Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Should We Apologize For Our Fears?

I’ve been a big freaking chicken at different times in my life. I’ve lived in fear quite a bit actually. This is not the type of fear where some threat was posed upon me. Although, I did go down that road for a while. The fear I’m talking about is the fear of doing things because….

…Fill in the blank.

Have you ever skipped doing something because you were afraid that you’d totally suck at it? That someone would laugh at you? That rejection would stare you in the face? That you’d hurt or offend someone?

There are MANY more ways in which one might be afraid to do something; those are really only a few. I’ve done things related to…Ohhhh ALL of those (and more, I’m sure).

I love sports. I used to play sports. I’d still love to play some of them (just for fun, EVEN IF I’M AWFUL). When I was younger I got scared and quit. I was afraid I wouldn’t be "good enough." I was afraid of not making a team because I was "bad" at the given sport. I was afraid of being the one who sat the bench. If I was going to be on a team, I was going to play (and not just when the team was ahead by like 50 points and the "bad" players could play). So, I did what was logical (ha!). Instead of trying and getting better through try-outs (and maybe even practice if I made a team as a bench warmer), I just quit.

Stupid teenage brain. Seriously!

In High School lots of my friends were trying out for cheerleader. I’d have loved to have done that. It was another sport that I was too afraid to try. This time it wasn’t because I thought I couldn’t do it. I thought I was too fat. So I didn’t even consider it. I’ve seen girls in recent years who are probably the size i was, if not a little bigger, when I was a timid little Freshman girl.

Stupid teenage brain. SERIOUSLY!!

I stuck to what I knew I’d excel at, or at least do well in. Music, writing, etc…Artsy stuff. But not art in terms of drawing or something (hahaha…I can create, design, and be crafty but drawing, no way).

I also feared rejection so greatly that I was horribly quiet and shy. This made some people thing I was a bit of a snob (or so I’ve heard later). It wasn’t that. It was that I was just trying to be like everyone else and find where I fit in. I’ll admit I wasn’t going to be around certain groups of people because they weren’t "cool" enough. I’m not sure who came up with the standards of coolness, but I was following the rules. I also did not hang out with people who partied. Not me. I was too straight-laced…Too afraid of losing the freedom that my parents gave me. Too afraid of being caught and getting into trouble.

So, I clung to my little circle of friends. They were like me; they were safe. They were a heck of a lot of good, clean fun! As it turns out they have been wonderful friends, many of whom I’m still in contact with. I may not see them as often as I’d like, but I think of them often. We may not be as close as we once were but I keep them in my heart, right where they belong. I’ll never forgot the memories - good and bad that I made with them.

As I got older I became even more afraid of guys. Unless they approached me NO WAY was I going to go after them. I mean, they might not "like" me. It’s safer to sit on the sidelines than to take chances. However, safer is not always the better option.

So, every guy I dated was one that came after me. During my relationship lulls (aka singledom) I did not pursue anyone. Well, not until college, when I’d drink with my friends and make a drunken ass of myself. Then I’m sure they went screaming in the other direction (not to mention I had really started to put on pounds by then). Either way; good impressions were not left on the opposite sex. My doubt that they could ever want someone like me was through the roof and my confidence was through the floor. Not a good combo.

I also did not know how to stand up for myself. I’ve been taken advantage of, walked all over, whatever you want to call it… I was a wimp. This caused me to be in some bad situations. This caused me to stay in relationships that were unhealthy (and in a case or two, even dangerous). I was too afraid to leave; too afraid to be alone; too afraid to make someone mad. I was horrible at saying "no" which often resulted in my over-extending myself in some way. I still have times when I burn the candle at both ends, but now it’s by choice….And I’m doing things that I enjoy!
In recent years I’ve become a stronger person. MUCH stronger than ever before. However, I’ve noticed myself avoiding situations because of that fear.

