That four letter “F” Word

A four letter “F” word. What could I possibly be referring to? Come on, admit it. The twelve year old in all of us are sitting here starting to read this post, almost giggling while the obvious answer and queen mother of dirty words is screaming out in our heads. A word that many of us were programmed as children to NEVER say, unless you were prepared to pay the piper – is one that has become part of our daily language. And it can be used as a noun, verb AND adjective – how many fabulous words can we say that about? Well, as free as society is about using that four letter “F” word (and as special and fabulous as it truly is), there’s another one that many of us avoid saying at all costs and makes us uncomfortable to even think about. You’ve got it – it’s FEAR.

Why is “FEAR” such a dirty, dreaded four-letter word? As a kid, what kinds of things were we afraid of? Some of us were afraid of the dark. Then some of us had the fear of monsters. Did ghosts haunt you? Or what about that boogie man that hid under your bed or in your closet? Thunder and lightning? Maybe it was even your parents or a teacher (yes, it was still common – and accepted – in 1985 to be fearful of adults and authority figures). I’m going out on a limb and will guess that you are nodding your head to at least 1 of these things. Maybe you’re nodding “yes” to all of them, but no judgement here (wimp…).

So basically, as kids we were afraid of 4 things:

  • Things we couldn’t see (the dark or that darn ghost)
  • Things that didn’t exist (the dreaded boogie man)
  • Things out of our control (no control over the weather, people)
  • Things that were “bigger” than us (so, I better do that homework)

What happened when we were afraid of something as a kid? Maybe we cried.   Or stared wide eyed at the ceiling waiting for that boogie man to jump out until sheer exhaustion – and eventually sleep – took over.   Maybe we ran over to Mom & Dad for a hug or to be consoled (when it wasn’t them scaring us to death). Whatever we did, we acknowledged and FACED the fear – and somehow it was quickly made better. So then why as an adult does it have to be that much different? It really doesn’t.

What types of things are we afraid of as adults? Maybe it’s a fear of “change” or just the “unknown”. Maybe it’s “failure” (DING, DING, DING! Double points for me, another “F” word!). Maybe it’s all those “what ifs” in life – “what if I lose my job?”, “what if something happens to my child?”, “what if I stink at being a mom?”, “what if I get a terrible disease?”, or “what if I lose my spouse?” (This last one may not actually be all that terrible, depending on the circumstances. Just saying.). Maybe it’s all those growing demands and pressures we have at work every day. I’m going out on a limb again and will guess you’re nodding “yes” to at least one of these things. But I’ll put all my money on the fact that it very well may be all of these. And no – I won’t call you a wimp this time.

So, even as adults – we have the same 4 basic fears:

  • Things we cannot see (or maybe it’s the fear of “change”)
  • Things that do not exist (also known as the “unknown”)
  • Things sometimes out of our control (all those “what ifs” we stay up nights worrying about)
  • Things that can be “bigger” than us (those growing demands and pressures that we worry about how to better manage)

Our adult fears may certainly be more significant than that ghost or thunderstorm we feared as children – and can’t be made better by hiding under the covers (I’ve tried and it doesn’t work). But the parallels are there. What’s so scary about “change”? Change does not necessarily have to mean gloom and doom, Miss Debbie Downer. And what about the “unknown”? Well, why would you give yourself more wrinkles worrying about something that does not even exist? How about all those “what ifs”? Maybe when they creep into your head keeping you up all night (and then counting how many hours of sleep you’ll get if you fall asleep at this very moment) – we can say to ourselves instead, “Ok, I’m going to sleep now. I will think about ‘if THIS were to happen, then I will do THAT’ in the morning.” You can devise a plan of attack during your morning coffee. You’ll probably need a double espresso anyway after being up all night. As adults we are expected to be brave, have it all together and know all the answers. We all know that’s not the case – but as an adult it’s important for us to FACE those FEARS and not hide under the covers like we did as a kid. And I promise you, we all have them. Little Miss Perfect at work has them. Super Stay At Home Mom has them (and on a side note, while some working moms reading are rolling their eyes at the mention of a SAHM – that gig may not really be all you think it’s cracked up to be. Just saying). Even that big, tough guy with man spread sitting next to you on the subway (and who’s probably still afraid of his mother) has them. And guess what else? These people are probably not all that perfect, super, big or tough. And it’s their very own fear of failure – and your own insecurities – making you believe that they are. Think about that one.

So even though we are all grown up now and have fears bigger than that scary monster, what should we do? Let’s share them. Face them head on. Try not to let them overwhelm us. Do not be afraid to FAIL. No one on this planet has ever succeeded at anything without facing the fear of failure head on. You cannot find your success on the other side without first facing that fear.

But most importantly – it is CRITICAL that you remember this. When you crack open that bottle of wine and share those fears with your lifelong friend or significant other, you can do something as an adult that you were unable to do as a child. You can finally say this out loud without fear of being punished – or having you mouth washed out with soap. You can now say, scream and believe this: F*CK FEAR!