Nothing to fear

Published 9:35 am Friday, March 29, 2013

Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address as president, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Profound words and words that I’ve been repeating to myself quite a bit lately.

Everyone has fears, whether trivial such as a fear of wasps or snakes, or extreme and weighty like fear of death, fear is very real.

Courage is often defined as overcoming your fears, but as Nelson Mandela said, “Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

As I’ve aged, I have come to believe that I’m much braver than I used to be. And for the most part that still holds true. I am not afraid to cut someone out of my life if they are not a positive influence or encouraging and sure. I am not afraid to uproot myself and start a new chapter in my life (to a certain extent). I am not afraid to make big decisions and I’m not afraid to tell people what is on my mind or how I feel.

But in my new job and dare I say, new “role” I’m obligated to fulfill, I’m learning that I am fearful. Some would say that fear might be too strong a word to describe what’s going on inside my head. I guess I could say I’m anxious or apprehensive, but the fear is very real.

Walking into a meeting full of people you do not know has been a big, fat, scary thing for me to overcome this week. Driving to the meeting, I was giving myself a pep talk OUT LOUD, mind you. “You can do this,” I kept repeating.

Anxiety has a way of creeping up on you, following you around, and then BAM, it smacks you on the head and – me being me – I tend to wig out. I made attending that meeting out to be a bigger deal than it should have been, but I wanted to be accepted and I wanted to fulfill my role as a writer and representative of this paper in the correct way.

As a young child, I was very shy. I was afraid of many things but, as the years have passed, I’ve grown out of the shyness and strived to climb out of my shell and be more gregarious.

During my teenage and early adulthood, I often threw caution to the wind and became very adventerous. Now, however, I’m back to being cautious and watchful. I pride myself on being astute, vigilant and some may even say guarded. Life has a way of making you that way.

But going to the meeting this week shook me and, as an adult, I felt very young and insecure.

Now that it is behind me, I’m realizing that it was my own fear and my own over-active mind that made me feel so different. It was uncharacteristic and it bothered me on many levels.

In the midst of my worry about fitting in and being accomplished, a gesture of kindess from someone at that meeting made all the difference in the world. Her words of encouragement were exactly the tonic I needed to bring me back to the person I really am.

As Erica Jong wrote, “I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change…I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….”

Kind words went a long way to turning my fear this week. That’s not to say it won’t hit me again in the coming weeks and months, as I learn this job and relearn the people and place I grew up. But I know that I’m not the only one who feels such things. Poets and authors and lyricists galore have written countless words about fear. I am not alone in my fear.

Moving forward, I want to use Roosevelt’s words and confirm to myself that my fear is actually much less than I’m making it out to be.

A wise man once told me that worry is a useless emotion, so I hope to apply that same philosophy to fear.

Lucy Wallace is managing editor of The Tidewater News. Her email address is