Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fear Less

What's it like to be one of the confident people? You know, the ones whose every thought and action isn't tainted by their fear? Fear of what, you might ask? Fear of failure. Fear of success. Just... fear.

I know those people exist. I'm married to one of them. When he decides to do something, he does it. When he's faced with a new challenge, he assumes he can do it. Self-doubt, nervousness, anxiety, fear of not doing it right - none of that enters his brain.

But it enters mine. All the time. It's distressing and disabling, frankly. How many things have I not tried for because I was afraid of something? Of anything? Too many to count. It's embarrassing to admit that, but it's true.

All through graduate school I doubted my own abilities. Other people could do exceptional work and write intelligent, well-researched papers and books, but I was always afraid I wasn't good enough. Even when my advisor, himself a brilliant medievalist, insisted he thought not only could I do it, but I'd be great at it, I doubted him. I know this played a role in me deciding not to finish the dissertation. (I do still think that was the best decision overall given the direction in which I wanted my life to go - i.e., a family -, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit some of the reason I decided not to finish was simply that I worried I couldn't.)

In some ways, then, being a stay-at-home mom has been quite the safe haven for me. Leaving this haven feels scary. But as Ellie is nearly 5 and will begin kindergarten next year, it's something I've been thinking seriously about for a while. Part of me wants to stay home for legitimate reasons - the flexibility of being here for sick days and vacations, for being able to help out in the classroom, for being able to get projects done and just maintain the house a lot better, etc. Part of me probably wants to stay home out of fear, though. And that's not cool.

I heard today about a potential part-time job that *might* be created at my kids' school next year. I got excited - and immediately scared. I did mention to a board member and the academic director that I am interested in this job, which I very much am. It's an administrative assistant type thing, something I do think, in my more rational moments, I'd be quite good at and which would encompass some things I already do for the school, such as editing a newsletter, etc. But the fearful side of me has been plaguing me all day with silly thoughts ranging from, "You can't do it" to "They don't like you" to "Your skills are too outdated and they'll find that out and be mad."

How dumb is this? First of all, I don't even know if the job will EXIST - it's dependent on a lot of financial figures and school enrollment numbers for next year. Secondly, it's months away! Plenty of time for me to brush up on my Office skills, web page abilities, etc. Third, maybe someone else would land the job, but that doesn't necessarily have to reflect poorly on me. Fourth, well. I don't know fourth. I just know this fear is silly, but it paralyzes me at the same time.

And that's no laughing matter.

Tell me, how do I become one of the confident people?

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