Unlearning Fear and Foolishness

“I constantly live in fear,” she said squinting her almond shaped eyes as she smiled nervously. “But that’s just me, I guess.”

Image originated from The Skit Guys.

I was talking with a friend, and she was crossed between a mother’s lament in protecting her child from unforeseen dangers and her inability to take chances with her own life. I’m not talking about bucket list chances (skydiving, bungee jumping or cliff diving), I’m talking about honest to goodness fear of doing something unassuming, like swimming.

“I never learned to swim. . . ,” there was a small tremor in her voice. “. . . and the thought of my baby in a pool. . . ,  ”she continued shaking her head.

What could I say, I couldn’t swim either.

Her gaze turned downward and lingered as if to seek an answer. Suddenly, her eyes widened like she remembered something. A muffled sound escaped her mouth and then a small puff of air.“I shouldn’t place MY fears on my daughter,  right?. . . ,” she smiled looking at me.

Right.

And then I thought about my life, I cannot begin to tell you about the dozens of inherited fears I have. These are burdens that I’ve carried around for years that were never actually mine. They were part superstition, part sound advice, and part just downright foolishness.

It’s more than not stepping on a sidewalk crack, breaking mirrors or splitting trees.  As kids we were taught to enter and leave the house through the same doors, to not sweep in front of our houses after dark,  and to not play with our shadows. 

I didn’t question, I just obeyed. Those fears and beliefs became my fears and beliefs.

Because of this inherited mindset, I try to be mindful of how I interact with my children, family and friends, not limiting their aspirations to my own insecurities or lack of understanding.

I decided that playing with my shadow is a good thing, hell, they even wrote a song about it. I come and go as I please in and out my house, and I honestly don’t have a reason to sweep outside after dark.

But I won’t test fate, I refuse to step on a sidewalk crack.

Think about your own life. What are some of your fears? Are they truly yours?

18 thoughts on “Unlearning Fear and Foolishness

  1. This is so familiar to me. I kind of got emotional reading this. Are the fears I live with really mine or are they “learned”? This post leaves me with a lot to think about. This is why I love reading your blog. You talk about real life situations and things that we can all relate to in some way! I look forward to the next post. Thank you!

    • Right! My sister and I were just talking about even more things we were taught as children…it’s amazing how we internalize and own other people’s fears. I do believe this fear based learning can be applied to most of the “-isms” we encounter today as well.

  2. Wow. That takes me back! You are so right! From now on I am trimming my nails anytime I want–Even on Sunday!

  3. Great post!! My mom’s greatest fear was looking foolish to the neighbors… Is this why I hid my writing for all those years? I am stepping outside that fear now- especially if it was inherited. :)

    • That’s interesting. I think if we all are honest with ourselves, we DO care about looking foolish to other people. The hardest lesson I am learning is to be me in spite of what others think. No need to please folks….
      Thanks so much for leaving a comment, come again.

    • I’m pretty sure there are plenty of folks that share your sentiment. Shame is a powerful emotion, isn’t it? …and it usually bring friends…What’s the saying?….”doubt is the brother of shame.” Alas.

  4. I have a post scheduled to post in the morning. It’s about the messages we learned growing up, and pass on to our offspring. There are no accidents, and it is certainly no accident that I found this post on your page today! Thank you for this profoundly inspirational little ditti!

  5. I remember reading various articles noting that many people are more afraid of public speaking than death! lol. That doesn’t shock me, people are born irrational.

    The way I see it, being fearful isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. After all, evolutionary scientists have evidence that it’s because of our instincts and fears for danger, our species was able to survive in the wild for millions of years. If early humans were not mindful of what dangerous wild beast could jump out behind the tree at anytime, they would be dead. If we didn’t look for patterns in nature that could harm us, we would likely also be dead. And even though chances of a bear jumping out to eat us in the city is unlikely, we still held on to that inherent instinct. I don’t think people should constantly live in paranoia, but being always fearful is sort of in our genes, and we can’t help it.

    • I agree, and you raise an interesting perspective. Fear to a certain degree is actually healthy…fear can be used as a motivator. Now when it prevents you from living life and debilitates you, it’s time to rethink the motivation. Thanks for the great insight.

  6. My mother wouldn’t let us even take swimming lessons, because a cousin of hers had drowned. I vowed not to pass that fear on. My daughter loved swimming so much she swam for the high school team. My grandson is “swimming” at five months! Me? I still have the fear, but I do water aerobics three times a week.

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