How I Have Let Fear Define My Life

I have let fear define many elements of my life. Not necessarily the elements that someone would expect, but fear was the guiding decision making factor.

20140912 - How I Have Let Fear Define My LifeAs far back as I can remember, I have always been willing to take engage in risky, highly adventurous activities. As a kid I always stood on the tips of my toes to get onto the biggest rollercoasters. At 18 I jumped out of a plane and went skydiving. At 28 I went into a cage with a 440lbs (200kg) tiger and dragged my rather reluctant husband along to take photos. I have never been one to say no to an adventure and the adrenaline rush based in fear of an extreme potentially life risking activity.

Yet, when it comes to my big decisions in my life, I have let fear into the equation.

As a kid, I dreamed of being a lawyer – yes, I was the type of kid. I had no dreams of a big white wedding, or fairy-tale romance or becoming the next princess. Instead, my Barbie’s were always lawyers. In fact, if I dig out my grade 6 year book I made mention of aspiring to be lawyer. To this day, people assume I am a lawyer. On a regular basis, I am asked why I am not a lawyer. Well, I can assure you I am not a lawyer. I never wrote my LSAT and I never went to law school, instead I went to grad school in a completely different field. I didn’t become a lawyer for 2 reasons.

  • First, I had never failed anything in my life, and I didn’t want to fail the LSAT. Or, what if I passed the LSAT, and still didn’t get in? Simply put, I was afraid of failure. So, because I was drastically less likely to fail, I applied to grad schools in a couple different fields and got into a few.
  • Second, I chose not to go to law school because I wanted a family friendly career. After meeting with a few female lawyers, and having them tell me that it is not a family friendly profession and they chose not to have children and in fact were not able to manage long term relationships very well. And while I know some women have done it all, I came to believe that I could not be the lawyer I wanted to be or the mother I wanted to be at the same time. (Needless to say no the irony of this is decision making criteria is not lost of me).  I should also point out that I now know a few female lawyers who are amazing mothers, so I mean no disrespect to anyone.

To this day, my husband still comments on the fact that he thinks I should have gone to law school. And to be honest, if we don’t have kids, part of me thinks I should do it. But, truth be told, after my life experiences in the last few years, I now have no interest in the hours required of an articling student. I think I needed to do that in my younger years, so I really doubt I’ll ever go back to law school. Funny how life works out sometimes.

Anyways, this isn’t a post about my coming to terms with not being a lawyer. Although, it is starting to turn into that. So, moving on.

Another example of letting fear help make my decisions was my adamant refusal to stop working when everything started to crash in on me a few years ago. The short version of the story is that I hated my job in a high stress industry and worked way too many hours for an employer who wasn’t always nice, and we also started having multiple miscarriages and high risk pregnancies and all the medical appointments that come along with that. I couldn’t balance everything, it was becoming evident to me, and possibly to others. Medical advice was that I should leave my job and take a break, I ignored it. Funny enough, I sought out professional advice on strategies to reduce my stress and learn to cope, but then I quickly ignored the advice I was given. Why did I ignore the advice? Simple, I associated the decision to quit my job with failure. Failure to do everything, and to do so perfectly. I couldn’t imagine letting myself down in such a tremendous way. (After our 4th loss, it became evident that something had to change. And here we are today, I’m nearly unemployed by choice and am working to learn to live a more balanced lifestyle).

Oh, and we cannot forget the giant impact fear is having on our decision to adopt or not to adopt or the possibility of living childfree.

But, here’s where I have to ask myself, why have a let fear have such a tremendous impact on these rather important decisions?

Was it fear of not leading the perfect life (as defined by my very high personal standards) and letting myself down?

I have always set insanely high standards for myself. My definition of perfect has no room for even the smallest of errors. I would never expect others to meet these standards, but anything less than perfect and success has never been something I’ve allowed for myself. (Hence, the name of my blog – a little play on my obsession with perfect, even when I’m clearly going through a significant life altering experience). So yes, letting myself down was a significant factor in letting fear influence some pretty big decisions. This just might have been the most important factor in all of this.

 

Was is fear of letting others see me as weak?

I have never been one to care too much about what other people think. I firmly believe in leading a positive life and leaving a lasting positive impact on the world. Yet, if someone doesn’t like me then I don’t tend to care too much and don’t tend to lose sleep over it. I realize, just as I don’t like everyone I encounter, not everyone will like me. Yet, having lived a life defined by academic and professional successes, it is very hard to let people see the vulnerability that exists. It’s one thing for me to struggle with something, but it’s a whole other thing to tell my professional colleagues what struggles are going on in my personal life. I have always kept my professional and personal lives very separate, and now I had to bring them together and let others know what is going on in my personal life and also acknowledge that not everything is perfect. So really, to start telling people about our challenging path to parenthood, and that I’m taking a break from work became about sharing my vulnerability and admitting that I’m not perfect. But absolutely not about shame or embarrassment over our situation, it was purely about letting the perfect façade come down and the type of personal transformation that required from me.

 

Was it fear of letting my husband down?

Yes, absolutely there is fear of letting my husband down. He fell in love with and married an unbelievably practical person driven by rational thought. And now, all the sudden, I am making decisions based on emotional criteria. Even though we made the decision together, taking a break from a high paying career to focus on me, my health, and our potential child’s health is so different than anything I’ve ever done before. So yes fear of letting him down is ever present.

Was it fear of letting my dead mom and sister down?

