When fear gets in the way of our personal growth

When fear gets in the way of our personal growth

I’ve been thinking a lot about how fear can sometimes hold us back and get in the way of our personal growth. It’s taken a while for me to get to this head space, and I know I still have a long way to go, but I’m beginning to understand the basis behind some of my fears and acknowledging that they’re usually baseless. A few years back, I joined in on the popular train of this whole listening to your intuition and gut feeling and if it’s telling you not to do it, then don’t do it. Unfortunately I was confusing it with the feelings of fear and discomfort.

A few years ago, I was interviewing for a teaching job and it was going really well. The Principal who was interviewing me was super positive and welcoming, which was already a good first sign. We chatted for a while about my experiences and teaching goals and afterwards she took me on  a tour of the school, even taking me to the class I would be teaching. When we got into the classroom, I immediately felt light headed and stressed. I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest and my hands were a clammy mess. I think I somewhat shut down a bit to help curb these feelings and just tried to keep a smile on my face, hoping for it to be over. Why did I have that reaction? Well, my first year of teaching hadn’t gone as well as I had hoped (as most teachers I have spoken to after that 1st experience can attest to). And so being in the classroom started bringing up all of these feelings – which at the time I wasn’t analyzing. I was focused more on HOW it was making me feel, rather than WHY I was feeling that way.

After the tour, we went back into her office and she gave subtle cues that the job was mine if I wanted it. And because of the fear, I let it get in the way, and I asked if I could have some time to think about it. I think she was a bit taken a back since teaching jobs are few and far between, so most people don’t hesitate when they’re offered a position, they just take it. I stumbled out of the school with a jumble of feelings whirling around inside of me and trying to figure out what would be the best way forward. I remember pulling into the grocery store parking lot and sitting inside my parked car trying to analyze how I was feeling. I  thought, what does my gut say? My “gut” (aka my fear and discomfort) was telling me not to take it. I remember thinking, if I’m feeling stressed already about the class and my “gut” keeps saying no, then the decision most obviously is no.

Luckily I didn’t stop there though, I decided to use one of my lifelines and called a friend. I told her what I was thinking and that I wasn’t going to do it. And as a good friend, she listened patiently as I relayed my story and then at the end I said, “If I’m already feeling like this, it must be my gut telling me not to do it, so I’m not going to do it.” And she replied with the most magical response that snapped me out of it: “What is the worst that can happen if you do do this?” And then she went on to point out the reasons why I should take it, including the fact that my first year was horrible, and to try again to see if I would get the same experience or maybe a better one? Plus, it was already December, so I only had 6 months until the end of the school year. When you think about it in the grand scheme of things, 6 months isn’t that long. And so, standing in the produce aisle, with a basket full of vegetables, I (with the aid of my friend) made the decision to go for it. I rushed home and contacted the Principal and asked if I could still have the position – and luckily it was still available.

Those 6 months weren’t perfect but they confirmed for me all the reasons why I became a teacher and it definitely made me a better educator. I met some amazing children  who inspired me and made me want to be a better teacher. I also had the pleasure of working with great colleagues who were supportive and encouraging. At the end of the school year, I was actually sad to leave the classroom and the students behind and I’m so glad that I didn’t let my “gut” point me in the opposite direction.

Fear and discomfort are facts of life and they’re going to be constantly around, unless of course you try to run away from them or hide them or keep them quiet with other things to distract you. But when I finally made the realization that I can’t escape those feelings and just learn to accept and work with them, it definitely changed my outlook on life.  Now when I’m faced with opportunities or experiences that make me feel scared and uncomfortable, I don’t say no right away, instead, I ask myself “What’s the worse that can happen?” and if the answer does NOT include, death, bodily harm, horrible mental anguish, any other horrible permanent damage, etc. then I usually go for it. I realize that doing things outside of my comfort zone can only help me grow as a person, and in the end, isn’t that what we’re all here for?

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