When I was a child I used to freak my mom out by hanging upside on the metal climbing dome we had in our backyard. I’d loop my legs over a bar in the top and just hang there. Or I’d sit on the very top and call to her to make sure she saw how far I was off the ground.
I played a lot of sports growing up, as well. I played soccer and softball in local leagues, and baseball on the street with my brother and his friends. They were all older than me, but I held my own. I could pitch, hit, and if I didn’t get my way I didn’t cry (one of the boys did).
Like many kids, I had no fear. Of course, like many kids, as I grew up, things started to change.
One day while trying to get a board game off a shelf of the bookcase in my father’s study, I managed to pull the entire bookcase down, just getting out of the way in time not to be smooshed.
On another occasion our house was struck by lightening, but thankfully the house didn’t burst into flames.
In sixth grade I got shoved off of some sort of high playground equipment during a came of King of the Mountain (which we shouldn’t have been playing to begin with) and ended up with a concussion. Early the following summer I got smoked in the face with a softball at practice, and ended up on the ground with a broken nose.
Fear is a natural response to many things that happen in life. It’s there to protect us, but sometimes it can get in the way.
After the bookcase incident I became a lot more careful about how I removed things from shelves (good), but it also made me have a bit of a fear of things falling on me, which was exacerbated during a powerful earthquake in 1994. The fall from the playground equipment made me nervous about being up on something high that I could potentially fall from.
I continued to play sports, but was grateful that my mother insisted I move to catcher in softball because it meant wearing a mask.
And thunderstorms still put me on edge.
Other types of fear such as the fear of not being accepted by others or failing at something, can feel just as bad, even though those fears aren’t there to protect us from possible physical injury or death.
There are many things about me that make me an outsider. As a child I was a tomboy, an introvert when not playing sports, and I was (mis)diagnosed with a learning disability. I never felt like I fit in and other kids didn’t think I did either, resulting in bullying.
During adolescence and my teenage years I only told two of my friends that I was gay, but even if others didn’t know, I had that fear that goes along with feeling different. It was just another way that I didn’t fit in.
I was born in California, but I live in Canada, which makes me an expat to the U.S. and an immigrant in Canada.
I struggle with mental health challenges.
Fear has the ability to overwhelm us. It’s an anxiety attack waiting to happen. Even writing this has me imagining standing on a street, with people pointing out my differences and laughing, while a thunderstorm explodes above my head and softball size hail is pelting me.
When I’m healthy, fear stays out of my way enough to protect me from real dangers, but lets me be adventurous enough to interview strangers for the podcast, give workshops or even keynote speeches. It lets me go zip lining even though I have to climb up on high platforms to do so.
We may start out as fearless, but life can, in some instances should, take that away. Having fear is normal, but letting it paralyze us mentally, emotionally, or physically doesn’t serve us. Remember that being brave isn’t about being fearless. It’s moving forward despite the fear.