Solution To The Fear Of The Unknown Is Knowledge

For the last year and a half, I’ve been seeing a therapist. I’ll admit I only started going because therapy seems to be the new cool trend, and because I tend to give in to trends sometimes, I found myself with a therapist.  (Thank goodness, there isn’t a cliff jumping trend now, right?!) What I’ve found from getting therapy is that I’m still carrying around a lot of baggage from my childhood, baggage that I was aware of and some that I had no clue was there.  

In order for you to understand, I have to take you back–way back to fourth grade math class and those wretched timed multiplication worksheets.  To this day, I can’t figure out why anybody needs to be able to complete 100 multiplication problems in a minute, but apparently in the early 90s, that was the best way to assess students’ competency in math.  Anyway, I wasn’t good at this, and my teacher at the time let me know.  I don’t quite remember what she said because it was so long ago, and maybe my nine-year old mind took her statement too seriously.  However, the damage was done.  That was the moment I decided I wasn’t good at math.  That feeling of inadequacy and anxiety came up all the time when the math would get a little complicated.  Despite the fact that I’d never earned a grade lower than 90 in any kind of math on my report card, I still didn’t think I was good at it.  Even after winning the Algebra II award in high school, I still considered math my weak subject, so much so that when I got to college, I avoided Honors Calculus and took College Algebra instead.  I also shied away from any career path that I thought would involve math to make sure I never had to face that insecurity.

Fast forward to now. I recently got a promotion.  I work in the music business, publishing to be specific, so there’s a lot of contracts, royalty rates, complicated legal jargon and you guessed it–MATH! Mind you, my last position also required math, but for some reason, the thought of doing it in this position was stressing me out.  One task, in particular, gave me extreme anxiety, so much so that I began to question whether I had bitten off more than I could chew by applying for this promotion.  One morning, after my second full week in the position, I sat at my desk right before starting my day and asked myself why I was getting so intimidated by this task.  The memory of that insecure fourth-grader came up, and I decided that this time I wasn’t going to let that insecurity win. I decided that I was going to ask as many questions of my colleagues, look at as many contract examples as I could, watch and rewatch my training videos as many times as it took and research this particular topic until I understood, so I wouldn’t be uncomfortable, anxious, or intimidated by this task any more.  I made that vow to myself on Monday.  By Thursday of that same week, after research, conversations, dozens of contracts, and hours of creating my own graphic organizers, the light bulb clicked on!  I did a couple of examples on my own, reached out to my trainer just to check if I was correct, and I was!  I got it.  I was so proud of myself that I smiled for the next two hours.  At that moment, I thought about that little girl who was discouraged in math class in fourth grade, about that teenager who avoided Calculus in college and settled for College Algebra out of fear.  I was smiling because I faced a fear that had me in a chokehold for years, and it turns out, I’ve always been good at math. 

We can take a few lessons from this experience: 

  1. If you have influence over children, be very careful how you talk to them.  Handle them with care.  
  2. It doesn’t matter how good other people say you are at something if you don’t believe it yourself.  
  3. Be inquisitive because the solution to fear of the unknown is knowledge.
  4. Keep showing up!  No matter how scared, insecure or intimidated you are.  Keep showing up.  Eventually you’ll get it.
  5. Also, therapy is more than just trendy. It works.