Growing up, we encounter fear in many forms. The fear of falling down as we take our first steps, the fear of falling off the first bicycle ride, fear on the first day at the new school, fear of insects and animals, and many more. One of my biggest fears growing up lived under my bed and in the closet. It was installed in my consciousness that a scary looking entity called the boogeyman would crawl out from underneath my bed or closet and hurt me if I refused my meals or didn’t obey. It’s amusing and frightening at the same time that I managed to coexist with someone who lived only to hurt me, at the beck and call of those that summoned it. Fast forward 15 years, having grown up into an adult, now I’ve even bigger fears to deal with.
Have you ever been too conscious around a group of people? What will they think about you, your appearance, your manner of speaking, your thoughts and a several other things that give a knocking down sensation, and you experience darkness in broad daylight. In technical lingo, it’s called xenophobia. Needless to say, with the gradual passage of time the phobia had turned me into an extremely introverted personality. My aversion to strangers and people, in general, grew to a point where I was left with no friends. I’d never sign up for any co-curricular activities nor express interest in mingling with my fellow classmates. But what you fear the most, haunts you more often and the day that was going to change my life was impending.
I was in 8th grade when my fear of people started giving me anxiety attacks. So, I started to write down my fears in the form of poetry. One day, it was lunch hour, when our principal was on a routine round and saw me taking a nap in the classroom. She entered the class tiptoeing and before she could reach me my subconscious alarmed me and I woke up hurriedly and all terrified. She was quite aware of my condition and it was she who had permitted me to stay back in the classroom during lunch hour. She noticed some things written on paper that didn’t look like notes. And she started running through the draft. She gently put down the papers and asked me to come along.
The lunch break was almost over. The students started rushing back to their classrooms as the bell rang. She held my hand and took me to her cabin. Everyone’s eyes were pinned on me like I had committed a felony as we walked through the long corridor. Upon reaching the cabin, she asked me to take a seat. I was petrified, my legs shaking, my hands frozen and my mind was blank. Very gently she asked me, “Did you write all those poems?” “Yes”, I replied in a trembling voice. She searched for something in her drawer and put it right in front of me.
It was a poster for an inter-school poetry writing and reciting competition scheduled for later that week. She said, “I want you to participate in it”. Paranoia struck me hard but the way she looked at me left me no choice but to agree. I came back feeling numb at the thought of climbing up the stage and looking my audience straight in their eyes which for me was as daunting as anything. I pulled it together and sat down to write my poetry. The theme of the poetry was “Anxiety”, it was something I had experienced the most in my life. The next day, I sought approval for the poetry from my principal and then started to practice it in front of the mirror. I practiced for a week and a hundred times but still couldn’t gather the courage to face the audience.
The day of the competition arrived. I stood in a corner, watching other students getting on stage and doing their thing. As my cue came up, I started shivering. My principal walked up to me and whispered, “If you overcome your fear today, you’ll be free for the rest of your life but if you quit out of fear you will live in its grip forever. Just close your eyes and then open it looking up at the sky and imagine there’s no one except you in this room. You are the presenter and you are the audience.”
I went on the stage and followed her instructions like life and death. The first few words and I began to choke and stammer. I grabbed hold of the mic and forced it out. People started to laugh. I felt embarrassed and panicky, and then I closed my eyes. Gathered all my courage and did as she’d told. I began the recital of my poetry. I did my best. As my poetry drew to an end, the hall began to echo with the sound of applause, it was surreal. As I slowly began to open my eyes, I looked at my principal and she was the happiest face that I could see in the crowd. I won third place in my segment.
The next day, I was rewarded in front of the whole school. As I slowly made my way to the stage, passing by other students, I noticed I didn’t fear anything at all. Neither the people, nor the stage, and not even my phobia. It was then when I realized, things that daunt you, can also be a cure to your ailment. All you need is a bit of courage in the face of adversity, to inject the antidote.
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