Fighting Fear

I’ve noticed there has been a lot fear-based talk circulating recently.

Fear grips this country. It has a vice like hold on our nation and on every human being that resides here. Due to recent political strife, people are more apprehensive, more divided and more hopeless than ever. Faced with this (very real) fear, we’ve become callous, hateful and spiteful.

Fear is evident, but rarely talked about, amongst 22+ year-old postgraduates. We are fighting, whether consciously or not, a society that tells us we need to have it all together and have a definitive plan for our future. We are afraid that we won’t measure up.

I am fearful as a new Christian about defending my faith and successfully navigating this tumultuous time with grace and empathy and passion. I fear inauthenticity and have a desperate need to be “different from the rest.”

But my very deepest, most hidden fear is this: I am not enough. That I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, intentional, empathetic, hard working, vulnerable, funny, tough, loving enough. I don’t do enough for my team, my family, my friends, at my work, in my writing, in reading the Bible, etc etc etc. The mental rant goes on and on.

To my concerned audience members, yes, I know this is a BIG. FAT. LIE. And if any of my friends came to me with these insecurities, I would be able to tick off no less than 1,000 reasons why they are, in fact, enough.

But in my lowest of days, I have an uncanny ability to convince myself of my insufficiencies. I dwell in my failures. I think all of us are capable of creating beautifully seductive lies to tell ourselves. And we do so on a daily basis.

My fear of not being enough became glaringly evident this summer, when I was at home, unable to fill up my days with my typical business, and thus forced to deal with my many doubts and uncertainties. Left to my own devices, I starting believing the little devils in my head. Eventually I realized that my biggest fear bled into another– that I will end up alone. Not necessarily in a romantic sense (although if we are being embarrassingly honest, this is a very real, and very annoying, fear that I hate to admit) but in an overall relational way. If I am not enough for people, if I don’t measure up to their standards, whatever they may be…then… perhaps… I will end up alone. And with that comes yet another realization: My fear of being alone feeds my need for validation.

I look for validation everywhere: in my relationships, on social media, in the way I look, through my picture taking and my blog writing – no matter how much I try to avoid it. For a while this summer my self-esteem actually hinged on something as utterly ridiculous as how many likes I got on Instagram. Seriously people.

So, to simplify things…

I am not enough (Lie #1) + the potential of being alone (Lie #2) = my need for validation (disastrous outcome)

Thankfully, I have very recently come to recognize that I, ironically, am NOT alone in these fears.

It happened during worship chapel this past Friday. The worship band chose to play the song “I Am Not Alone,” and as I looked around the gymnasium, almost everyone had their eyes closed, completely lost in the lyrics. They actually had to speak these words into existence in order to counteract their fear. It was heartbreaking. We’re talking about Christians here people –the ones who are “supposed” to be equipped with the knowledge that some omnipresent-something has our back and is always in our corner. We can never truly be alone because we have God. Supposedly.

And yet, because of the expectations that we as a Christian community impose on one another, we actually often feel isolated. Alone. Fearful. Like every other human on this planet, we are not authentic with our screw-ups or honest with our struggles. We convince each other that if we don’t measure up (whether that be to God’s, society’s or our own expectations), that somehow, we are not worthy. We become “not enough.”

And so the cycle perpetuates itself.

Our natural reaction to fear is to ignore it. Push it aside. Bury it deep within us. On most days, I’m not even aware that I’m operating out of fear. It’s just too easy to pretend that everything is A-OK. And most of the time, things are pretty great. But when confronted with doubts and uncertainties, our fears appear way too big to handle. Our thoughts, feelings and experiences begin to seem too far off base for anyone to understand. Things spiral out of control…and we tuck deeper into ourselves. Push the fears further down. Refuse to acknowledge the hard stuff that is brewing just underneath the surface.

Amidst all this, I can tell you one thing for certain. The absolute ONLY way to combat our fears is to talk about them. Shame is a dear friend to our anxiety, but giving voice to our darkest fears casts them out into the light. But if we can pluck up the courage to talk about them, we find others that struggle with the same things we do. Experiences build community and connection. Those we love can speak truth and light into those lies we tell ourselves. I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had this year that end in this way: I thought I was so alone in that. I thought I was the only one. I’m so glad I chose to confide in you, no matter how much it sucked.  

I encourage you to be daringly bold in identifying your fears today. And I encourage you even more to be extravagantly courageous to speak those fears into the light.

 

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