I stopped going out with friends because… I was afraid of the calories, sodium, and whatever other bad things were lurking in alcohol. I wasn’t quite sure how to go out and just be there. Historically when I went out, it was to drink with my friends and have fun. It took me a while to learn how to have fun with very little (or without any) alcohol. I avoided invites for a while. Or I’d be super excited to go, and then start to freak out at the last minute. I’d let a little bit of snow or some high winds talk me right out of my plans. I’d feel sad that my friends were out having fun, but I knew it was my choice not to go. I’ve regretted it at times. I’ve thought back that the snow and wind weren’t really that bad. Then there’s feeling tired… I used to go out when I was tired and "perk up" later on. Not lately. Now if I’m tired or have the slightest trace of a headache or something I don’t go. I think that clinging to whatever smallish thing was my way of staying safe. It was my way of avoiding the pressure of social situations.

I sometimes wonder if my friends think I was just "over" them, and hanging out with them. I haven’t seen some of them in a while and that makes me sad. I needed to learn how to exist in social settings as the "new" me. Not an easy task. I’ve done it a time or two and have felt awkward. Those feelings of rejection have crept up on me and it’s been hard to deal with them. But? I have.

Another time that I really do regret feeling fearful was with a guy. A very nice guy; funny, and cute too. In fact I had a crush on this guy when I was in 10th grade. He was in my geometry class. I didn’t know him, and of course I was shy and fearful of guys, but he just seemed like a cool, good guy. I remember someone saying something mean to him once in class. I remember feeling annoyed that the girl who said it could be so mean. I kinda wanted to kick her in the shin for being so bitchy. I was feeling defensive about something she said about someone I didn’t really even know. I’m not even sure if HE remembers it, but I do. It’s just one of those things that has stuck with me.

Okay, off of memory lane and back to more recent times. So this guy and I have similar friends and have been in social situations together. I may or may not have re-developed a crush on him when we were hanging out. Naturally I didn’t say anything. It would have been both awkward around friends and I’d have felt really embarrassed if I had said something and he rejected me. So, I did (again) what I thought was logical and avoided it.

Not long after he started wanting to hang out. I’m a complete moron and really have difficulty differentiating between hanging out as friends or if he was asking me on a date. I still have no idea. Part of me thought maybe it was a date, but then thought I was being silly or thinking too highly of myself and that he probably just wanted to hang out as friends.
I really wanted to spend some time with him, but between being busy and winter sickness and such, it didn’t happen. I’m sure I seemed as though I was not interested, which really was not the case.

I was afraid. I was afraid of rejection and causing weirdness between myself and him, and our friends. I was also afraid of something bad happening and losing my friends. Ironically, I haven’t seen them much since then anyway. I dated a guy who I met through friends once before. It didn’t work out. I never knew quite how to handle that. I didn’t want anyone to feel like I couldn’t be around him. I didn’t want them to have trouble making plans. Yet, the whole situation was strange and I have drifted from those friends too. I’m sure it’s not all (if even at all) that situation, but I can’t help but think it may have contributed.

Now in addition to the fear of rejection I feared that it wouldn’t work out and friendships would be lost and more difficult situations would arise. Shame on me for being so pessimistic and thinking the worst before even giving it a chance.
Sometimes I feel like I should apologize and explain myself. But then I think that’s kind of silly. I mean by now it’s probably water under the bridge or whatever. I just hate knowing that someone thought that maybe I wasn’t interested because I was such a damn chicken. In this case, it really wasn’t him at all… It was me and my fears. Yup… I ran. I ran because I was afraid.

Fear of the unknown; you’re a jerk.

Lately I’m not sure what my fears have been. I honestly have this new sense of confidence and am not as fearful as I once was. I do find it interesting that I want to write and I want to speak (about this journey; as a motivational speaker) but yet I haven’t taken large steps toward either. New fear?

I have ideas, I’ve purchased materials, and I entered a writing contest…But that’s it. I’ve stuck to what I know I’m good at. The funny thing is that I know I’m a talented writer. I’ve known that for years. A teacher in Jr. High told my parents that I could be a writer someday. So if I know I am good and really could excel why haven’t I? What am I so afraid of? Probably rejection; finding out that maybe I’m NOT as good as I believe.

I keep taking small steps in the right direction and I feel it inside… I feel the force waiting to come out. I’m going to take those steps. I feel that I’m going to do it sooner than later (finally)!


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