Fear is a Four Letter Word

By: Angie Sloan

I grew up in the Seventies. Which means…we played outside with our friends, there were no video games. We knew who lived next door to us and often borrowed sugar or eggs, always returning the favor with a sweet treat our moms had baked. We used rotary phones and we actually knew our friend’s phone numbers (a lost art these days). We ran with scissors and we ate dirt, because back then, there were no warning labels and “breaking news” conferences to advise otherwise. There was one television in the house, which meant you watched whatever your parents watched.

And when The Shining came out on HBO (around 1982), Mom wanted to see it. She had heard that it was really frightening and she loved a good scary movie. It was the summer and I was allowed to stay up to 11:00 one night a week. Hearing all the buzz about the movie, I chose that evening as my late night.

Mom popped Jiffy Pop popcorn on the stove and we turned out all of the lights in the house. I can still smell the aroma of that popcorn. My dad didn’t take part in the hoopla, and went to bed because he had an early morning the next day. The movie was a bit slow to start, but there was this overwhelming sense of dread from the beginning. I watched it all. Sometimes through the safety of my hands as they covered my eyes. It terrified me.

I will never forget that feeling of fear. Looking back, I think it was the first time I truly felt terrified in my young life. I was nine years old. My mother probably didn’t have the best Fearjudgement when it came to filtering what we watched. But it was done and there was no turning back. Again, times were different then. Parenting was different.

The reason I reference that movie and that time in my life is because we all have felt fear at some point in our lives. And for me, that marked the first time I really felt fearful. It’s a common emotion. It’s healthy and normal to be fearful of certain things or situations. For example, being fearful or nervous when moving out on your own is warranted and healthy. It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time. You are suddenly responsible for everything without a safety net. There are bills and responsibilities. It’s a big scary world out there. And on the flip side, there is freedom in being independent and making your own way (my oldest son is about to experience this). There’s a tinge of fear the first time you drive a car, but that often fades with experience. There are a number of other things we do each and every day that may scare us. Being a parent is a scary endeavor. Interviewing for a job can be intimidating. Moving to a new place and meeting new people can be scary. But when you look at all of these scenarios, it comes down to fear of the unknown. The “what-ifs” that exist out there in the abyss. The questions we can’t answer. The scenarios we cannot predict or forsee.

And there’s that old nag, the Fear of Failure and his first cousin the Fear of Success. What? You’ve never heard of the Fear of Success? He runs in the same circles as the Fear of Failure. It’s that unsettling feeling of doing something really well, and then having to raise the bar. Having to outdo what you’ve just done. It’s not the worry you will fail, but rather, you fear that you may not have it in you to keep succeeding. There’s a distinct difference. And I find myself faced with this albatross of an emotion more times than not. It’s that little voice that questions my direction. It’s that feeling that I am not worthy of success. It’s that whisper that says, “You’ve done well enough, why don’t you quit while you’re ahead?” Sometimes the volume is deafening and I find myself questioning my next steps. Worrying. Wondering if I have what it takes to keep achieving.

And then, when I am at the brink of giving in, I find the strength and courage to quiet the noise. I evict that negativity from my thoughts and I keep moving. I keep swimming. Because I am willing to do the work and I am worthy of the success.

And so are you.

I write this to remind us all to “keep swimming” regardless of what scares us. Don’t allow Fear’s ugly stepsister, Insecurity to buy property in your mind. That’s prime real estate! And it’s not for sale to her or any of her shady relatives.

On a side note, I write this as a public service announcement: don’t let your kids watch scary movies with creepy twins and isolated hotels. But do try the Jiffy Pop! It will take you back to childhood with the sound of the first kernel popping!

One thought on “Fear is a Four Letter Word

  1. At 38, The Shining still gives me the creeps and scares me. Because it was true art ~ the suspense scares you from the beginning. I didn’t watch it until a few years ago, but it gave me the creeps much like The Silence of the Lambs and Cape Fear did.

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