Someone very close to me recently asked me to describe them in a few words, for some assignment they had in college. I duly did, and out of curiosity asked them to do the same for me. One of the words she used was ‘fearless.’
I love that. I mean, first of all, they described me using a Taylor Swift album. That’s pretty cool of itself. Mostly though, I was just… humbled that someone I admire so much saw me that way. I don’t have a low opinion of myself, but I also don’t think I’m exceptional in many areas, and fearlessness is something I would have never described myself as.
I see their point, though. We have been close this last year, and they’ve heard about most of the difficulties I’ve had to deal with. Everything from friends and family being terrible about my transition, having to tell HR at my new job that I was trans, to the terror of going to the women’s bathroom back when I looked ‘androgynous,’ to put it kindly.
I’ve overcome very difficult situations, and I haven’t let them stop me. I was hesitant at first, but after thinking about it, I see what they meant. ‘Fearless’ might not be the word I’d use, but I do understand how it applies to me.
I feel uncomfortable thinking of myself that way, but I really have basically opposed society and decided to be myself, and damn the consequences. However fearless I might look however, I really am feeling terrified inside. I’m just good at appearing confident.
Here’s the truth: I’m constantly weighed down by fear. I think most people are. It’s a natural thing, but it’s not something generally acknowledged.
When I came out to every single one of my friends last year, to all of my family members, to everyone, I wasn’t feeling confident, or calm, or sure of myself. The last time I came out to a friend was about a year ago, and even after the experience of having told maybe a dozen people, I can still recall the complete panic I felt telling him. I had trouble breathing, I didn’t know what to say, and I was torn between my desire to break down in tears, and wanting to run away without a word.
Try watching videos on youtube of people coming out. In every single one, there are a few seconds when they look like they’re going to faint from lack of air, then an expressions that most resembles that of a startled deer, before they take a breathless moment… and then come out.
I honestly think it would be far, far less scary to jump off a plane with a parachute (I’m afraid of heights) than to come out to a single person.
So fear became more entrenched in my day-to-day. Now, when something dangerous becomes a fact of life in nature, it’s adapt or die.
Sure, not coming out wouldn’t have killed me, but in a very important and real way, yes it would have.
So I had the choice of either adapting to the fear and learning to overcome it, or letting it kill my future, identity, and happiness.
I’m not fearless. Not even close. However, through constant practice I’ve learned how to overcome the fear.
Fear is there to help you. It is meant to keep you safe, and comfortable. Understanding it’s not your enemy, but something that needs to be redirected, helps. For example, I overcame my intense fear of coming out by my stronger fear of ending up in my forties, married, with a couple of kids, and realising I had to either kill myself or transition.
That second fear turns into a determination that allows you to bear with absolutely anything that life could throw at you. Once you realise your best chance for survival lies in overcoming a smaller fear, you become able to get through that. It’s still hard, but you have that motivation in your heart that helps you just jump off the plane.
Don’t let the first fear control your life. Think about the consequences of leading a life shackled by fear, and let that turn into cold, powerful determination, to allow you to do anything necessary to be happy.