Fear is an internal battle that we can fight for our whole lives. We may not even be aware of its presence or influence and so it quietly dictates our decisions. But when we choose to look in the eye of fear and face off with it, we can overcome so much more than we can imagine! We can turn fear on its head and use it to work for us rather than against us.
Growing up, it was often that my mom and dad were already gone in the mornings, and it was up to us kids to make sure we caught the bus. When I was six years old and in First grade, there was a day when I took too long to gather my things for school. I walked out of our front door and froze as I watched the yellow bus driving away. I stood there trying to figure out what to do because I knew that the option of calling my parents was not an option; unless I wanted to face violent consequences, which I didn’t (Rage Storms). I had no idea how far my school was, but because I would get so bored on the bus, I had memorized the route. I decided that walking was my only choice. It felt very scary and lonely, but it was better than the alternative.
I began to follow the bus route, while trying to figure out if there was any way I could get out of this. As I passed the familiar houses in my neighborhood, I wondered if I should knock on someone’s door and ask for a ride. But I dismissed that idea because they would call my parents and snitch on me. Eventually, the sidewalk ran out as I reached the farm fields. As the cars raced by, I tried to stay as far away from the road as possible. Once I reached a street that was close to my school, I decided to walk along the ditch bank instead of the road so that people leaving the school wouldn’t see and recognize me. I really didn’t want my dad to find out that I had missed the bus! As I walked along the ditch bank, I desperately hoped that I wouldn’t see a dead body. We lived in the projects in a poor area of town and there were always cops pulling bodies out of the ditches. My worst fear was that, one day, I would find one. I walked as fast as my little legs could go! Then I got to the final road, and this is where I had to face my greatest fear.
At the intersection of the street that led to the school, there was a large fenced-in house. The family who lived there had experienced so many break-ins that they had gotten two Doberman Pinchers to guard the property. Those dogs snarled and barked at every bus, person and car that drove by! They were known for their viciousness, and everyone was afraid of them. I walked down the embankment as quietly as I could, hoping that they wouldn’t hear me. No such luck. They came full speed from wherever they were and began to bark and snarl at me. I sat down in the dirt and started to cry because I was incredibly scared. However, I knew that, somehow, I had to get passed them or I couldn’t get to school. I don’t know how long I sat there trying to muster up the courage, but I remember thinking about it logically. They are behind a fence that is too high for them to jump over. They attacked one kid, but that kid was stupid because they had tried to climb the fence. No one else has been caught by them. If I run as fast as I can, they can’t follow me passed their yard. All these thoughts rushed through my mind while fearful tears streamed down my face.
Finally, I took the edge of my shirt, dried my tear-soaked face, and decided that it was time to do it. I stood up and the dogs went crazy and began to jump up and down as if they were going to hop the fence this time. I looked to make sure no cars were coming, and with fear surging through every bone in my body I ran faster than I ever thought I could! As soon as I got passed the house, I looked back and saw the dogs turn and walk away. I DID IT!!! AND I DIDN’T DIE!! I literally jumped up and fist pumped the air because I felt so proud of myself!!! I couldn’t believe that I had faced the infamous dogs that all the kids talked about being afraid of! I walked the final ¼ of a block to the school, lied to the office and said that my parents had dropped me off, got a hall pass and went to class.
When I reflect on this story and the courage it took to walk the 1 ½ miles to school at six years old, I know that the only reason I made that choice was out of fear. I knew that if I had called my dad, he would have been angry and given me a beating before taking me to school. But it took courage to make that decision to walk to school; to take the first step; to navigate that busy road; to face that ditch; to face those dogs. Yet, I did it step by step!
Now, as I look back on my life, I can see that I did many things driven by the same motive. Fear of failure; fear of rejection; fear of embarrassment; fear of not being good enough. But I also see that, despite all the fears I faced inwardly, they never held me back outwardly. Instead, they propelled me forward and I have accomplished more in my life than I ever thought possible. Now, fear no longer has a place in my motivation factors because I know who I am, I know my value, and I believe in who I am. Courage and boldness have replaced the fears that I lived with for far too long!
When it comes to the victims I have worked with, the one thing I intentionally try to do is to speak empowerment into them. They may escape their circumstances, but the true mental hurdle is to overcome the amount of fear that can keep them trapped in a victim mentality. However, with every accomplishment they experience, and every skill they learn, they systematically break off those chains of fear. They slowly begin to discover who they are, and their abusers’ words become less and less effective. It may be a long process for these women and men, but it is possible and all it takes is applying courage to every fearful choice they must make.
It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” We all have locked up parts of ourselves just waiting to bust through. What is it that you want to be or do and have been held back by fear? The only person who can truly convince you that you are not good enough is YOU. You can choose to stop agreeing with nay-sayers and start speaking a different narrative to become the person that you were meant to be! Most importantly, don’t simply rise above the fear, break through it and put it in it’s proper place…under your feet as you run toward victory and success!
Until next time, be courageous and stay safe!