Big Dream: Exploring My Deep-Seated Fears
I had been thinking about a challenge. A challenge to identify my fears as they relate to my Big Dream from Debbie Burns book “The Path to Courage.” A Big Dream is the thing I want to do with the rest of my life to fulfill my calling. I had been thinking all day but had written nothing down. I wrote my Big Dream and all the fears and societal and cultural rules that were stopping me. For reference, my Big Dream is to support myself through writing and writing-related jobs. I don’t want to get stuck in an unfulfilling job and feel miserable. I noticed that a lot of my fears had to do with financial independence and autonomy.
It came to me; I am scared to depend on anyone but myself. I am scared of the rejection and the hurt that comes from trusting someone. I am afraid of having them disappoint or betray me. I am so frightened of trusting others, asking for help, and allowing myself to love.
Looking back on my childhood, this makes sense. From a young age, I was independent. My brother has autism and glaring behavior problems and has my parents’ attention. They praised me for being an “easy, independent” child. When I needed help, they told me too, “figure it out on my own.” I felt betrayed because my brother was getting all the help and attention he needed.
This pattern with my parents’ attention hasn’t changed in 21 years. I still don’t get help from them, even now when I need it more than my brother. He gets a lot more help than he needs. They hold me to higher standards than my brother. I am expected to be autonomous at 21 despite my severe mental illness.
To illustrate this: I was to drive my brother to his internship at 10 a.m. one day. I said I couldn’t. I had been depressed and sleeping in until 1 or 2 p.m. every day, and I didn’t want to make a promise I couldn’t keep. My parents were pissed; they said my car and license were privileges. If I was going to be ungrateful, I could take the bus. When I asked why my brother couldn’t take the bus, they fumbled for a second then said, “End of conversation.”
I noticed a pattern of my friends betraying me, and the devastation by my crushes throughout middle school and high school. This theme of people betraying my trust has taught me to rely on myself, and only myself, so I don’t get hurt.
But there is a problem with relying on myself. I don’t trust my sense of judgment enough to consider myself worth trusting.
This lack of trust has stemmed from the same issues. My inner thoughts go something like this: “I trusted that person who betrayed me. What does that say about my sense of judgment? Can people trust me to be self-reliant when I can’t make it on my own? Have I failed, repeatedly, when trying to be self-reliant?” Relying on yourself when you don’t trust yourself puts you in a Catch-22 situation.
The childhood praise of being an “easy, independent” child has conditioned me to see asking for help as a weakness. I fear it because of the negative feelings of betrayal it has caused. As a result, I rarely get the help I need.
When I find a person I trust, who hasn’t betrayed me, I depend on that person to become a sounding board for all my ideas and decisions in my life. I trust them unconditionally because I value their opinions more than I value my own. My best friend has often been a voice of reason and rationality for me in a world of uncertainty. She is loyal, and I am drawn to her honesty, rationality, and confidence. She knows me better than I know myself, sometimes.
Those are the deep-seated fears I am struggling with.
I am learning to listen to my gut, ask for help, and trust myself.
In January I changed my major to Creative Writing, despite my fears of not being able to support myself with that major. I followed my passion. Something I hadn’t ever done before because I listened to what others wanted me to do. I was trying to please my parents, not myself.
In March, I quit a job over the phone. I had already tried to do it in person and wasn’t able to say “no” when my boss asked me if I could reduce my hours. We went from one day a week to two to three in that conversation. All because I couldn’t say no. Everyone disagreed with how I quit. I listened to my gut because I knew if I didn’t leave, my mental state would deteriorate quickly. I would end up in the psych ward for the seventh time in four years. I didn’t go to the hospital.
Now I understand what my fears are and I can plan on how to deal with them. I can create a plan to overcome them.
Think about what your Big Dream is. What is your calling, your passion? What do you dream of doing to fulfill that passion? What fears are stopping you from pursuing that passion? What cultural and societal rules and pressures are stopping you? Finally, keep asking yourself “why?” Why are those fears stopping you? Why is the reason you came up with stopping you? Keep asking why until you come up with a deep-seated fear. Fear of love? Fear of loss? Fear of rejection? Fear of not belonging? What is that fear and how can you overcome it?