Getting Real: Facing the Greatest Fear of All



Wild_things Unexpectedly
I faced one of my greatest fears yesterday. Of course it would be Halloween.

Feeling
bouncy and full of myself I decided on a whim to publish the article I wrote
about my name and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, on PsychCentral. Something light for Halloween, I thought.

After
the article was posted I went about my business. Later, when I checked on it again, my
blood ran cold. Someone left a not-so-nice comment:

"Would you like cheese
with your whine?"

Ouch. Well gee, I guess I could see someone looking at
it that way. I let it go. Comments that aren't positive is part of the
blogging territory, part of being "out there."  I went back to work. 
Two hours later I peeked again, another comment, this one stopped me in
my tracks:

"You're stupid."

Oh,
boy. Now what do I do? Take down the post? Leave it and see what happens? Did I
make a terrible mistake that was bound to destroy my reputation? Who did I
think I was anyway? 

Can
you smell the panic?

I
tried to breathe. It helped but my heart was still beating too fast. I drank
a cool glass of water. Better. Quickly I texted a cry for help to my editor, Steve, and then drove home.

When
I walked into my house I smelled the delicious aroma of dinner. My husband, who
was cooking, greeted me, quickly followed by my daughter and my dog. Gratitude
washed over me.

You
may think I'm exaggerating this whole thing, it seems so silly, but these were
my genuine feelings.

The
tag line up on my flag head says "for those with courageous hearts but
thin skins," because I suspect many of us who deal with anxiety and
depression feel just like that. Never do I want this blog to be a vanity project. My mission is to help people be resilient, not just temporarily happy. Everyone deserves to feel strong and confident no matter what life brings, to know they can deal with anything and thrive. In order to do this effectively I fully admit, I'm not just a teacher, I'm also a student.

When I was able to talk with Steve he talked me down by saying,
"You are trying to help people by not hiding behind an impersonal therapist facade.
You admit you have foibles, you aren't perfect, you struggle, too. That's who
you are, that's what people identify with. You can be a professional and still
make mistakes, be human."

Then
about writing, he said, "My artist friend, Farzad Kohan, says that as an artist you can
work behind closed doors at which point no one is allowed to criticize. But
once you put your art on a gallery wall, open it to the public, you can't
protect it any longer. In a sense, it doesn't belong to you anymore."

Steve
gave me something to think about. When I went back to PsychCentral I found
someone, one of the editors, I guess, had taken down the nasty comments. I
considered taking down the entire post. I decided not to.

In order to get over this 'stupid' incident
I had to face my real fear. It wasn't a matter of toughening up. Ages ago I accepted I will always be
sensitive. My sensitivity is in large part what makes me a good therapist. Tolerating this confrontation with my greatest fear was the challenge. And what is my greatest fear? My
greatest fear is not being perfect and being rejected as a result.
There, I
said it. It's an old fear. The very first post ever on this blog was about just that.

Your core fear may be something else but I'll bet it messes with your life, too. Unless we can tolerate standing still long enough to face them, get through, around, over or under  them, the fears win.

In
addition to talking with Steve, these four things helped me a lot. I want to share them with you in the hope that maybe you can identify with what I went through and these might help you too:

> A blog
post by new contributing writer to PsychCentral Lisa Brookes Kift, Psychotherapists Unmasked on the Internet.

> A post
by Therese Borchard featuring an interview with Michelle Russel, who blogs Practice Makes Imperfect, on perfectionism

> Remembering that no one really cares about this but me and I really shouldn't care so much. The good old, positive, GET OVER YOURSELF self-talk.

> Going to a boisterous, wine-and-good-food-embracing dinner party with friends and
family who ground me.

Image from Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak

4 comments


  • vtyogi

    wow!!! this is great and i so admire you for putting it all out there! Its nice to see I am not the only one. I am a hiarstylist who has struggled with these issues for ever. I do my best, but when the person gets out of my chair and into the world, I cannot control their thoughts of me any longer. My fear of rejection and not being perfect has stopped me in my tracks with many clients. People I deem better than me or what have you..
    I am slowly starting to realize that with each “rejection” I am still standing.. I am okay… with that it helps me grow!

    2009/11/04
  • Thank you so much, vtyogi, your words are…perfect! You are an artist and your client walking out into the world is like hanging the painting on the gallery wall. I see what you mean. That takes guts.
    It must be so hard to deal with public, too. Unfortunately people can be rude, insensitive and feel entitled. Pride and belief in our work, recognition of our resiliency and embracing support when it’s generously offered (like you to me) nurtures us and keeps us going. Bless you.

    2009/11/04
  • Linna

    As a reader I must confess, I don’t read or contribute to “comments” much… mostly because every time I have started reading them so many are so unkind … there is a way to make a point without using a twisting knife, but it seems to be a lost art for many, or considered a worthless art? Some folks seems to pride themselves on their meanness … I’ve come to the conclusion that I bet some of those folks have thinner skin than they can admit, it is just easier being mean and looking tough than showing heart and soul and feelings … thanks Elvira, from another too sensitive soul having a hard time this week.

    2009/11/04
  • Linna,
    You make an excellent point. Those mean commenters are like the bullies on the school bus. For better or for worse, the Internet gives them the perfect medium to twist their knife and remain unscathed.
    You are correct also, in saying there is a way to disagree in a civil (dare I say intelligent?) manner. I’ve run into this several times on PsychCentral. People won’t agree with my premise, say why and then offer their point of view, all very reasonable. Then someone else will agree or disagree, say their piece and a conversation builds.
    That’s when commenting works the way it’s supposed to. I’ve had posts where the article itself wasn’t nearly as good, informative or clever as the comments that followed! I love that!
    I hope your week gets better. Take care.

    2009/11/04

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