Since writing my last “Life Lesson” letter, I have decided to continue with more.
Today, daughter, let’s talk about overcoming fear. You will face fear and failure. Keep going anyway.
I hope my words will be meaningful and helpful to you someday. Just the act of writing them out is helpful to me. It’s kind of like therapy. And between you and me, mama could use some therapy. Does that sound like a win-win, or what?
It boils down to this. I want to share with you my lessons, my struggles, my mistakes, my thoughts, and my triumphs. Believe me, I have a lot of material.
It’s the advice I want to save for you as I navigate this crazy life. You couldn’t possibly understand these things right now – obviously. But someday, you will. If I don’t capture it now, I’ll forget in time, so I need to get this stuff down, so you have it for later.
There are numerous reasons I want to share these thoughts. One big one: I want to help you maneuver through life with a different filter than the one I had. I want to tell you the things I wish I had known…the things no one told me.
Realistically, I know I can’t protect you from everything. But I can guide you and I can certainly give you some things to consider. So here is today’s lesson:
Whatever you do, whatever you pursue, whatever you want to try…….fight through the fear. Fear is going to come at you in so many ways. Do not let it determine the choices you make and don’t let it influence your efforts.
In life, most of the time, you’re going to have enough in you to give it your all. Then sometimes there will occasionally be days that you don’t give it your all.
Maybe you’ll be sad, or tired, or just not feeling like yourself. And when you feel that way, you’ll feel like doing things half-ass. Sometimes, half-ass is the best you can do in that moment. Sometimes it’s all you have to give.
That’s normal because you’re human. You should always strive to do your best. But just know that some days, your best is better than on other days.
However, I’m not talking about that.
What I’m talking about is letting fear hold you back….from giving your all and from being true to yourself.
How I Let Fear Hold Me Back
Here is an example. In high school, I played competitive sports. While I was dedicated and tenacious, there was a part of me that held back. Why?
Yes, part of me was driven to succeed and to do my best. But part of me was afraid to fail, afraid to make mistakes, afraid to look silly and inadequate. I thought making a mistake showed weakness. I thought it made me look stupid. And I never felt good enough.
In my limited and insecure mind, mistakes just proved you weren’t perfect. And yes, I thought perfection was the standard that had to be achieved and maintained…in all things.
Back then, I let the fear of failure paralyze me. Fear held me hostage. Fear tricked me into playing it safe. The fear encouraged me to hang back and even step down. I also feared the unknown, so I didn’t try a lot of new things. Because if I didn’t put myself out there…if I didn’t go for it, then I couldn’t really fail, right?
In basketball, I was a decent player. You could say I was solid; consistent. However, I was afraid to take too many shots, because what if I missed???? I didn’t think about making the shots. I feared missing the shots.
Do you see the difference?
At the same time, playing defense and rebounding came more naturally to me. That is where I excelled most. Those were my strengths. However, instead of focusing on my strengths, I focused on the areas where I wasn’t as strong and beat myself up about it.
Did I do this day in and day out, every single day? No. But I did it enough. If I’m honest and objective, I can see that I limited myself with my attitude and beliefs.
I looked at what others accomplished and compared my abilities and successes to theirs. And when I came up against strength or talent that was bigger and better than mine, I would often quickly step back into the shadows; intimidated.
Sometimes fear is normal. So are insecurities and frustrations. But you cannot let them dominate.
Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back
You should always play your best game. Whatever “game” that may be. Don’t try to compete with someone else’s strengths so much that you are neglecting your own strengths. Compete in your arena with the gifts God gave you.
No, I wasn’t the leading scorer, but I could hip check a girl right out of the lane in order to grab a rebound. (Because hey, baby got back.)
No one ever really explained that I should play to my strengths. No one ever said I didn’t have to do everything perfectly. I don’t recall anyone ever really letting me know that all I needed to be was myself. Maybe some adults or coaches told me, but if they did, I don’t remember it sticking.
That’s what I’m hoping to teach you, by the way. I want you to kick fear’s butt and never look back. I want you to firmly believe in yourself and your unique, innate strengths and qualities that make you who you are.
Live Beyond Your Fear
I will never, ever, forget your first season of t-ball. I wrote about that here. Let me give you the cliff notes: It wasn’t your thing. No matter how much I loved softball and how much your dad loved baseball, and no matter how much we thought you would get the ball-playing gene, you did not share in this love.
I was so excited when we bought a batting tee and spent a few hours in the backyard letting you hit the ball and playing catch. I saw your ability, and I think you had fun playing around with us.
Yes, you enjoyed giggling with your teammates and you certainly liked the post-game snacks. But you have zero interest in competition, at least at this point. I’m fairly certain you think running is stupid unless it can be free-spirited and unstructured and without an end goal.
I’m pretty sure that’s because your interests lie elsewhere. They lie in creativity. In art. In music, and in creating stories. You, dear daughter, are a gifted creator.
Which is why we don’t push you to try more sports or acting, or music. That’s why we are a fairly activity-free family. Thus far, you aren’t too interested in organized anything, which is perfectly fine.
It’s perfectly fine because that’s perfectly you. Imperfect and free-spirited and funny and creative. I want you to feel free to fail and free to make mistakes. Free to spread your wings and fly because fear is never going to hold you back or stop you from becoming who and what you want to be.
If you grow up with this one simple belief (which is way easier said than done,) then I will have done my job as a mama.
We all have fears. Every single one of us. Just remember that fear is a part of life. Work through it. Manage it. Play your own game. Paint your own picture. Write your own story.
Kick fear in the butt.