Fears can be crippling, even stoppers of your tracks. Others seem to have many different fears – fears of spiders, heights, escalators, swimming. How did we learn to be afraid? Babies and toddlers appear to have no fears. As they become children they take on life experiences which may be good, but then some may be bad, hence a fear has developed.
I am an example of a fearful person, um, not quite, though. I grew up with a mother who wore fear as plain as she wore her permed hair short and her lips red. I remember being told consistently as a kid that I couldn’t do “that” or “this.” Clearly she was projecting her strong sense of fears or life’s anxiety on to me. I trusted she knew better as an adult, but I felt left out because I wanted to experience that which I found curious.
So here I am, middle-aged and after many years I decided to question what is behind my fears. I ask myself what am I really afraid of. And if I have an answer, usually I do, I have to laugh at the ridiculousness and unfounded reason that would stop me from experiencing anything in this world.
When I was asked if I could accompany a resident who lives at a nursing home, where I volunteer, to her eye doctor appointment, a flush of stiffness, fear really, stopped me. She was a little person with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair. I had so many “what if’s” running circles in my head.What if something happened? What if I couldn’t understand what she was saying? I answered my questions and knew it wasn’t about me and my fears. It was about experiencing someone who was different from me, who lives in a different world from me, dependent on others for help and transportation to appointments, to sign forms and communicate symptoms.
I learned that facing fears, answering the “what if” questions your fears generate, will teach you a few things. Fears aren’t bad. They teach. You learn. It’s living life and understanding yourself better, even being a better person.