Deciding Not To Be Afraid

Shadow self-portrait with seed pod

I was walking into the living room, with a plate of cheese and crackers, where our friends were sitting having a glass of wine before dinner.   On the way I had this realization that I’ve always been afraid to offer people cheese and crackers like I was about to do.  So afraid and embarrassed, I never told anyone about it, not even Jon.

Immediately after acknowledging this, I decided that this time I would do something different, this time I wouldn’t be afraid.

Later that same evening, I got into a political discussion about something I feel strongly about.

Usually when politics come up in a conversation, I go quiet.

Politics always seem a dangerous subject to me.  I experienced too many angry arguments growing up in my family to feel comfortable expressing my point of view.   I learned from my mother when to stop talking,  how to become invisible and how to stay out of trouble.

It’s hard to write this, embarrassing to admit that I felt fear and anxiety about passing around cheese and crackers to friends.  It’s not something I thought about, just something that always was.

I don’t know where the idea to do something different came from last night.  I don’t know where the courage came from for me to let go of my fear.  I imagine it was a much desired change, shifting slowly inside of me.

I know that when I walked into the living room and offered our friends the cheese and crackers and didn’t worry, as I always have, that I was pushing food on them,  offering them something they might not want but felt obliged to eat, I felt different.

I wasn’t hesitant, apologetic or anticipating rejection.   I wasn’t offering my own issues and fears (I still don’t really understand them all) along with the cheese and crackers as I had done in the past.

It was an honest and direct exchange.  I made an offer and the person could either accept or reject it.  That simple.

And later when I was thoughtfully and passionately expressing my opinion in the conversation we were having, I wasn’t afraid either.    I spoke my mind and even though there was disagreement, no one yelled at me, no one got up and walked out angry, no one tried to make me feel stupid about what I was saying.

And even if they had, I decided I wasn’t going to be afraid of those things that kept me quiet for so long.

I know that admitting to myself my fear of serving cheese and crackers (as weird as it still sounds to me) and making the choice not to feel it, was what freed me to be able to voice my opinion later in the evening.  Because it was a truth I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit.

And the more I kept it hidden, the more I repressed it, the stronger it grew.

But bringing it into the light and acting on it, behaving differently, released its power over me.

I feel like I’ve been discovering my fears and learning to let go of them for years.  Some of them  are so ingrained in me (like the cheese and crackers), they are  such a part of who I am, I didn’t even see them as something I have a choice about.

But being honest about my fears, having  someone I can trust to tell them too, without having to worry that I’ll be ridiculed, makes confronting and dealing with them so much easier.

I had a hard time writing this piece.  In some ways it felt trite to me considering the fears that so many people have to deal with.

But it’s really about the fear, not the cheese and crackers.   It’s about understanding and being able to change myself for the better.

It’s about finding my strength and my voice, again and again.

15 thoughts on “Deciding Not To Be Afraid

  1. Thank you for writing about fear, Maria. I agree our fears and anxieties don’t often make logical sense but nonetheless are present. Social anxiety is something I felt for decades.

  2. Oh man Maria, this spoke to me. Sometimes I feel fear at the idea of walking across a room or speaking up in a group. Or simply saying hello or goodbye when leaving somewhere. I so get the cheese and crackers because it’s the initiating of contact that strikes the fear, the bringing of any kind of attention and the possible rejection. I like how Jon says ‘fear is just a space to cross’. We just have to keep it movin!
    Luanne

  3. You are not alone! It’s funny the stories we tell ourselves, and how we project our insecurities onto other people and decide how they are going to feel or react to something we say or do before we say or do it. We write an entire novel before we even enter the room. But more often than not, cheese and crackers are just . . . cheese and crackers.

  4. Not weird at all Maria. I believe your little bit of anxiety is much more common than you may realize.
    I think it’s amazing how you face your fears, evolve, and express yourself!

  5. I hadn’t thought of it that way Luanne, but I do think that’s a part of it, making that initial contact. I’ll have to think of that more….

  6. “…having someone I can trust to tell them too.” Must make a lot of difference. Bet it would give me a little more courage. Otherwise comforting the fears is like picking a scab. Better to leave it be. For me. Thanks for writing Maria.

  7. Oh how interesting. All my life I have been delighted to be offered food and snacks but NOT when pressured to do so. I have had alcoholic friends who tried to make us both drink with them. I had no trouble in refusing, my husband found it very difficult. This is the crux of the matter I think–food offered in friendship = good but food offered to cover other people’s problems = a problem.

  8. Maria, this made me think of the codependency that I am recovering from; I worried so much about what I thought others thought about me, and about their feelings and responses to me. I can see easily now, where this came from (thanks to skilled therapy) as my parents taught us to “manage” others feelings and responses – in response to their own fears. They were only doing what they had been taught, too. A vicious cycle. I have broken the cycle, with much help and with massive amounts of self-love. I see your life as a treatise on self-love, which in turn, makes you able to love and appreciate others – purely, with no management of any kind.

  9. You’re right, It is very codependent Karla, something I too have dealt with and obviously still am in some ways. And yes to self love, It’s a long time coming and a constant process. Thanks for your thoughts.

  10. I always liked that saying “You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Anytime I get stuck in my own head I remind myself that everyone else probably is as well.

  11. I’ve never heard that one before. It’s interesting, I used to worry a lot about what people thought about me. And now that I’m so visible, I worry less. I’m not sure which came first, giving up caring, or putting myself out into the world.

  12. It’s synergistic. Not caring frees you to put yourself out there. Putting yourself out there teaches you not to care. And so the wheel turns.

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