a four-letter word

Fear is a four-letter word with which I wrestle regularly.

There are countless situations where I can choose to move forward in faith rather than fear, emphasizing what I believe will take place. Usually, I believe good things will happen, so I can gather my faith along with some courage to negotiate whatever fears I have and keep moving forward.

The real wrestling appears when what I actually believe will occur, when the things to which I am moving forward involve the things I fear the most: rejection and failure.

Interestingly enough, I have gathered a lot of loved ones who affirm and accept me, and I have accomplished a lot in my 24 years of living. And yet, those are two big fears that persist no matter how much acceptance and success I obtain. If I let myself, I can get overwhelmed by the mere chances that someone will reject me for another or that I will fail at something horribly.

This is compounded by the reality that I am a man and have my own reservations about how I measure up in that department.

Now, I don’t want to take anything away from the challenge of being a woman. I just can’t speak from that place personally, so please allow me this space to be a man with some very normal fears.

Interestingly enough, I notice it most in my interactions with people, something that gives me lots of life and pleasure. As much as I love connecting with people, one would think fear would be absent here. On the contrary, I courageously initiate social interactions in hopes of making a genuine connection in spite of the very real chances that I will be regarded a fool and turned down.

What a paradox that it is normal to encounter fear in the same place I encounter love.

I am particularly aware of the common stereotype that men are not afraid, that men do not show their fears; and here I am announcing mine publicly. Ironically, this is stereotypical behavior for me; I often find ways to act contrary to established notion of normalcy while just being myself.

I am also specifically thoughtful of others’ standards and suspicions with regards to my masculinity. I wonder that making any public announcement of my fears, weakness, insecurities, etc. will only add to the suspicions about my lacking masculinity, and sometimes, I would rather keep silent than speak up and remove all doubt. And yet, here I am, speaking up, just another example of me being myself.

This common theme of “being myself” has gotten me pretty far, particularly when dealing with these fears. As was aforementioned, I have gathered many loved ones and accomplished plenty. Being myself though has not gotten rid of the fear.

I guess I used to think that these fears would go away completely as I got older. Those thoughts, I am learning, are fairytales and falsehoods. These fears never go away completely; they are always present, manifesting themselves in ever so subtle ways.

And I won’t lie. There are moments when I have let fear win. I have opted out of a social interaction because I believed that I would be shunned or because I knew I couldn’t do it well. The key phrase there is that “I let fear win.” I let it. I let the reality that I am being evaluated constantly keep me from living my life more fully.

That being said, I am becoming increasingly determined in my own journey of manhood to ensure that there are more times than not when I make sure fear loses and I tug on my faith and courage for whatever task or goal lies ahead of me.

I am finding all kinds of ways to gather my faith and overcome my fears, especially when it comes to rejection, failure, and masculinity.

And sure, the fear is there— I accept that it may be present. I also accept that I have to proactively utilize my courage, especially after real rejection and failure. Eventually, I get back up, put my best foot forward, and try again.

I am learning that there is no way that I will overcome fear except I go through it and reach for the things that I want. More than just being myself, I am striving to be something more than just myself, to become a man that is someone beyond both who I am now and what the typical stereotype says I must be.

That’s something I really want, and I’m hoping others will affirm that and help me be successful rather than calculate my losses and remind me of my fears.

Here’s to my wrestling and to better four-letter words like food and rest and hope and life and love.

Love Love Love,

Jesse

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