It was my second week of middle school, and I was terrified about my first science test. I’d spent the last six years in a sheltered, easygoing primary school, and it was frightening to walk the noisy corridor of unfamiliar kids, the science lab looming at the end of the hallway.
To cope, I told myself that I wouldn’t remember this day, this trial, this test, by the time I was thirty – an age that seemed impossibly far off — so why worry about it now.
That mental trick relaxed me enough that I ended up doing fine on the test. Soon test-taking became not such a big deal. But the funny thing is, I’m forty-five now, and I DO remember that day, that trial, that test.
So my seventh grade self was wrong. But also right. What I had really been telling myself was that by the time I turned thirty, the test wouldn’t matter anymore; that I’d be able to look back at my formerly quaking self with compassion and perspective; that everything passes, even fear. Especially fear.
What fears make you quake today? | thepowerofintroverts.com/2013/06/06/the…
— Susan Cain (@susancain) June 6, 2013
I love this little post! I think fear rewires the brain and makes us much more susceptible to details and crucial elements of an event, so we remember them in detail. But what a wonderful way of coping in the moment!
I love your story above, and like you, I also can remember back through the years to moments of fear. I also look upon that young man that I was with a sense of compassion, I see me back then and I know I was just doing the best that I could. Still, I do regret these moments of fear, and I wish I could have a “do-over” for some past events. What I would have this young man ask himself in these same situations is, “what would love say, what would love do?” Fear makes the voice of love mute, and it is the mute-ness of love in those past fearful events that I totally regret. Having time added to my life, I have a different perspective now, I view the fear differently now. Whatever causes me fear now, I only want to speak and act with love and compassion, and I feel whatever happens in these specific situations, I will be now what I am supposed to be.
I have to laugh at myself (a good strategy for things that make me shake unnecessarily). Situations like a crowded grocery store when I have my kids in tow or small talk with parents at a school function send my body into fight or flight response like a saber tooth tiger were hot on my trail looking for supper.
Basic strategy: acknowledge the fear, reassure myself that predatory beasts are nowhere near, and push through and do it anyway.
I remember going to social functions and being paralyzed by panic. I realize now that what added to my panic was my deep longing to be just like the extroverts who were shining. How sad! I put no such pressure on myself now, so fear comes rarely. When it does, I accept it and find a safe place,like the edges of a party - where I usually find a kindred spirit. Your book Quiet would have saved me a lot of pain in my teens! It’s certainly giving a new understanding and confidence to countless people now : )