Did you know there’s a big difference between fears and phobias? According to The Huffington Post, fear is an “emotional response to a real or perceived threat.” And as such, fears are common. Even normal.
Phobias, however, have one key difference—the anxiety experienced is “so strong that it interferes with quality of life and/or ability to function.”
Wow. Seeing that definition on paper is a bit deflating. Interferes with quality of life? Could my phobia really alter my ability to function? Sadly, yes. Because:
Sharks. I am forever convinced they are invisible, live in any body of water, and are out for my blood.
Did you just laugh?
It’s cool. I’m used to that response. And trust me, I KNOW it’s a ridiculous phobia. It’s irrational. But like most people, my phobia is rooted in valid reasoning, even if the extremes at which I’ll go to avoid exposure seem absurd. For me, it started in childhood, as a (presumably) innocent method of keeping my curious body out of the various bodies of water in my path.
From there, my overactive imagination morphed it into beliefs that would scare Stephen King.
For years, this avoidance of water has been part of my life.
So you can imagine my hesitation at the destination of a recent business trip. Co-workers and friends envied me (“Florida? they’d sigh. “That sounds wonderful.”). Except, I was terrified.
I just knew this was it. This is how it would end. My plane would crash into the ocean, and I’d be promptly devoured by the most evil of creations.
After all, my frenemy Google had provided numerous unpleasant results for: Destin + shark attack.
Of course, if you’re reading this, you know I survived.
But here’s the thing… I did more than just survive. With the encouragement of friends and family, I kicked off my shoes and walked through the sand. I approached the water. I stared at the waves and, through palpitations and hyperventilation, I put my toes in the water. The ocean water. The water in which I know sharks reside.
Toe-deep is as far as I’ll ever go. This is a fact. But, friends—it’s something.
And guess what? When we boarded a boat later that night (a boat I’d been having incessant nightmares about), I wasn’t as scared. In fact, it’s safe to say my phobia had been demoted to a fear, at least for the night.
And I realized, motherhood is no different.
It’s so scary. For many moms, there are normal fears associated with becoming a mother. For others, there are even some phobias.
What if my child chokes? Where do I get the support I need? What if I can’t breastfeed? What if my children take the wrong paths? How do I balance career and motherhood? What if I don’t bond with my baby? What if I don’t have a partner? How? Who? When?
Because, being a parent is downright terrifying.
You figure it out as you go, and with each toe-dip into the great unknown, you become more and more comfortable. More confident. More powerful.
Sure, you’ll always be a bit on guard. You’re not going to thrust yourself into the ocean covered in fish carcasses and fueled by hope that a horrific toothed creature will appear. But, you are going to make decisions that surprise you. You will meet people who forever shape you for the better. You will swell with pride, and you will move mountains.
The trick is—you have to be willing to take that first step.
It’s hard. You may have a panic attack. In fact, you may need an accountability partner who will Facebook Live the whole event so you don’t chicken out in front of your peers (yes, this happened).
But, once you dip your toes in, you’re going to feel invincible. And when it comes to motherhood, that’s a feeling we could sure use more of… don’t you think?
What are your phobias? How can you dip your toe into the proverbial ocean today?