When I was 15 years old I decided I was going to go to Haiti for the first time. I got many questions about what I would do if something happened or if I was scared. In all honesty, I wasn’t scared. I was excited. Tragic things happen, yes, but that doesn’t stop me from doing the things I love or the things that I am called to do. I determined for myself years ago that I would never make decisions based on fear and it has served me well thus far. I have done some amazing things and met some awesome people. Many people have sneered at some of the decisions I have made in my so far short life. I continued to go on missions trips, I got married at 19, nor did I finish college.
Now, I am not super woman and I am definitely not fearless. I have things that I am absolutely terrified are either happening or going to happen at some point in my life. Some may be silly and some may even seem shallow to but they are very real to me. I know they exist in my life and if I let them they would ruin me. They would worm their way into my life and tell me lies that would stop me from living the life I have worked so hard to build. Instead of letting them run free in my life I take control of them. I do not let them control me. It has been a long road that is filled twists and turns but ultimately it was those challenging moments that has brought me to the other side of those fears. I have three recurring fears that really stick out to me and I have to be intentional about preventing them from stealing my joy.
My number 1 absolute biggest fear beyond anything else is that everyone is lying to me. That my closest friends and family say they love me but if I were a fly on the wall I would hear a different story. During my jr. high and early high school years this fear had control of my life. I made some terrible decisions because of it that affected my family and ultimately the trajectory of my life. It was through the consequences of those decisions that I began to learn that this fear didn’t have to be in control of my life. I learned that it is okay that I have those fears but it doesn’t make them true. I went from looking at life through the lens of my fears to living a life of freedom. Not to say that these thoughts don’t rear their ugly head from time to time. For instance, a few months ago I asked a friend if she wanted to hang out and she said she was already at Target with another of our friends. Faster than I could rationalize the truth, I had spun an entire web of lies telling myself about how I was, in fact, right and that everyone WAS lying to me. In reality, they live right across the street from each other and it was a super spontaneous trip. No big deal. I quickly realized that my initial reaction was based on fear and I was being completely dramatic. I was sizing up that situation from behind my fear colored glasses. In that moment, and others like it, I reminded myself of the truth. Fear is a liar. I don’t have to listen to them. They are not truth. Both of those friends genuinely care about me…like a ton! They are my tribe. Had I let those thoughts run free they could have easily done permanent damage in our relationship. Instead I slowed down and assessed the situation. Where is my heart at? Do I need to check myself? Put down the fears and pick up the truth.
Almost equally as scary to me is that I am going to be end up a miserable old woman. Not in a grumpy old lady way but like a physically miserable old person kind of way. I am terrified that I am going to have an old and incredibly painful body and there will be nothing I can do about it. There will be no relief. It won’t let up. I won’t be able to enjoy anything. Truth, I am perfectly fine with passing on from this life earlier if it means skipping out on being in pain. Again, I could allow these thoughts to consume me and prevent me from enjoying the seasons of life I am in now. I could begrudgingly turn a year older every year or scoff at anything remotely joyful. But, I don’t. You know what I do, though? I find a happy balance between enjoying life now while also taking care of my current body. I eat chocolate chip cookies and have lunch with friends but I also make it a point to keep my body moving and give it the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. That’s the best I can do. The rest is out of my hands. It will all work itself out in the wash…and no one has yet to be stuck on this earth forever.
This last one may seem silly but it’s very real to me. I know it’s dramatic and irrational but I am terrified of jellyfish. I hate them. I can’t stand them and I have never even been stung by one. I can look at them in pictures or behind the protective glass of an aquarium. But put me on a sandy beach and tell me to get in the ocean? The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, my eyes dart 100 different directions, and everything in me wants to stay on the sand. Fear tells me that I am going to be in the worst pain of my life and it will never end. Do you know how much I would’ve missed out on over the course of my life if I had stayed on the sand? I have laughed so hard I’ve cried watching friends get beaten by waves repeatedly. I made some incredible dream come true memories on the beach with my family. If I would have given in to my fears I would’ve missed out on all of that. When I am in the water am I constantly on high alert for the little free floating fellas? You betcha. I nearly climbed halfway up my husband when I spotted one in the water. But all of the memories I have made have been worth every chance of getting stung. I tell myself time and time again that fear is a liar. I know that getting stung is nothing like I imagine it. I know that I will be fine in the end.
I feel I should clarify that fearlessness does not mean recklessness. There are times that your “fears” are rational. Rational fears only come out of respect for a certain situation. For example, I am not scared of thunderstorms or tornadoes but when the sirens go off I seek shelter. Not out of fear but out of respect for the power a tornado brings.
It is so easy to caught in the trap of fear and anxiety. Having a clear cut exit strategy for that train of thought is golden. In the moment that your fears get stirred up have a way of checking yourself. Grounding yourself. Remind yourself that fear is a liar and know the truth to counteract that. What are some fears you have, rational or irrational and what do you do about them? Share yours in the comments and maybe you can bring some peace to someone else’s day.