Thursday, December 11, 2014

What I Fear Most

Last night I received a very good piece of advice via a kind of unconventional means.

I was listening to a live webinar on my phone, hosted by a renowned author whom I greatly respect. I had gone so far as to message him about a phenomenal book he wrote, but he of course never replied. There were probably hundreds of people on the call, but at the end he said he could take a few questions, and all of a sudden I heard him saying, "Amy from Illinois has a question. Hi, Amy." Wow. So I got to talk to this amazing author and the advice I received changed the course of my thinking as only someone whom I respect could do.

He said simply, "Don't be ruled by fear." Of course, there was more, but in my starstruck daze I don't remember it all verbatim. But what he said resonated with me, because he was right. I was being ruled by fear.

Now, in this context, he was talking about parenting. About not being afraid to do the right thing, bring up a subject that may cause conflict or put my foot down when I need to. Because, see, that became pretty tough for me - the repercussions were unpleasant and sometimes downright frightening. So I quit doing it. I quit out of fear. But he reminded me, because I had forgotten, that fear impedes progress. Fear keeps you from doing not only what you think you SHOULD do, but what you really, really WANT to do. And it's really nothing more than that. If you let fear get to you, it can not only impede YOUR progress, but that of your kids as well.

All those excuses we use day after day. How many times have you said things like:
"I'm not going to discipline my kid for breaking curfew because I want to have a good day today and just keep the peace."
"I'm not speaking up in that meeting because I don't know if what I have to say is significant."
"I'm not going after that job because I'm afraid I'm not completely qualified."
"I'm not going to broach that subject because I'm not sure of the reaction I'll get."
"I'm not going to go up and talk to that person because he might think I'm crazy, or worse yet, boring."

So what happens when we let fear rule our decisions? Nothing gets done. No progress is made. You don't do anything proactive, say anything proactive, or BE anything proactive. And the thing is, what you see as fear can be mistaken in someone else's eyes. To them, you might appear indifferent. Snobby. Passive. When in fact you're none of those things. You're just being ruled by fear.

The same thing that makes me not have those tough talks with my kid - for fear he'll lash out, or we'll have a bad night, or my best-laid plans will be ruined - is the same fear that keeps me from trying new things. I'll give a million excuses why I don't want to show up at a new church or social group when in fact I'm just terrified of walking into a roomful of strangers. Funny thing is, I've conquered that fear on more than one occasion, only to realize that 1) others felt the exact same way and 2) everyone was welcoming and understood how hard it was. And as far as parenting goes, worrying that my kids will go off the deep end if I discipline them - because it's gotten out of hand before - isn't doing them any favors. I need to work to find a way to overcome that fear and stop it from getting out of hand. Because kids are like wild animals - they can smell fear a mile away.

My son is learning about feelings. So much so that a couple of weeks ago I happened to say something to the effect of, "That made me so mad," to which he corrected me and said, "No, Mom, you CHOOSE to be mad." Interesting concept coming from a 17-year old boy, but he's right. I did choose it. I chose it because it was easy. Fear is easy. It's the excuse that is lying at the bottom of the barrel of excuses. But if you think about it carefully, you can choose NOT to let it rule your life and your decisions.

So the advice I received is my advice to you. Don't be ruled by fear. Don't let that ambiguous emotion of what "could, should, might" keep you doing what you want or need to do. As Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Don't be afraid to take that shot.

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