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Ariyike Olayiwola: This Thing I Call Fear

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I knew I had to take a chance with writing – on a broad sphere this time, and immediately too. This decision was made mid-2021 after a series of chaotically positive events that led to the big self-realization. It seemed right to pull out my pen from this spiritless realm that has housed it, and pump into it the passion that occupies my guts, so it has a voice culled from my essence. So it expresses the rays of emotions as they bare with each story of struggle, wins, and discovery in my journey through life. To share too, after all, art is meant to be shared, and be felt by someone else.

And writing, to me, is art – a pleasant, defining and comforting one. An art I delight in. This is why it was confusing that I couldn’t pull it off immediately, as I wanted.

Good gracious! Do my legs have a tale of how I got them spasmed with the endless pacing rituals I partook in to unclog this confusion?

It was not that I wasn’t willing. I’m not a lousy writer either, and I wasn’t busy or distracted by anything. These were top factors that I was sure would have been the hindrance; I’d known this because for every project I have proposed to start – personal or assigned, I had a list of challenges that needed to be fixed ahead of the start. It has been a strategy to keep me well-prepared for the proposed project. 

I have a knack for perfection, and this need for perfection has also been my doom. I’d spend days – devoid of sleep – mapping out every move and making sure every single detail is right and top-notch, many times, to the detriment of my projects’ actualization.

Sometimes, it gets dependent on simple things like the right mood, the right day (and the ‘right day’ was always a Monday). I had a full membership card for this procrastinator’s club; we were notorious for making Monday a dictator over the other workdays. Our motto: “if it was not done on a Monday, it never happened.”

These, among other – now that I think about it – incidental conditions. I mean, who waits for food to digest before they can think?

But for this particular writing, I could see no challenge. It passed the ‘perfection’ test, yet, every time I tried to write, my thoughts froze. Not even the flames in my guts could jolt them back to life. Here is the sweet-sour thing about this flame in the gut, it is too aggressive to be kept in; it always finds its way out. Either that or it chokes you to the dearth of serenity.

So while I struggled with stringing my thoughts, my restlessness led me to search from within. I had to fix this, else I would choke on my flames. If the problem isn’t with me launching out perfect (as I had it all covered), then what is it?

It took me digging from why I desire perfectionism to why I don’t want to make mistakes. Doing this made me identify the problem as fear – the fear of something. To define it, I needed to discern what the mistake(s) would cost me. The answer was simple: mockery – which is a big deal for a social media tenderfoot like myself, considering unkindness is the new cool in our smart age. Abi, who wants to be dragged by the foundational opinion gatekeepers? 

Still, that wasn’t the main problem. I did remember that my validation has chiefly been from within. I do the assessing and crediting of all things me. Unkind external feedback should not be that much of a threat, right? And there, it became clear that the hindrance was internal. The sad truth is that the problem is me. All along, it has been me. It has been me who didn’t feel enough. Enough competence, enough skills. All the degrees, certification, skill acquisition, talent, accolades for jobs well done, and I still assessed myself as “not enough”. And on that premise, I valued myself somewhat incapable to execute personal projects, and to put myself out there.

Fear. The fear of not being enough to make that mark.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

This moment of realization terrified me as it humbled me. How this strength which was meant to protect me from being adrift like a plastic bag got lost in the wind, and influenced my limitation. How in response to this crippling mindset, perfectionism became the superpower. I could have sworn I was born with a cape. 

And the humbling part of these all was me not realizing it was fear. I thought I knew fear. This normal, yet, bold feeling that intrudes on your peace from time to time. This feeling we just have to shrug off, numb, avoid its trigger, or deny to milk its goodness. Alas! It is more intrusive than I thought. And a master of disguise too. On its good days, it elevates you to a state of conquest, equips you with the armors and weapons needed to triumph, so you don’t know it’s fear. On its bad days, it locks you in and makes you feel safe till you discover the barricades. Like it did me; perfectionism felt like safety until I wanted to move past it.

Now, I know fear. And I wonder how many, like myself, nurture a hindering personality or strategy that is just a derivative of fear.

Oh, my poor tribe! I hope you get it unpacked.

Acknowledgment is as key as realization. Those two, they say, kickstart the process of liberation, healing, and everything redemption. I’d add a passion for something, considering how my passion for writing, served for me, a guiding light to realization. I also feel it crumbling the deep-freeze walls of limitations that were built by fear, because, what’s a chill spine in the presence of burning flames?

Now, let the liberation begin!



Featured image: Dreamstime

Ariyike is a writer with a flair for adding value anywhere, to anyone, at any time, be it with content creation, creating awareness towards personal or collective growth, or simply tickling a fancy to bring forth smiles. She doubles as a Public Health Nutritionist. She can be contacted at @riyiola_ms on Instagram and Twitter.