Fear is my greatest motivator.
It is also the creator of the constant distress that rules my life.
Fear is invisible, invasive, pervasive, and often irrational. Fear has given me a life that is led anxiety-first.
I am scared to admit I went to see a counselor to try and combat this. The stigma surrounding mental illness, needing help, and coming to an understanding that I am not capable of handling this alone has made me feel paralyzed. Together, my counselor and I discovered that I possess deep-seated fears of abandonment and rejection. These situations mean breaking away from safety, setting yourself up for a level of unpredictability, in turn creating the possibility of failure.
In this, I have started to find fear in fear itself.
I discovered that I don't believe a relationship (friendship, romantic, or otherwise) I have can be secure or stable, even if it is proven to be possible again and again. Apparently, this has come from being a child of divorce. Sometimes it makes me feel like a cliché. Often, I feel like I use my past as an excuse for my present, that anxiety is just a buzzword for feelings I am not strong enough to control.
This year, I decided to push the boundaries of my anxiety, create situations where I would be exposed to fear, and challenge myself to 30 challenges in 30 weeks. Over the course of six months, I have set personal challenges for myself that I hope will stimulate growth and self-esteem. I am going to learn to dive, attempt to network, conquer my laughable fear of pigeons, and watch the 'horror' film that created my fear of horror films! However, six weeks in, I feel as if I am sliding away from these outcomes.
As my first challenge, I chose to make this challenge public and hold myself responsible to an audience. Each week I compose a blog post on Tumblr, detailing the challenge and its outcomes. I believed this would be a great way to connect with others and hopefully inspire someone to challenge themselves, as I had been when I had read about others undertaking similar challenges.
My mind wandered over backing out several times. The thought of being both simultaneously acknowledged and ignored by my peers was frightening. However, my mind's need to remain in motion pushed me to take the first step and declare my commitment to the 30 weeks in front of me.
Despite my week-one bravado, the transparency of this challenge has only served thus far to alter the perceptions I have of myself. I think about how these challenges do not appear good enough for the audience I am presenting them to. I believe that people will see me as weak and attention-seeking. I don't feel as if I am receiving the affirmation I didn't even know I desired. This has caused me to question the relationships I barely believed were certainties. In a way, these thoughts confirm the thoughts I had already formed about myself.
I decided to tackle my irrational fear of birds. This challenge had been the easiest to develop and the one I thought most present in my day-to-day life. I scare easily due to the belief that at any moment a bird will:
a) Fly into my face.
b) Peck at my face with its beak.
c) Frighten me with the flap of its wings, signaling a propensity to undertake either of the above actions.
I purchased a dollar bag of bread, loped to the local park, and forced myself to stand in one place as birds ranging from sparrows to geese swarmed around the bread at my feet.
(Unfortunately, this only served to increase my fear of birds. I returned shaken and certain I would not willingly commit to a similar experience in the near future.)
I don't believe myself to be naturally creative. I do not quite yet understand whether this is a facet of my personality, or whether I am confused as to how creativity expresses itself. My outlets have so far consisted of a lengthy (but unwanted) foray into piano lessons and begrudgingly completed assignments throughout the duration of my education.
I needed to push myself to create in a way that challenged my fears of both my work not being worthy of the public eye, and my inability to think of a topic to write on. I decided to start slow, and write on the topic I knew best, myself. Hence, this article (!!!) — A dip into my darkest thoughts, usually reserved for a best friend or a journal incapable of judgment.
Week 7 and Beyond
As I move through these challenges, I struggle with feeling assumptive and illogical, and have started to turn these thoughts inwards to reflect upon just how powerless I have become within the confines of my own mind.
I get lost in loops of introspection. I require excessive reassurance. I find it hard to be in my own company, find it hard to concentrate.
Undeterred by this, I continue to feel like this fear is pushing me in a positive direction. Whilst, honestly, nothing is less appealing to me than the loss of control and the unknown; to be feeling it, means I will soon be overcoming it and sooner understanding how and why I feel this way.
Fear is truly my greatest motivator. I am determined to turn the anxiety this challenge has generated on its head, and allow it to change me. It has created a space for learning. It lets me be proud of who I am. It lets me know that uncertainty isn't so bad.
Fear is just an emotion. An emotion I am determined to get the best out of.