I always thought overcoming a fear was like unlocking a level in a video game. Once you passed this level, you would never have to return to fight off the same enemies within you and around you. And you would no longer find yourself stuck searching for a magical sword that destroyed all of your insecurities and worries. Those days would be over because right now you have been brave. Today will be the start of what you always wanted your life to be. No more fears, no more struggles. And when I realized I had this idea, I asked myself why I wanted to believe this could be true. And to be honest, this is where my hypothesis falls apart.
I want to trust that being confident and brave is a one-time struggle. Going backwards and struggling with the same fears should not be an option. If I learned how to maneuver through those obstacles before, I want to believe I should never have to be stuck in the same ruts again. I should not have to face my fear again. Those days should be over. I should feel better. I should know better now.
One of my biggest fears is taking on a project without a guarantee that things will work out. I get scared thinking of wasting time and effort on a failed project. And that fear of failure comes from another fear that people would then see me as a failure. So then I get too scared to start any project.
A few years ago I found out I had this destructive tendency to let fear get in the way. This actually thrilled me because this discovery meant I was at a magical opportunity to unlock a new level in my life. The threshold of confidence and happiness seemed to be over on the other side of a dense forest filled with angry wildlife. And if I could pass this stage in my life, I would never have to return to my fear again. All I needed was to find a magical sword.
And so I went searching to find exactly what I needed to overcome my fear. I set out with a grocery list of finding my swords of strength and inspiration from the people around me and from within myself. My project was to write at least one article to a local newspaper. I had never done anything like it before, and I could only imagine the rough journey it would be to finish this project. The dense forest was incredibly relentless, but somehow I made it through. I finished the article after about two days and sent it. A week later, I was notified it would be published, making me believe I had finally gained citizenship in the land of confidence and bravery.
With great sadness, I must tell you I didn’t stay in that land for long. My success made me even more afraid of never living up to that same level of achievement. For weeks I avoided writing another article. Here was fear creeping back into my head like a regular customer at a coffee shop. I instinctively handed fear its latte and comfortably slipped into a conversation with it. “Why?” I asked. “Why did you come back? I specifically remember that I defeated you in the forest.”
The thing with fear is that is doesn’t actually talk back to you. It just kind of looks at you in a taunting way. “Yeah I came back,” it seems to say. “Now it’s your move again.”
Kathy Tun of Spring Valley is a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. She can be reached in care of this newspaper at P.O. Box 340, Princeton, IL 61356.