proud:
Do Not let fear take your power.
For those of you who have been the recipient of emotional or physical abuse – it is not your fault. It does not define you. You were born worthy and don’t have to do anything to deserve being whole and complete and loved – it’s your truest nature. You are not the label or definition that other people place on you. People who harm, abuse, criticize and judge others are not doling out truth – they are small minded, insecure, shallow people who lack substance and personal development so they build themselves up by tearing others down.
Don’t accept their labels – create your own.
In the next two posts, I’m providing you with some of my favorite and most effective resources to look at fear and find ways to control it and change your response to it. You can access the posts here:
We’re all in this together. Remember that the people all around you are going through their own challenges in life. We can have empathy for one another and support each other as called to, especially using our unique skills and talents. But we must never, ever accept subjecting ourselves to abuse by anyone for any reason. It is never ok. Get the help you need to build yourself up, shore your foundation with a supportive network of value-driven people, locate resources to help you and never stop learning and growing.