I’ve read so much advice in the past about attacking or ignoring fear. Treating it as though it’s straight from the devil or pushing past it willfully. “Feel the fear and do it anyway,” always struck me as too simplistic, although perhaps I’m beginning to understand it. I don’t know what works for others (and will never claim to have the only right way to handle something), but none of these tactics for fear were ever very helpful to me.
You see, my fear often doesn’t show up as a demon on orders from an evil being or as a bully looking to take me down at all costs.
My fear usually shows up as a terrified four-year-old who has my face.
I can’t kick this child while she’s down. I can’t denounce her or send her away. In fact, it took me years to learn the fastest and easiest way to calm her down.
No, really. I look her in the eyes, take her trembling body in my arms and say, “Hi sweetheart. What’s wrong? You can tell me. I’ve got you.”
And she responds the way I imagine most overwrought four-year-olds who thought they had to throw a fit to be recognized, but instead are getting the attention they need respond.* She relaxes. Like immediately. And then, in a calm and clear voice, she explains to me what is wrong in her world.
You see, because I believe her right off the bat, because she doesn’t feel challenged or pressured, she can chill out and communicate the problem to me.
Is her problem sometimes wild, chaotic and unrealistic?
Oh, you bet it is.
But it’s not really about the problem or the solution at this point. My fear won’t respond to the logic that is capable of solving the problem, in fact. All she wants to know is that she’s being heard. That she’s not invalid. That she has a right to be here.
I may ultimately make a decision that disregards her worries (and often do, because I try hard not to be ruled by my fear). But the expectation of a final decision never precludes me from hearing her out in the first place. Never stops me from holding her hand while she cries. And when I’m ready to move on and take bolder action, I always reassure her that I’ve got her, and that anytime she’s the least bit nervous, she can come to me and we’ll handle it together.
I’ve become the adult in my own life. And I’m strong enough to hold her, always. I feel her fear. And I protect her and comfort her. And I move forward anyway.
*Sidenote to parents: I know this isn’t always the way a four-year-old will react because often times they don’t react rationally. If you’re having a rough day (or period) with your kiddo and rolling your eyes at me, I get it. Raising kids is tough work. Soldier on.