Trying on Fear

We interrupt this Lizzo self love series with this nugget of wisdom from a 4 year old. Part 2 coming at you this week.

A few weeks ago, my youngest watched the Little Mermaid for the first time. While he enjoyed it (cause duh, who doesn’t love the soundtrack???) he was absolutely terrified of Ursula. Everything about her seems to scare him from her “too many arms,” to her “scary face,” to the songs she sings. I really don’t blame him. She’s a pretty creepy villain.

Despite this, and despite multiple scary Ursula dreams that have left him kicking me in the ribs on more than a few nights, my son keeps on asking about her. Why does she act mean? What makes her mean? Together we come up with stories about why she might act the way she does in the movie; jealousy, pain, fear etc (sometimes I use soap opera themes…Ursula used to be a mermaid and is actually Ariel’s mother but King Triton was a  giant, bare-chested jerk face who got tired of her, turned her into an octowoman and banished her to the deepest depths of his ocean. Yeah, these scenarios get a little elaborate and just a titch dark but I’m highly entertained. Don’t judge me).

Anyways, so he always wants to talk about Ursula constantly, even though just the mention of her name totally freaks him out. So yesterday we’re in the car and he asks me to sing part of Ursula’s song. Since I vaguely remembered a few lines I obliged. He flipped out. “STOP! STOP IT’S TOO SCARY!” Okay, duly noted, no singing villain songs to the boy-child. But then, not 5 minutes later, he asked me to sing it again.

“Dude! No! It scares you! I’m not going to sing it again” (translation: your screaming gives me a headache and makes me want to drive off the road.

“But mama, I need to try on my fear!”

Insert record screech here.

black vinyl player
Photo by Anton Hooijdonk on


“You need to… to what?’

“Try on my fear.”

“Um, okay ya walking fortune cookie, where’d you learn that one?”

“I just learned it up.”

So I really don’t think he made this up. I think he heard it somewhere (though I don’t know where because I’m pretty sure they aren’t this wise on Pokemon which is his main source of media consumption) but it still got me thinking. Trying on fear. Seeing if the things that used to scare him still do. It’s really pretty brilliant. It’s kind of like how we make our kids try foods they don’t like because, “your taste buds change over time! You might like it now!” (spoiler, they never like it now). Eventually, things do change. I hated onions and now I don’t. I couldn’t even swallow steak and now I’d kill for a  blue cheese crusted filet mignon. Sometimes, things change. Sometimes they don’t, for example I’d still rather step on a Lego than eat the grey pencil eraser textured things that some refer to as mushrooms. Yet every few years I try those nasty little things because taste buds can change.

Fear can change. Talking about depression, anxiety, OCD, all those things used to scare the crap out of me. I feared judgment and scorn. But I tried on my fear…I talked to friends. Then I talked to acquaintances. Now I write about it and thousands of strangers get to judge me and my crazy. I tried on my fear over and over until it stopped being so scary. Until the fear was gone, or at least had shrank enough to manage.

Writing scared the ever loving crap out of me. I was so scared to write I’d cry if my husband even walked past the door of my office. Or I’d lash out. I was embarrassed, afraid of committing to writing, afraid of sucking, afraid of failing. But I kept trying on the fear. Writing a little. Then a little more. Sharing. Taking classes. Going to conferences. Hitting the publish button. Over and over

I tried on the fear. Sometimes it was too much. Sometimes I stopped writing for days, weeks, even months on end. Then I’d try on the fear again. Was it still just as scary? Did the fear fit any better? Sometimes, like the kiddo and the Ursula song, the answer was yes and no. It was still scary. The fear still fit too uncomfortably to bear. But eventually, the fear starts to feel more comfortable. Eventually it morphs, becoming a second skin, not of paralyzing fear, but of something usable: curiosity as to what one could achieve with less fear and the courage to try on the next fear.

What scares you in your own life? How can you try on your fear today?


One thought on “Trying on Fear

  1. That’s a brave and special little boy you have. Bet it has a little something to do with his mama. Thanks for being brave enough to be generous with yourself through your writing.


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