Fear Comes Back with a Vengeance

by Kenneth Rayman on January 28, 2020
Anymore, writing about my growth feels like beating a dead horse. Nothing feels new and the last few were written during spells of melancholy. Amid yet another spell with a creative slump in tow, I now realize this is the embodiment of the mental health journey. As with personal growth, it’s a process that ebbs and flows. What changes is how we view whatever troubles us, view ourselves, and how we move forward each time. I understand now why my last few growth articles have seemed so similar. What we struggle with never truly leaves us. Instead, it becomes a part of us rather than what we feel defines us.

My growth lessons have all been similar in one way or another, focusing on self-image affected by anxiety and depression seen through the lens of someone finally letting go of pain, whether physical or emotional. Letting go doesn’t mean that the issue leaves, it just means that they no longer control your self-belief. When they return, sometimes they overwhelm and this current one is accompanied by the thought of failure with the website lagging. While the website lagged though, my book writing was completed. In comes the Imposter Syndrome: “What if my writing style means the book doesn’t perform well? Will I even know how to self-publish correctly? Who am I to publish a book anyway?” Imposter Syndrome has come crashing through the door loud and clear. Even though the book has taken a year to write, what if all the background work to finish and prepare it to publish “proves” I’m not ready. I’m realizing I never will be ready. A simple internet meme comes to mind anytime I have these thoughts regarding my progress in writing and life, “Don’t give up! Because where you are now, you once desperately wanted to be.”

I also know I can’t ignore this recurring fear either, because whether or not I know it’s false the feeling and it’s origins are very real within me. To ignore is to bury and attempt to forget; but it’ll only return even stronger playing on that insecurity in its wake. I usually return to the basics and revisit what formed the framework of my mindset when I started to see myself and my life improve. I had improved, then, by cutting out what didn’t teach me, replacing music in the car with podcasts and mindless television with keynote speeches. This time, I replaced the worry with work on the book, while podcasts and keynotes have generally taken a backseat because I’m not currently as mobile like before. The mounting fear, doubt, and malaise took on a new identity as a result. With the public declaration that I wanted to move into a mobile phase in life, efforts to downsize met with zero results as nothing sold, symbolizing another internal sign that failure was on the horizon if I couldn’t do what I publicly said I would.

I’m beginning to realize this stems from one specific fear, entirely. The subconscious seed of any insecurity involving anything I have ever tried to do to determine my course, the fear of security in the form of a roof over my head, is ever present. Any time I decided in the past that I wanted to try something, forget the previously flawed mentality, I acted out of fear that if it didn’t *click* “overnight” I would soon be out on the street. This was instilled through the singular focus of my blue-collar parents to that effect for their kids. My mother’s attempt to drive her own happiness was met with the same fear, as the focus was always whether she’d break even for the month or panic that “she hadn’t made rent yet.” Everything about the activity she loved, crafting, was replaced with struggle the moment she left her work area. I never saw my mother come alive in making her passion her living unless she had a paint brush in hand or sat in front of the sewing machine. Struggle was to be avoided at all costs, but how can you when it is inevitable no matter if in life or desire?

I felt vulnerable reaching out about this revelation but got validation that my safety fear was a lauded asset of my parents which they forwent their passions for, for their kids. I was reminded that if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to travel like I had, never having uncovered mine as they would’ve wanted and been proud of me finding. Sometimes though this type of support for me isn’t easily accessible, being fragmented in terms of distance and time zone. That is why my mantras in those moments were key, while professional assistance was always a background thought if I couldn’t find a solution to break the pattern after a time. 

Any thought of my being a failure is based on a lifetime of stop-starts with fleeting interests and environmental factors which valued conformity. Going for conformity myself however, safety never “manifested” itself. Instead it became a battle of competing commitments; those of the lights, the fridge, and the roof that with no goal setting education, made life seem pointless. My mindset, and later desire for self-determination, clashed with that but with the fear of survival, “opportunity” was only what others had.
Resentment became my mode of living until I started my growth and saw that opportunity comes from telling people what you want but not expecting a quick return on what you ask. Humility bred from the patience brings the opportunity that you must recognize when it appears. That singular opportunity is also only a continuation, not a destination, however. Nothing is ever “done” but are parts of a greater whole that is you and your experience. My moment of fear this time was broken by a call from a colleague asking me to attend his symposium, implying also that he may want me to speak at. Sinking into my old habits, I was reminded of my path and of my worth through this timely appreciation of the value I bring to the world. 

My work will only ever take on new forms. With each new culture that I seek to understand, new stories will emerge and, most importantly, new connections will emerge that will lead to opportunity. I need to know that the path may be fluid but is set directionally with a conviction that is no longer fleeting. My mantra recently has been that if it happened earlier, I might not have seen the true power of travel, storytelling, and development in my life. Opportunities, ideas, and “aha moments” have come when they were supposed to, and it is up to me to recognize and move on them. I believe that this calendar scare is my old mentality trying to return with a vengeance, but I know even more now that great things are on the other side of that fear.