Journal prompt: Write about your greatest fear.

I thought this would be a really easy topic to discuss, but it turns out it’s really hard to write about something as abstract as an intangible fear.

I like to say I don’t get scared easily. And I don’t, just not at scary movies. I am, like many people, afraid of heights. I tend to panic, and avoid even short ladders for fear of falling to my premature death. My greatest fear is to be rejected. I’m sure we all deal with being afraid people will say no. For me, though, it’s paralyzing.

The roots of my seemingly irrational fear spring from my childhood, especially my teen years, when, instead of being cared for and nurtured by my parents, I was essentially kicked out to find a way to live on my own by my then stepmom. My father didn’t step in at the time. He really couldn’t have then. He was dealing with his own personal crises when I was in my mid-teens, but it didn’t remove the sting from his actions and, ultimately, his inaction when I moved out.

I went to live with my dad’s sister and her husband. It was a tumultuous six months, and by the end of the brief period I stayed with them, I had to deal with being rejected yet again by people who were supposed to love me.

After that, I went to live with someone who isn’t remotely related by blood, but with whom I share a kinship stronger than blood.

Even with the reassurance that there are good people in this world, I deal with a fear of being rejected. Like any fear, it plagues my mind with a series of negative what-ifs. So many times you hear people say, “The worst that could happen is they could say no.” But often, when I hear those words, my mind goes numb, and I flee to a refuge. I hide from facing the reality that people will, indeed, say no.

More recently, I have learned to push past this, and it’s produced some of my best moments. I’ve discovered that when I fear rejection the most, the better the idea—and the more rewarding it is when the idea isn’t rejected. Even when the idea is rejected, it’s fine. I can make a new idea for the task at hand. In fact, the idea may not be the best for that problem; I can perhaps apply it to another problem—or better yet, synthesize it into future thinking to help make future ideas stronger and more awesome.

Yes, it is irrational, but learning to live with it, not letting it take over is the most important part about fear.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
—Bene Gesserit litany against fear, Frank Herbert, Dune