What am I afraid of?….this simple 5 word question that was asked of me rolled around in my mind. Not so simple. As a person usually quick with a snappy response…to my surprise and chagrin, I struggled to answer. I’ll give the intelligent response as Marrian Williamson’s words from A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Ch. 7, Section 3 (1992), p. 190. popped into my head:
‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…”
I talked myself out of it – no need to wax poetic, just answer the question. What am I afraid of? Hmmm… I felt like I had been stricken with a weird momentary muteness. I could not get my mouth and brain to synchronize and formulate an audible response. I agonized as what felt like eons ticked by slowly while he patiently waited for a reply.
In a blink I went from being poised to recite my high level, non-evasive, not too personal reply (heights, needles, aliens taking all shoes from the earth..etc.) to having what appeared externally to being a paralyzing moment. Internally there was a flurry of activity that looked a lot like’Fear’ in the movie Inside Out–
Then it happened. I said it. I opened my mouth and the most honest response blurted out. I wanted to snatch the string of words back as I watched them stream out of my mouth into the atmosphere. I sounded ridiculous! Not words that would be spoken out of the mouth of a self-assured, confident woman I strive to personify. The words that came out were probably the most vulnerable I have allowed myself to be in a very long time. I nervously mumbled a confession. A realization that my sister and I concluded in an AHA! moment over coffee.
While I do have a case of acrophobia (fear of heights) my admission was that I’ve been trained to not share my fears. Any fear is a sign of weakness and weakness is not acceptable. Only the strong survive, not the weak. Never let them see you sweat, remember? Allowing anyone close enough to know your fears/weaknesses means that you have to trust someone with your vulnerabilities and you can’t trust anyone. Sound familiar?
You know the expression: familiarity breeds contempt. An idiom that refers to extensive knowledge of or close association with someone or something leads to a loss of respect for them or it. (Psychology Today expounds further here). No thanks, I’ll avoid all of this by keeping it to myself. Fear? What Fear? I’m not afraid of anything!…well maybe.
The good news is what happened next. After I gave my answer the earth didn’t swallow me whole. The sun didn’t fall out of the sky. No one ran out of the room never to be heard from again and I didn’t break out in skittle hives. In fact, along with my sister I thought about the 1,400 women who shared about these same pressures in this study. Nope, I’m not alone. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3 as I share the fears I’ve been hiding Under my Brim.