Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fear Factor

Facing What Scares You Most

What Gives You the Heebie-Jeebies?

Poor little guy-
When I was a child my parents used to refer to me as the risk taker in the family. When I started to walk I never looked back in fear that I may fall. I was always pushing my older brother to try new things- ride roller coasters, be more outgoing, stand up for himself- and I was not afraid to do things for him that he refused to do for himself. There is a notable story in my family that when my brother and I were at the little league baseball park he refused to go to the snack bar and ask for napkins because he was so painfully shy. The 6 year old me stood up, walked over to the snack bar, requested napkins, and got the job done. But recently my Dad expressed concern that I have lost this risk taking, confident aspect of my personality because I am afraid of rejection or failure. I must admit that he made a valid point. My past has taught me that not everyone will like or embrace me and that I will not succeed in all my pursuits. But have I really began to fear putting myself out there, expressing myself, and trying new or challenging things? I guess I am not sure. It is most definitely true that I am terrified of losing more friends or being rejected or disliked by new people. And I'd be a fool not to be concerned about completing tasks or achieving goals since my medical condition has disrupted the course of my life numerous times. But do these concerns or fears impact my behavior? Am I hiding rather than facing what scares me most? These questions have forced me to take a look at my life. Yes, I am terrified to start this new semester. I would love to opt out or take fewer courses but I am not. I am taking a full load, testing the waters, and leaving my options open to drop a course if need be. I am not completely averting the risk I am just being more cautious as I jump in. Perhaps it is my fear of rejection and judgement that has played the biggest role in altering my behavior. I believe I have stayed true to my core but my personality has definitely shifted. I am by no means neutral or passive but I have started to be less outrageous and outright in sharing my personal beliefs because both have caused issues with friends in the past. Am I betraying myself and my core by altering my personality to protect myself from negative response or hurtful outcomes? Or is it ok to shift our behavior to better fit certain situations and save ourselves from judgement? I don't have the answers to these questions. I guess it all comes down to staying true to our core and our morals. If our behavior doesn't betray our core beliefs and self than maybe it's ok to mix it up depending upon who we are with and where we are.  
What gives you the heebie-jeebies?
What gives me the heebie-jeebies, my personal fears, are rejection and failure. These fears, like most others, are not arbitrary. They have been instilled in me due to past experiences with both. My eating disorder, personality, and atypical life style has made it difficult for me to make friends and has lost me many friends over the years. In middle-school I was the stereotypical "wanna be"- hanging around the outskirts of the "popular group" just waiting for their acceptance. (It took me five years to finally be accepted into the group that then became my close group of friends through 8th grade and high school.) But after graduation things began to change. High school friends wanted to know when I'd finally be over "the eating disorder thing." College friends weren't sympathetic, felt loyalty and got sick of it and me very quickly. And people my age in general often don't understand my outlook on life and my desire to have more deep and personal conversations and relationships rather than just focus on boys and social drama. Additionally my personality and manner of dress can come off as obnoxious or spoiled to new people who don't get the chance to know me on a deeper level. I love fashion, well traveled and educated, and was lucky enough to be born into a family of financial means. This combination results in an expensive, distinct, and on trend style of dress that often correlates with materialism, vanity, and shallowness (not the most attractive attributes.) As well as a manner of speaking that occasionally sounds ostentatious or conceded. But I honestly believe that if someone is willing to give me a chance, get to know me, and see beyond the exterior they will realize that I am not as I seem or appear. However there are few people out there who have the capacity to look past the outside or second guess their initial judgement which frequently leaves me out in the cold. My fear of failure comes directly from the fact that I have failed multiple times. I had to leave GW in the middle of a semester because of health issues and ended up transferring to Penn. Then I had to leave Penn in the middle of a semester for health issues again. I have been in treatment for my eating disorder multiple times yet I am still plagued by it every minute of every day. I have set out on so many things such as college and recovery and have been unable to complete or achieve either. I should have graduated last year yet here I am, still plowing away, trying to graduate. And I have almost given up on the hope of achieving a "full recovery" and have settled for management and health maintenance that will allow me to have some semblance of a life. I am afraid I will never graduate. I am afraid I will end up in treatment again. I am afraid to begin this semester with the concern that I won't be able to complete it. So many fears plague my mind that it often seems easier to hide out in my room, go back to treatment, or just admit to failure. But what would any of those things serve me? They wouldn't. Succumbing to our fears only allows them to control us, dictate our behaviors, and run our lives. The only way for us to regain control is by recognizing what gives us the heebie-jeebies and face what scares us most! So now finally after my long rant and/or personal account I have a quote to share with you-

Lets not be the cat (or the human) in this situation-
"To fear is one thing.  To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another." 

- Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved 

I chose this quote because I feel as if it is realistic. To say that we are not afraid of anything is inconceivable. There will always be things that we are afraid of whether they are valid or not- monsters in the closet, failure, the uncertain, dogs, murderers- but the key is to not let our fears run our lives. We cannot allow our fears to prevent us from going out there, taking risks, and living. I am afraid of not being able to complete the semester but if I don't at least try there is no chance of me finishing. I am better off starting the semester and giving it a fair try than never starting it at all. I can't retreat to a treatment facility because I am afraid of failing. Treatment is an escape from reality for those who warrent medical attention but it isn't real life. It merely puts your life on hold. Because I want to graduate college I am ultimately going to need to attend classes, stick it out, and earn my degree. I can't hide away forever and expect my degree to just appear. I must face my fear, tap into the risk taker in me, and give it a shot! The only way to overcome what scares us is to face it. For a long time I was afraid of riding elevators alone. I would beg my parents to come with me, wait around til someone else came along, do anything to avoid riding the elevator by myself. But one day I had no choice- I had to do it. It was scary and uncomfortable but I did it! I continued to do it and gradually it became less frightening until finally I didn't mind it at all. I know it's a silly example but I honestly believe that it can be applied to anything in life that scares us. What gives you the heebie-jeebies? Are you allowing this fear to run your life? Do you avoid going out after dark because a mugger may be lurking in the ally? Do you refuse to go into big cities because crowds overwhelm you? Will you not swim with your kids in the ocean because your uncomfortable in the water? Fears exist but we cannot let them hold us back. The only way to move past our fears is to face them, stare them down, give them a bitch glare, and run them over!

Don't let fear factor into your life choices,

The monsters are never as bad as you think-

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