I always get that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach when I start something new. I moved to a different city when I was 16 years old. I felt it then. It was there my first day at a new school. When my mom and dad dropped me off at college I felt it then. When I graduated college I most definitely felt it. When I moved to a city I had never been to before to work with high school students that same nagging feeling was there. When I left that city and moved to Orlando with only $20 to my name there it was again. When I started a new job, I decided to go to graduate school, started dating, when my husband proposed, when we had our first child and when we had our second child, that nagging feeling made itself known every single time.
I can’t fully describe how it feels but I’m certain you know what I’m talking about. For me, that nagging feeling was fear. It wasn’t anxious thoughts or just me being nervous. It was full-blown fear every single time. Fear has always been my biggest enemy. Some people are born fearless. My husband is fearless like that. Wherever he goes and whatever he does he does it with no fear it seems. He’s one that doesn’t take “no” for an answer. I on the other hand almost always have to battle that nagging feeling. For some people, fear is not an issue. But for me, I battle it pretty much consistently. Fear is one of those things that will leave you paralyzed if you are not prepared to deal with it healthily. Speaking of being paralyzed; I used to be terrified of the dark when I was a little girl. Outside my room, there was this floor furnace that used to make these strange creaking noises. It scared me so bad I remember not being able to move out of, well, fear. I remember my mom showing me a documentary on how they produced Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. She said, “See, Jenia, it’s just makeup.” I was NOT convinced. It didn’t help that we lived in front of a massive graveyard. Every night I was again paralyzed with fear because in my head Micheal and all the dead people in the graveyard were standing in the door of my room just watching me. It is for this very reason that I don’t watch horror films to this day. But I was a little girl then. I didn’t understand that it was all in my head and that I really wasn’t in any real danger. But that’s what fear does. It makes you THINK you are in danger. It prevents you from taking a step forward. It paralyzes.
It took me years to learn how to overcome fear. I can honestly say that it was my faith that has helped me win this battle against fear. Yes, my faith in Jesus Christ. I’ll talk more about my faith in another blog. The first thing I had to learn was that it is okay to be afraid. It’s a natural emotion. We all experience being afraid. I do think some people are just wired differently that they don’t allow the fear to control them. But for me, fear had a hold on me something serious. Let me make myself clear. Fear was an internal battle for me. You would never know that I struggled with fear upon meeting me. I’m the kinda person who although I’m quiet by nature; I exude confidence. I know how to smile through the fear and put on a happy face. I learned to do that. Once I learned that it is okay to be afraid I had to realize that there was no real threat and that I was the only thing standing between me and a goal I wanted to accomplish. The second thing I learned was to do it afraid.
So what were you so afraid of Jenia? I’m glad you ask. These are the things that go through my mind. What if I fail? What if people don’t like me? What if I embarrass myself? What if it doesn’t work? What if I’m not good enough or fast enough, or smart, or pretty? I can hear some of your thoughts now. “Seems like you have a self-esteem problem.” But that’s another thing fear does. It makes you question who you are, and what you’re capable of. It makes you think you are inadequate and incapable. In reality, you are more than capable. You’re enough just the way you are. Yes you may fail. And fear will keep you from trying again. In other words, fear is all in your head.
So at 16, when I moved to Birmingham, AL at the end of my sophomore year in high school, I walked into Homewood High school afraid. I was afraid I wouldn’t make friends, but I introduced myself to people. I was afraid I wasn’t good enough, but I auditioned for show-choir and made it. I was afraid I wasn’t smart enough, but I graduated with honors. After high school, my mom and dad took me to Nashville, Tennessee and moved me into my dorm room at Wilson Hall afraid. I was afraid of being on my own. I was afraid of making the wrong decisions. I was afraid I couldn’t handle college life. But I did. I did it all afraid. I went to a graduate school for youth ministry for six months and was trained to be able to reach out to high school students on their campus. I was afraid but I was able to reach students and become a source of encouragement for them as they were dealing with some of the same things I had already gone through. I could go on and on.
Me when fear tries to control my thoughts… my “I don’t want to hear it face.”
There was a moment in each of these instances where I could have allowed fear to control me and keep me where I was. But I had my two-step process. I remembered that it’s okay to be afraid and I did “it” afraid. The more I continued my two-step process the less fear had a hold of me. I still get that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. But now, instead of questioning myself and going through all the “What if’s ” I move forward with no thought given to the fear . I’m writing this blog with that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach but I’m doing it. I have those same questions starting this blog that I had as a teenager. But I’m moving. Fear no longer has a hold of my thought life. I’ve learned to take control of my thoughts and give fear no place in my life.
So where ever you are in life. Whatever you’re afraid of, remember that’s it’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to acknowledge that you’re afraid. You don’t get brownie points for pretending. Once you have acknowledged your fear, do whatever it is you are setting out to do with that nagging feeling in the pit of your stomach. Eventually, it will go away. Eventually, fear will loosen its grip. Eventually, you’ll be walking into all that you have set out to accomplish.
”…And you ask ”what if I fall?” Oh but my darling what if you fly?” -Erin Hanson