As for letting my dead mom and sister down, I almost laughed out loud when I wrote this sentence. First because it is so very true. I think in some ways I decided long ago, while I was still a teenager, that I have to lead the perfect life to honor them and make them proud. In some sense, I think I felt that if I was the one left alive, I had better make it a good life.  In a way living my life and living for my sister as well.  Second, I laughed because they are dead, and so have no way to be proud of me. I’ve let the idea of making two dead people proud of me influence my life in extreme ways. How very, very odd for me, a person lead by practical and rational thought.

So, I think my fear is grounded in all of these things.

While, I wouldn’t say that I my life revolves around fear, I would absolutely acknowledge that I have let fear of failure and fear of letting myself down and fear of letting select others down, play a part in my decision making.

More often than not, I can recognize when fear is playing a role in my decision making, and I am able to make a decision to push ahead in the face of fear. Or, I can recognize that fear should exist and doesn’t (i.e. tiger cage). But, now that I’ve spent time thinking about my relationship with fear, and therefore learning about it, I am more able to analyze why my fear exists. What is the root cause of my fear? What does the fear mean to me? And, what should I do based on where the fear is coming from. What has become important to me is to acknowledge why the fear exists and is part of decision making. Then, and only then, am I able to make an educated decision on what influence I should let the specific fear have on my decision making.

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11 Comments on “How I Have Let Fear Define My Life

  1. Great post! I can’t believe you went sky diving. I am a bit terrified of heights and falling so I doubt I will sky dive in my life time 🙂 Just thinking about having to jump out of the plane makes me physically sick. Lol!

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    • Thanks! I have never been afraid of heights, but I don’t think I’d do it again for no other reason that it just doesn’t seem like a good idea.
      And funny story about skydiving – I freaked out and didn’t want to do it, but the instructor slowly coxed me out of the plane and onto the wing. He then said something like “don’t worry about it, in about 10 seconds your arms will give out and you will fall.” That’s precisely what happened 🙂

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  2. There is so much going on in your post, I don’t know where to respond.

    I keep coming back to your comment: “I’ve let the idea of making two dead people proud of me influence my life in extreme ways. How very, very odd for me, a person lead by practical and rational thought.”

    Here’s the thing…what is the opposite of fear? Is it courage? I don’t think so, because people who show courage are often filled with fear, but move though it…and that is courageous. Is it Confidence? I suppose that is part of it, but again, I have seen people full of confidence (yourself for example) that display absolute moments of courage, because no one is ever 100% confident in everything. Is it Faith? I suppose that’s part of it as well, and yet I see people full of faith that show it by living through fear…moving to courage…and faith just being the grounding source.

    We are human. We ALL struggle. NO ONE is perfect. So, is it admitting what we already know…that we are fallible and all need grace?

    You see, I can relate to loss and striving to be someone wanting my life to stronger, fuller, and better. Is that my way of coping? Is that my way of HONORING those that I lost at such a tender age, and loved so much, and miss still? Obviously, I could go on and on, but I want you to know…you are not alone. You are an amazing woman. Your strength and courage run deep and show in the questions you write about above. You honor them with this. I see you living your life…not falling apart…keeping them in your conscience or subconscious…but making them “proud” is also honoring those you loved so much. (((Hugs)))

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    • Ya, there was a lot going on in that post – thanks for following!

      I love your thoughts on the opposite of fear and courage. I agree, I really don’t think courage is the opposite of fear, and in fact I don’t know what the opposite actually is. I think if anything courage is one of the motivating factors to get someone to move beyond fear. In a sense it’s what gets people to face fear. I think you said this so well.

      I absolutely appreciate your understanding on wanting to live a stronger, fuller and more meaningful life to honor someone. I hate that it takes such a profound loss (or some other profound experiences) to understand what I mean, but I am grateful that you are able to understand.

      And, thank you so much for your kind words about my character. I feel in many ways in the last year, as I’ve been working to survive RPL, I have become a lot more accepting of the real me, rather then the perfect version of me I had in my head. It’s been so hard to learn all of this, and accept all of this, but I am humbled that you are able to see it simply through my writing.
      Your kindness and support really does mean the world to me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I get that! Now, I’m too scared to even go for a daily bike ride or run as I’m told the risks for a future pregnancy are too high! Who knew I’d end up giving up something so seemingly simple out of fear?

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  3. Wow, a lot of thoughts here. Why don’t you meet yourself halfway? You could take the LSAT and then decide once you do some more research. Just take the damn test in a few months. Prepare for it and look at what is possible after that. Better to have more choices than less choices, right?

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    • Ya, I think that post was a bit all over the place – probably should have been broken up into a few separate posts.
      Anyways, you definitely pose an interesting idea about just writing the LSAT and seeing what happens – my husband has been telling me for a few years to do it. Maybe…

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  4. Hmm. You warned me this post was coming but I didn’t see it sprouting the many tentacles it has. Others are right – you have a great deal going on here.

    Your relationship to fear fascinates me. It is so different from mine even though we have so many other things in common. I see a journey for you in navigating how fear enters and where it is absent from your life. You have created the iceberg’s tip; I will watch with continued fascination as you discover what else exists on and in the iceberg.

    As for being a lawyer… Overrated. Though it does pay well enough in some places. For that I am grateful (as without it my RPL issues would likely have remained undiagnosed and my chance of obtaining the medical supports I need impossible. You take the crunchy with the smooth I suppose!

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    • I think this post maybe could have used some more editing and being broken up into smaller pieces. Or maybe, it’s perfect as it is, simply because it does show the complexity of what’s going on in my mind. I dunno, either way, I’m not about to go change it now.

      Anyways, I love your analogy of what’s on and in the iceberg as it relates to my fears and what I will continue to figure out. Oh, the fun that is self-discovery…

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this. I can definitely relate to the part where you wrote about having such high standards for yourself but not necessarily holding others to those same high standards. Thank you for sharing this! ❤

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