On Fear

I’m going to tell you a story, one that I don’t think I’ve told many people or anyone.. that I can think of at this moment..

In college, I had this professor named Dr. Smith– obviously not his real name. He was a good professor, but the first class I took of his was during a very busy semester. I periodically skipped classes, and one day I walked into his class and there was a test that I had no idea was going to take place that day. I stared at that test half way through the class until I finally asked him if I retook it, and had I said that in the beginning he would’ve let me, and I’m pretty sure I made a 40 on it. Anyway, to make a long story short I made a C in that class, barely– in fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t even earn that C. The following summer semester, I took another class by him. A harder class at that. Not only was it harder, but the classes were more intense due to the time restrictions in a summer course– so longer class + more information = brain overload. My attention span for listening to someone lecture caps at about 1-1.5 hours, and that’s pushing it. Our first test for that class was the first week, I believe and I don’t remember what circumstances surrounded me going to his office to find out my grade on his first test, but he told me I got a 97, and was the person that screwed up the curve– not in those words, but I was that person. Afterwards, you’d think I’d be happy? You’d be happy, right? Unless you’re already really smart, and are the kind of person to think to yourself that you were so close to that 100. But what happened next, I’ll never forget. So he tells me my grade, and then he looks at my concerned, and says, “you can look happy.” I must’ve looked really upset or something, or at least not as one should look upon hearing such news.

I think about that moment a lot, it’s a defining moment, for me, even if it seems like such a small thing. I still think about that moment, because that reaction revealed something about myself I never wanted to acknowledge. I wish my thought led straight to happiness, and the feeling of accomplishment, but that’s not how it panned out. I slightly panicked in my head, because after that moment there were these expectations (from myself). And I’m not sure about you, but I had these fears that I was a fraud, and at any moment someone’s going to figure out that I’m not smart or capable enough to be here– in regards to college. I constantly compared myself to other people, and in my head I know that one can’t always be the smartest, or best at things, but there are parts of me that won’t register it and it just ruins me. It ruins me, and I let it. It’s not that way for some people, I get it, but for me that’s how I am. I wish I was the kind of person to be driven by proving people wrong, but most of the time, I’m not that woman.

There is a side of me that thinks I’m intelligent and capable of doing many things, but that other side of me that fears not being smart enough or lacking capabilities gets in the way at times. The older I get, the less I listen to the negative side and just go or things, and if I fail I at least know I tried so I don’t have to look back on my 20s as the wasted years. The older I get, the more I try to own my accomplishments– for instance, I got accepted into the graduate school I wanted to get into! I’m not going to lie, the thought of being the dumb one in class has crossed my mind, but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing what I’ve been wanting (and needing) to do for such a long time. The fear of something, isn’t the same as it actually happening, and one shouldn’t let their fears stop them from seeking their full potential. Success is scary, but failure due to lack of trying is not an option and something that will leave you with regret for the rest of your life– and I’m terribly afraid of ending up a content person who didn’t live up to their potential and just grazed by in life accomplishing nothing important.

I write this not to be a Debbie Downer, but because I think it’s important to acknowledge your fears and try to grow.. and because I think this is one of those unspoken fears that many people have. I’m currently reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and it mentions that many women have these same feelings. Why is that? One of the many findings noted in the book is that there are studies to show that women tend to attribute their successes to luck, and men attribute their success to their own skill. This goes back to my story about that test grade, I should have called that score what it was– something I earned, not some fluke. Now, I catch myself doing certain things this book points out– like how we as women don’t take compliments well, or how we risk little for the sake of comfort but gain little because of it. It points to several issues, many of which I’ll save for a different post for a different day, but you get my point. I recommend reading the book, it’ll open your eyes to things happening in front of you, but you’ll gain a new perspective. One of the main points in the book is– what would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do, if you weren’t afraid? I want you to think about that, and then wonder if what’s stopping you from doing what you want really a legitimate reason to not do something. You’re more capable of achieving more than you realize. I’ll end this by sharing some things I would do if I wasn’t afraid, because if I can’t share with y’all, who can I share with? Wink. And because, what have I got to lose? Absolutely nothing.

  • I would travel more, especially to more rural areas.
  • I would get my doctorate. I did get accepted to a master’s program for school, and i’m about 90% sure I’ll be doing it this fall.. still scared though.
  • I would tell my friends the truth more often when they do something that I don’t believe a friend would/should do. Although, I do believe there’s a time and a place for things, I’m the kind of person to just let things bubble and then cut people off completely.
  • I’d apologize less.
  • I would speak my mind at work.
  • I’d speak more candidly. I know what my friends are thinking.. but most of what I rant about is a very edited version of what I actually think.
  • I would stick up for myself more.
  • I’d write more uninhibited posts, such as this one.
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