Monday, April 27, 2009

Send Fear Packing: Learning To Trust My Gut, Speak My Mind, and Live My Dreams


This year I'll be 38 years old. Wow!

I'm happy to report that I am not approaching The Big 4-0 with the anxiety that some women feel as they hit that milestone age. Instead, I'm finding more confidence, humor at every turn, and a healthy new respect for life. But along with this introspection comes some discomfort. Taking a look back at your life with knowing eyes brings to light some things that perhaps you weren't so willing to face before.

Having my first book published last year was a dream come true. Funny how you can work on something so hard for so long, but when it finally happens, it's nothing like you thought it would be. Holding a copy of Feel Good, Girl! in my hands for the first time was amazing. Speaking to the crowds that came for book signings, answering questions and being the center of attention was not.

Hello, Fear of Public Speaking! (How many people are in that room?).

Come on in, Fear of Rejection! (NO one will even buy this book, probably).

And who's this? Self-Doubt! It's been so long! Come on in and have a seat.

A big part of me wished I'd never written the book—that I could just go home and hide. "You have no business trying to tell girls how to live their lives. You've messed up so many times. This book is a joke…and your hair is a mess, too." Oh yeah, my inner voice is harsh. And bending to it is what I've spent most of my life doing. Sitting on the side lines ("Keep those knees closed when you have a skirt on, girl!"). Never talking too much ("No one asked for your opinion."). Giving in, even when every bone in my body said not to ("He won't like you anymore if you don't."). Words that come from a place inside me that I wish I could shush and never hear from again. But that place is where the book came from. If I'm not able to talk about it—to warn every other girl-child I can get my hands on to never cave to her fears—then what the hell am I here for?

It's taken me 38 years, two children, a husband and a book to realize that I've lived my entire life in fear—guided through situations by a frightened little conductor whose sole purpose was to avoid confrontation, to be liked, and to remain "good" in the eyes of those around me. All at the cost of never speaking up for myself or uttering the word "no"—and rarely standing for what was right if it went against the crowd.

I've allowed myself to be driven through life from the safety of the backseat. Oh yes, I've lived my wild side; but in a lowly, secreted fashion that can in no way be called "living." Things I've done in the dark to build confidence in the light are nothing but covers for fear and shame. A lonely cry wrapped up in sequins.

I'm so done.

Trust your gut. Speak your mind. Live your dreams. Those are the things that I tell girls in my book. Time to take my own advice.

Tonight, I send my frightened little conductor on her way. Her bags are already packed. I wish her no harm, because she truly believed she was helping me. But it's time for her to go. She's boarding a big boat and floating away on her sea of worry and fear. Perhaps she will find some peace on her journey. A bit of moonlight to soothe her choppy waters.

But me, I've got work to do. Felicia is ready to take on the world, grab for stars, and taste what it means to stand confident and strong. Even if it means I must stand alone. For the first time, that doesn’t sound so bad.

Life is cheap, bittersweet,
but it tastes good to me.
Take my turn
Crash and burn
that's how it's supposed to be.
—"Sure Looks Good to Me" Alicia Keyes

About our MyBrownBaby contributor:
Felicia Richardson-Battle is a professional writer and author who writes about girl empowerment issues at her hugely popular blog, Reign of the Girl-Child. She lives in Long Island, N.Y., with her husband and two kids—one girl-child and one rambunctious boy. Check out her book, Feel Good, Girl!, here.

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  1. I had the pleasure of meeting Felicia in Florida last year. She is a sweetheart in person! If you're ever lucky enough to meet her, you're in for a treat! LOVED this post!

  2. This is exactly what I've been dealing with this weekend. Now I find this post, which to me just solidifies that I am on the right path. Loved This!!

  3. What I absolutely ADORE about this piece is that Felicia touches the center of the nerve of what all-too-many of us struggle with on a daily basis. Should I do it? Should I ask? Should I speak up? Should I go? This IS a woman thing, but as a black woman, I raise my hand and say it's a particularly difficult struggle because everyone expects us to be so outspoken and in-your-face and loud--to be fearless, without care for repercussions. The stereotype lives and breaths and gets bigger with each passing day, and is used as a weapon, really, to silence those of us who dare speak up. But what folks don't realize is that a great many more of us are raised to keep our mouths shut and to live in fear--in fear of life and living.

    I'm sending my conductor packing, too.

    Thank you, Felicia, for this wonderful encouragement. And know that you won't be standing alone!

  4. That sort of sounds like me. I recently wrote my first children's book and I was embarrassed because there was a mix-up with editing( it wasn't to great). I finally got it straight, but how do I go back and make another impression to the public. Your book sounds like something I will buy, I'll check it out.

  5. Good for you Felicia! Here's to living life fearlessly "holding up an imaginary glass of wine"! WE all can take a page out of this book.

  6. great post. i think we all struggle with this, i know i do. the effects of fear has been on my mind a lot lately as i stuggle with possibly losing my job & how to deal with everything i really WANT to do.

    thanks for the reminder to just BE STRONG!

  7. This was a great post... thanks for sharing so openly. It's truly an inspiration and something we all need to hear! You're not the only one.

  8. Please tell your conductor to holla at mine if she sees her on the road. Kicked mine out not too long ago, too!

    Thank you for singing my song with your words!

  9. Ooh...this sounds like me. This post is very inspirational. My inner voice, Jill, and yours must be distant cousins. I earned a BA in English when I was 25, but was afraid to let the world see my writing for years. So much so that I did not try to break-in to magazines, my dream, for five years. I woke up one day and decided I either write or die. There's just nothing else in the world I'd rather do. So, I started a blog. It gave me courage, and now I write for a couple online magazines. That's giving me the confidence to go harder. Every now and then Jill shows up. I sometimes find myself considering what she says still. But I think I'll do what you did and send her packing for good.

  10. Definitely checking out your site. I have three girls!

  11. WOW, this really hits home...I thought that I was reading about myself for a moment. Thanks to Felicia for sharing! So many of us just go through life without fully LIVING!! This was truly a great read!!

    Also, Denene love the Blog!! Lots of great stories here!!

  12. Hello Ladies. I'm so touched by your comments that I had to chime in. When, when I wrote this essay it was to satisfy an urge to purge. I had no clue that so many other women were feeling the same way. So not only did I get a chance to vent about sending my conductor on her way (Arlice, I LOVE that you named your conductor!) but I also learned that I'm not alone in my fears. A wonderful lesson. Thanks so much!

    And thank YOU Denene for letting me share it here.
    Felicia Richardson-Battle

  13. Great post Felicia and YES, I'm right there with you. In fact, fear has been the one thing that has kept me from fully realizing MY dream of publishing a book. But, like you, I'm letting it all go girl. In fact, just this week I decided to quit one of my many part-time jobs so that could face my fear and hunker down to be the writer I've always wanted to be!

  14. This is just a fantastic blog, and I, too, have shared the same fears and hopes as my own number 40 creeps toward me with certainty.

    Be well!

    Rue Mapp

  15. I haven't packed the bags yet, but I've at least pulled the suitcases out of the attic. Thanks Felicia!

  16. Nice post! It hit me in my heart because I am currently sending my fear packing. Im tired of being invisible and unhappy!


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