“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Winter

Impavid: [meaning] fearless. 

Spencer Johnson, author of Who Moved My Cheese? asks a hypothetical yet driving question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

When I asked myself this question during groggy morning bus rides to school, ruminating showers, and savored late Friday nights, I came up with no answer.

I know now, I think.

My earliest fears began with facing and accepting my father’s deteriorating mental health.  I never wanted my friends or my schoolmates or even strangers to find out about my father’s illness and so I did what I could to make sure of that: “No dad, you don’t need to walk me into school.” “No dad, we don’t need to eat out, I’m fine.” “No dad, you don’t need to meet my friends.” My parents weren’t just divorced – they were divorced because of my father’s severe manic depression. Of course, I doubt that anyone could have recognized his illness on meeting him for the first time, but I was still afraid of them knowing the truth about him, the truth about me. I barely saw my father, but when I did, I was mortified.

The constant worry of what other people would think of my father grew into a more large, detrimental fear that I brought with me into the years even after my father passed away. Are people laughing at me? Do people think I’m odd? Do people hate meI constantly worried (and sometimes still do) about what my schoolmates thought of me; whether or not they liked me, or what I was doing wrong to make them not. There were times when my peers were cruel and apathetic: when one or two people made negative remarks towards me (“You’re psychotic,” “You need to take a run around the block,” “I hope you kill yourself, bitch”) I began to think that everyone thought of me in such an awful way; everyone was out to get me.  This is when I began to push people away. My coping mechanisms mirrored the negativity I faced at school and I reflected that same negativity every day.

(I am exhausted and I have no idea what I am saying and I don’t even know if I am making sense because I feel like I can’t even represent the awful things I have felt due to my fears through words so bear with me)

It is true – sometimes fears form through past or potential frightful, adverse events. But, should we let those fears control us for the rest of our lives?

This is how I know that I am not afraid now:
I can talk about my father.  I accept him for who he was and I love him for everything he was.  I use him as a model of strength and brilliance as a reflection of my life and the person I am today.  When people ask me about him I talk about him, because I am no longer afraid of what others will think of me either. I am also extremely proud of my father.

I don’t need to push people away anymore.  Not everyone is out to get me. At the same time, I do not feel the need to mold myself into the type of person that everyone will easily like as to avoid criticism and rejection, because there will always be criticism and rejection whether I am myself or the person everyone wants me to be.

I am doing the things that I was once afraid to do, and not hypothetically.


Photograph: http://neverstayin.tumblr.com/post/103296691880
Quote: “Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it.” – Veronica Roth

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