We Are Born Fearless - Why Teach Fear

The other day I pulled into a parking space in front of Chipotle to pick up an order. As I was getting out of my car I saw a little boy who was about six years old playing with reckless abandon. He was jumping off the two foot high water fountain with no fear. He ran along the edge of the ledge again with no fear. Like most grown ups I looked at him and thought he should be careful. He could fall and hurt himself. I watched a few more seconds and smiled when I thought so what if he hurt himself. He’s having fun and being fearless.

I do my best to raise my daughter to be aware not afraid. With a twelve year old daughter, I’m often in a world of girls and giggles. A couple of my daughters friends have professed social anxiety. I wasn’t quite sure about the definition of social anxiety so I looked it up.

Armed with this definition I now fear being around some of her friends in case I say the wrong thing. Until recently I had no experience with such things. My daughter’s fear is not making friends wherever she goes. She’s always looking for someone to talk to. She always excited about going places even if she doesn’t know anyone. She says there are certain things she won’t do because of fear but I know if one of her friends did it with her, she would be off and running.

I think of my generation growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. They gave us different fears but there were some that stayed fearless. They are the ones who became leaders, activist, and inventors. They traveled to space and changed laws. I know there should be healthy fear in life but when we don’t help our children move beyond their fear, we allow them to stifle their greatness.

I grew up around a lot of yellers. We got yelled at by parents, aunts, teachers and anyone else who was a person of authority. We were told to go outside and play and be in the house before the street lights came on. We fell out of trees, hopped fences, traveled miles away from home by foot, skates or bikes without our parents. We jumped off roofs with towels tied around our necks for capes and all our parents had to show for it was a trip to the emergency room.

We are a generation who started watching televisions and allowed it to shape and mold our fears. A white police officer shoots a black kid shown daily causes fear of police and fear of black people. A white person shoots up or bombs a school or church and we fear sending our children to school or seeing a white face in a predominately non-white church. We see someone with w turban or hijab and we feel fear. We cast fear based on stereotypes in movies, tv shows, and books. We allow ignorance to feed fear. We then transfer that fear to our children, not always in words, but by shielding them from the world.

Parents are the perpetuators of fear. I know I’m guilty of it. By nature I am not an adventurous person. It used to be a proclamation of “that’s crazy white people shit” when the truth is I was never exposed to such adventures. How fearless would I have been if the world had not taught me to be afraid? How many books would I have already written? How many countries would I have visited? How many languages could I speak?

As a kid you had no fear. You either kept trying or you moved on. Then one day someone said told you not to do something out of fear — fear of falling, fear of pain, fear of rejection, fear of being left out, fear of judgement, fear of being different, fear for fear sake.

The bible tells me I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That’s the fear I want to live with.

Phyllis Williams-Strawder is the author of That Damn Girl Stuff: A Mother's Truth and Far From the Tree.

Phyllis is the publisher of SPICE: The Variety of Life written by her husband Neil and Morgan Mischief written by her daughter Morgan.

Phyllis has been writing since she was a teen. Her favorite thing to write back then was poetry. A family friend who was in the music industry wanted to turn one of her poems into a song but she never pursued it. Her debut book, Morgan Mischief, was written with her daughter who was nine years old at the time.

Phyllis is a successful entrepreneur who owned a financial advisory business. She later owned two popular restaurants with her husband. She is an alum of Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Executive Program. She is an alum of Leadership Long Beach Institute. She is a former member of the Long Beach City College Culinary Advisory Board.

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