Sometimes Fear Wins,
And That’s Okay
Today I want to share a personal story with you. Well, I don’t want to, but I’m going to anyway.
I have been training in martial arts for quite some time now, somewhere approaching a decade now. The styles have varied as I moved through my life and across the country, but my love for the training has never diminished. Well, just recently I had what you might call “a rough experience” and ended with me leaving class early only to arrive home in tears.
Want to know what happened?
Class started, we entered into free-from training, and that’s it. The end.
I wasn’t beaten, broken, insulted, ridiculed, excluded, or anything that might warrant an emotional reaction. Nothing bad happened at all.
Then why with the leaking from my eye-holes?
Let’s move to a blow-by-blow, shall we.
Like I said, we were doing some more free-form training where our partner would throw a random attack and we had to respond. This was all done very slowly and with control so nobody would get hurt. The point of the exercise was to experiment and practice applying techniques in a less rigid format. It wasn’t anything major; it wasn’t dangerous. We’ve done way more stressful exercises in the past, but that day something was different.
The second we started I began getting frustrated. My body wasn’t moving the way I wanted, I couldn’t remember any of the techniques I was supposed to know, and my ability to improvise techniques (a skill that I am quite proud of) seemed to have peaced the f#%$ out. It took only a few minutes before I was berating myself and my every action.
Of course it didn’t stop there.
My thought spiraled downward, gathering all of my failings and throwing them on top of me like the worlds most wretched dog-pile. My inner voice grew so vicious and so powerful that I had to step off the mat. Before I knew it, I found myself home sobbing in my wife’s arms with our dog plaintively licking my toes.
So, what really happened?
I could come up with lots of explanations: I was tired. Things have been stressful at work. Someone else was upset and I just tuned into their emotions. I could say all of those things, and they might even be true, but they aren’t the root cause.
Truth is… I was scared
This was because of fear. All of it! Every painful thought and every snot soaked tissue.
At first I thought I was just angry at myself for some unknown, unforgivable transgression that I had done to a sack of puppies or something. Well, that was only partially correct. But Here’s the thing about anger, it’s actually a secondary emotion. It seldom occurs by itself, but follows at least one other emotion, sometimes so closely it might even feel like it comes first. Lots of things can make us angry, but as humans we tend to get angry when we are in pain or afraid.
Fear sank its teeth into me and I responded by getting angry. And since I couldn’t identify an external source, I directed all of that anger and fear back onto myself so strongly I could barely function.
But WHY I was so scared?
There were lots of fears swirling through my head.
- What if I get hurt?
- What if I hurt someone else?
- What if I’m good enough?
- What if I fail when it really matters?
- What are my peers going to think of me?
- How can anyone respect me if, after nearly a decade of training, I still can’t do this right?
Mur Lafferty talks about this exact issue in her post Fear – The Ugly Cry. Sometimes it’s rational; sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s nothing more than our ego being threatened by reality.
To top it off, none of this was new. These thoughts scared me long before I ever set foot in a dojo, but on that day, for some reason, it was just too much. The fears I had been battling for years managed to get the upper hand and reduced me to a scared, weeping wreck. It took me a couple of days to fully recover from the experience, but I learned something in the process.
It didn’t matter. (That’s right, it’s one of those posts)
Fear won, but I refused to let it change anything. I love martial arts too much to let my fear stop me from training, or doing anything else for that matter.
Writing, blacksmithing, blogging, martial arts, teaching, these are all things that scare me to death but it’s what I want to do. And you know what? It’s always going to scare me. No matter how successful, skilled, and helpful I become, fear will always be lurking in corners of my mind waiting to lash it’s tentacles around my throat and limbs.
It’s just part of who I am. And that’s okay too.
So arm yourself and prepare for the next assault.
I don’t know what form your fear takes or when it likes to strike. But strike it will.
So prepare yourself for a fight. Take some advice from Chuck Wendig and Control What You Can Control and learn to deal with the rest. Whether that’s through therapy, exercise 3 Questions to Ask When Facing Fear, or even medication. Accept the moment for what it is and prepare yourself for the next one. Sometimes you can shrug off the blows and sometimes they will knock you flat and leave your body battered and bruised. That’s the nature of the struggle. Do what you’ve got to do to keep going. Find that ledge to lean on while you pull yourself up and prepare for the next round.
This is your life, your passion at stake. Fight for it!
Whatever else you do, just remember that you are not alone.
I know this is a message that gets throw at us all the time, but it is never so profound as when we discover it for ourselves.
Sorry if today’s post was a too sappy, emotional, or whatever. But knowing that I wasn’t alone in this and that everyone faces the same struggles helped me get back on my feet. I wanted to make sure you knew that as well.
What about you? When was the last time fear got the best of you?
Please leave a comment below, share this on Facebook, or just send me an email, or whisper my name into the ear of the unnameable gods stalking the darkness beyond the veil. Whatever you do, be sure to sign up for the monthly newsletter and never miss a post again.
Thanks again for listening, and thank you for your support. If things are getting rough and there is anything I can do to help, just let me know.
Until next time, stay strong and keep standing up again.