My toxic relationship with fear.
Today is April 15th, 2021.
This past afternoon, I went to Barnes & Noble with my brother and we picked up the book Unlearn by Humble the Poet. I've been wanting to read this book for quite some time now. I was first introduced to Humble through the Jay Shetty Podcast. Specifically this episode.
I highly recommend listening to it, if you have the time to let the podcast play. There is a lot of really insightful anecdotes and observations that Humble and Jay speak about throughout the pod. It's a great listen.
But this post isn't about that podcast, it's about the fourth chapter from Humble's book, Unlearn.
The Gift of Fear.
"What you fear isn't the roadblock; allowing the fear to keep you from moving is the real obstacle" (14).
My relationship with fear has been something that has held me back a lot and currently holds me back a lot. The fear of failure. The fear of embarrassment. The fear of being misinterpreted. And so many more.
I've always let fear control me.
When I was 6, I asked my dad to sign me up to play baseball because I wanted to play with my cousin who was the same age as me. I ended up loving the sport and played until I was a sophomore in high school.
I loved playing the game but, I didn't like hitting. How can I not like hitting? Isn't hitting half of the game?
I didn't like hitting because I was scared of getting hit by the baseball. Some of these kids didn't care where the baseball landed. They just wanted to throw the ball as hard as they could.
Getting hit by a baseball hurts, but more likely than not I wasn't going to get hit by it. But, there was always that chance.
14 year old me in freshman baseball held onto that small chance. I went into each plate appearance expecting myself to get hit. I'd flinch. I'd close my eyes. I went into each plate appearance with the wrong mindset. I set myself up to fail each and every plate appearance.
Safe to say I didn't get many hits. My freshman year I think I got a total of maybe 2 hits. One being a bunt single lmaooo. At least I was fast.
That fear didn't let me to develop. I probably would be on an MLB team right now if I didn't fear the baseball. Yup, that's the alternate reality that would've 100% happened if I didn't fear the baseball. I probably would be on an all-star ballot right now. Missed opportunities smh.
Wow, you feared getting hit by a baseball. A lot of people fear getting hit by a baseball. So what?
I mean yeah, it doesn't seem like something that unreasonable to fear. But because I always had that fear, it didn't matter how much practice I put in at the batting cages. It didn't matter how many hours my dad would spend with me in the garage tossing baseballs for me to practice my swing. I could practice all I wanted, and I did, and I didn't get any results simply because I feared what was out of my control.
I'll admit that's a pretty easy fear to admit. Hence why I led off with it. (Baseball pun initially unintended, and then purposefully intended). I just wanted to give one physical example of fear holding me back. One that isn't too deep. One that doesn't leave me too vulnerable.
But what's the point of trying to speak about fear if you don't allow yourself to be vulnerable?
So here's a semi-recent vulnerable story that took me a long time to heal from.
In college, I had a huge crush on this girl I met sophomore year. We became good friends quick and were really really good friends for the rest of my college career and post-college career. Our relationship was really hard to read and understand. (Mind you, we both feared uncomfortable situations, so we always did our best to avoid them.) We end up just labeling our relationship as really close friends.
Besides being uncomfortable with the subject of our friendship/relationship, we were open books to each. We would talk to each other through our lows and be first person we'd contact when we hit our highs. We would hang out for hours on end just talking in a car at some place until the sun came up. We would be able to help each other and make each other laugh no matter that situation... and I fell in love with her...
I would do my best to convince myself otherwise, because in my mind I would rather have her as a close, best friend than lose her.... right?
I didn't want to tell her. I tried my best to not even acknowledge it myself.
I feared for what the truth could be.
I feared for potentially losing someone who made me feel seen.
I feared the confrontation where I could potentially hear her say the words that I didn't want to hear her say.
I feared I would lose someone I wanted to be in my life forever.
We've always avoided that conversation.
I was 19 when I first developed my crush on her. I was 23 when I finally had the courage to tell her I truly felt. And by "tell her how I truly felt," I mean writing and expressing my feelings for her on a private tumblr in an extensive blog post to make sure I got everything out in one go. I really feared that confrontation.
I sent her the link on a Friday because I knew she didn't work weekends and said "When you have the time can you read this." I threw my phone 20 feet away and needed to calm myself. I grabbed my baseball mitt, headed to my backyard and began to play catch with myself to ease the anxiety as best as I could. I was dreading the thought of what could possibly be sent back. Mind you, this post had 4 years worth of feelings in it. 4 years.
I didn't get a reply back.
A couple days pass.
