Earlier this week, can’t remember which day, I was busy getting ready for work and there was a statement that kept ringing in my head, “Some fear is transmitted.” I even wanted to tweet just that, but after some thought, I figured that this one would make a great blog post. It is better when a statement like that has some context, isn’t it?
Throughout the week I have been thinking about it. At one point, I thought fear was inborn. So innate that in we end up owning it, like it’s a part of who you are and that people should embrace and accept that bit of you and live with it. That if the activity they’re partaking in involves a teeny weeny aspect of your fear, you’re better off being excluded from that equation. So you would find someone loosely saying, “I fear of heights,” “I have stage fright”, “I fear insects”, I fear darkness”. And they are all legit fears to be honest, because some of these things can make you so freaked out that your reactions to them are priceless.
It took me back to my childhood when I started facing that concept of fear. I genuinely can’t even think back to a time I didn’t have fear in me. I feared big men with big beards and spectacles. I feared old people. I have no idea why, I just thought they would eat me up maybe (lol), and I would cry my heart out when anyone fitting that profile tried to pick me up. I warmed up to my grandfather much later when I saw my baby sister interacting with him so lovingly. They would chat, take long walks and he’d buy for her goodies from the shops. We lived with him for a period when he was unwell. Even then, I would avoid being where he was for too long, until I figured this guys is actually the best man ever, a bit too late though. He would secretly give my parents gifts to spoil me whenever he saw me. I lost a lot of time that I could have spent interacting with him and loving on him, because fear. But I’m glad my baby sister did just that and showed me why I shouldn’t fear anyone.
I was also a poor eater and so our different house helps would use different tactics to get me to eat (or swallow my food), because I would bite the food but take eons to chew and swallow it. They would bring all forms of insects from the compound, parade them somewhere we could clearly see them and threaten me that if I don’t eat, they will bite me. At one point even monkeys were involved because where we lived there were many of them thanks to the trees. When they would do that I would eat without hesitation because of the fear that those dead insects will bite me. To date, I fear insects, monkeys, dogs, cats and basically anything that’s not human. It’s taken a lot to convince myself that some of these animals are harmless and they just need you not to fear them, maybe just play with them and pat them every so often. At least I’m able to stay still around them and play around with the nicer ones.
Another of my cousins would mimic ghosts at the back of the house. This was hilarious because I used to live with my relatives then. So when she sees I am playing around with my food and not eating, she would go to the back of the house and do some ghost noises and movements that would jolt out of my stubbornness. I would then swallow my food and take another bite. I am laughing as I type this because of how hilarious it seems right now. But then, it used to scare the shit out of me. Maybe that’s why for the life of me, I can’t watch a horror movie.
These experiences trigger fears in you that manifest themselves later when you’re faced with a situation where these things that you fear present themselves.
Like when you enter your friends compound and the dogs have not been locked in their kennels or they have a house dog that’s hyperactive or a cat that keeps walking under the table and rubs itself against your skin. I almost feel like I’m going to lose it, but I’m told (and I remind myself) that they’re not harmful creatures and I try calm myself down.
The fear that I say is transmitted is not that kind though. It’s the kind where someone else imposes their fear on you and they expect you to start fearing whatever it is they fear. And in most of the cases, because it’s transmissible, that fear creeps in on you and you start showing it too.
Now that I think of it, this seed of thought was planted this Sunday when a 4 year old, Zawadi Kayyoh, walked up the pulpit in church (Parklands Baptist) and recited a poem dubbed “what’s in a name?” about tribalism and the post-election violence that happened in 2007. Her confidence was extraordinary and we were all absolutely drawn in. For the few minutes she was up there doing her thing, I can bet you everyone was glued to the pulpit because of how confident she sounded and the power of her message. I mean, we were mesmerized. At that very moment, I thought most of us grownups wouldn’t do that. Why?
We wouldn’t be comfortable standing in front of a congregation to share what we need to share, because most of us are scared of what people will think of us; scared that we might forget the words; scared that we might say the wrong things; scared that we might not be impressive enough; scared of just doing. We have reasons, many reasons. I have reasons, many reasons.
And this applies to other settings, say when we’re meeting people who are high in the status quo, or are influential leaders or people we perceive are generally doing better than us. We belittle ourselves, like what we have to deliver is not enough for them and so we let fear get the best of us and we overcompensate in situations that we really don’t need to. And sometimes as a person, you might not ordinarily fear meeting such people, but the people around you display that fear and through their actions, it rubs off on you and you panic too.
In such scenarios, I have come to learn that as long as your demeanor is decent and respectful, then fear shouldn’t be in your vocabulary. You can get excited and happy that you’ve been presented the opportunity, but don’t let fear overpower you, because then you overcompensate and it’s felt and seen. You become a sore person to be around, because your presence is almost pretentious as it’s just not you. Strive to be you.
And being you doesn’t mean being so mediocre that you can’t meet these people at their point of need. It means that you present the very best version of you, keeping in mind that you’re God’s masterpiece just like they are.
So go out there, get busy and shine on. Don’t let fear cripple you.