I finally get a text back.
My fears came true. She didn't see me the same way. She didn't love me how I loved her.
I was crushed.
We never met up to discuss what I sent her. In the post I said that if she didn't see me the same way that we couldn't be friends anymore. I got a one paragraph text back after I spent the previous week on an essay and that was it.
We haven't spoken since.
That mutual fear of that specific confrontation and conversation caused me so much heartache and so much trauma that I'm still trying to fully recover from. Don't get me wrong, I'm doing a whole lot better now like 90% better, but it still lingers.
That fear from having that in person conversation robbed me of just understanding what happened and what I misread. It created anxiety within me where I would dig into different scenarios from the past and try to understand what she was feeling at that moment. Was everything I thought about our relationship false? Was I being dragged along this whole time? I really have no clue.
We still haven't had that conversation. I don't want that conversation anymore. It's not fear that holds a tie on that conversation anymore. It's just not worth my time and energy anymore.
Would I take back what I said to her? Absolutely not. I finally said what I needed to say.
I just wish I didn't let my fears control me for that long. I wish I had the courage earlier to confront her on the feelings I had. But there's nothing I can do now.
I have a horrible relationship with fear. I get too caught up in my fears.
It paralyzes me from moving forward.
I have a fear that my name will become synonymous with failure. I like to talk a lot about the things I think of. I like to talk a lot about the ideas I come up with. I don't really speak of these things to anyone, besides to the people I'm close to.
I start telling those people these ideas and then depression hits. I start telling them these ideas and then fears begin to hit. I start telling them these ideas and I just don't pull through. Did I intend on not following through with those ideas? At that moment, I wanted to do those ideas. I just didn't end up doing them.
Most people I know don't know about this project right now. Many people I know, I won't tell about this project. Is this me letting fear control me again? Is this me trying to hedge against the skepticism that will come from if I say anything? I'm not sure.
What I do know is that I have done a lot more with this project than I have with others. What I do know is that I am taking the correct steps in order to put myself in a better situation.
Since that girl, I had the opportunity to date someone who wanted and pushed me to communicate. Someone who wasn't scared of confrontation. Someone who forced me out of my comfort zone to speak my mind. She helped me learn more about my fears. We worked on our fears together. We supported each other's aspirations. We called each other out on our bullshit. I respect the hell out of her.
I respected her and loved her so much, that I had to call her (long distance relationship) once I realized my feelings for her weren't mutual. It was nothing against her. It was nothing against our relationship. A certain thing in our relationship just wasn't clicking for me when I wanted it to. I really wanted it to. But it just wasn't happening. I didn't want to hold her back. I didn't want to waste her time.
We mutually decided to end our relationship. She helped me grow a lot and I hope I've helped her grow too. Because of her that fear doesn't have as strong of a hold on me anymore and I'll be forever grateful.
I have grown from the person I was, and I am becoming someone that's understanding these things better. I don't think I'll ever fully understand myself, but my relationship with myself and my fears is a lot better.
If this was me even a year ago, I wouldn't be posting this anywhere for anyone to read. This would be written on a different private tumblr page, saved in the drafts to never be seen by anybody.
But now I believe that speaking about these things and allowing myself to be vulnerable to you, that's reading this, is valuable. It's speaking on topics people don't talk about because it is embarrassing. Do I want the whole world to know that I spent four years of my life scared to make a singular move? Do I want people to know I was petrified of confrontation? Absolutely not, but there's value in it. We don't hear about these things from other people, so I want you to hear it from me.
I don't have any answers. I am still trying to understand my own fears. I am still trying to get myself to not let fear cripple me. When fear controls you, you don't get to make the choices you want.
When fear controls you, you don't get to make the choices you want.
Just wanted to reiterate that. A wise man said, "anything worth saying, is worth repeating." One more time for the one time.
When fear controls you, you don't get to make the choices you want.
I will work towards making the decisions I want. I want to understand my fears and to allow them to just be fears and nothing else. I will work my hardest to not let my fears dictate my decisions. Fears will never leave, but my relationship with them can be and will be so much better.
The next time a fear stops me from progressing, I will do my best to understand that.
The next time a fear stops me from being able to feel what I need to feel, I will do my best to understand that.
I will begin to overcome these fears. It won't happen today. It won't happen tomorrow. But when I come to terms with my fears and I don't give them the strength that I have been giving them, I will be better.
"No one is fearless, but the bravest people I know are those who are most in tune with their fears and phobias and have decided not to let them get in the way of their happiness" (15).
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