Why Fear Is My Favorite Four Letter Word
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By Jennifer Lebo
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“Don’t be afraid.”

“Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.” 

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” 

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”


We’ve heard them all.  The inspirational quotes, the success stories, the pep talks.  And they’re nice to consider, or to print out and put up on the inspiration board.  But at 2am, when you’re wide awake, and your brain won’t stop asking questions, imagining horrors, replaying mistakes… well, it’s a bit harder to believe those mantras.


This seems most true when it comes to our girls.  For me, the questions, the worries, they can hit me any time.  Does she have friends? Is she sitting alone at school? Is she lonely?  Is she suffering? Am I missing something? These are my greatest fears, and played well, these fears can take me down the rabbit hole of future scenarios that do not look good for my B.


Am I the only one who thinks like this?  Are any of you moms falling down similar rabbit holes?  Does fear sometimes grip you like it grips me? Does it feel as if the fears have multiplied now that she’s moved into the tween and teen years?  


I’m thinking I’m not the only one.  I’m also thinking we can kick this fear thing out of our brains with something called “Fear Setting”.



We all know what goal setting is.  In fact, we worked on that in a recent post (HERE).  But “fear setting” is a bit different. I first discovered this while reading "The 4-Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss.  (There’s also a super TED talk about it RIGHT HERE). Without going into too much background, “fear setting” is an ancient technique that Ferriss discovered, tweaked, and now uses all the time.  It’s basically exposing our fears, laying them out in detail, and then crushing their power. Let me break it down. You’ll need a pen and some paper for this.



The first thing to do is to expose the fear, to envision it in detail.  Yeah, that sounds fun, right? OK, so take that fear and write it at the top of your paper, as a “what if” question.  For me that might look like:

“What if she has no friends throughout middle school or high school?”



Below your “what if” question, create three columns, and title each one Define, Prevent, and Repair, respectively.


Define: In this column, write out in detail, what this fear looks like.  Paint your fear with words. What would it actually look like for my daughter to have no friends in middle school?  What would it actually look like for your daughter to fall in with the wrong crowd? To fail math? To be bullied? To be a bully?  Write it down. Bullet points work well here. Jot down phrases, details, ideas, fragments. Brainstorm your fear. Define it.


Prevent: After giving your Define column a once over, go to your Prevent column and write down any steps you can think of that you (or your daughter, or both of you) can take to PREVENT these details from happening. What could you do alone, and what could you do with her to PREVENT these things?  Remember this is PREVENT, so we’re looking to get out ahead of the fear here, to consider what to do BEFORE it happens. Brainstorm and write every possible solution down here.


Repair: Finally, consider what you (or both of you) could do if this actually did happen.  If she really did end up with no friends. If she really did fail a subject, or started drinking, or fell into depression?  How could you help her through this? Go back to that first column, those details defining this fear. Brainstorm your solutions to repairing this.  List tangible ways you and she could get through this together.


Now take a moment and look at these lists.  You’ve now given your fear a face, and a lot of detail.  You’ve shown yourself ways to keep this fear from happening, but you’ve also come up with ways to fix it if it does.  Basically, you’ve taken this fear and you’ve kicked its ass.


Look, I’m not saying that this exercise is going to solve everything.  I’m looking at this road of mothering a teen daughter and I’m thinking that the chances are pretty good that we’ve still got some bumps ahead of us.  But what I am saying here is that maybe we actually CAN do something about these fears. Maybe, next time, instead of heading down the rabbit hole of fear and horrific scenarios, we can do some “fear setting” and come up with some practical steps to prevent and repair.  Maybe we’re not as helpless as we sometimes think.


And one more thought.


Maybe we’re not as alone in this as we think.  Maybe we’re all afraid. Maybe we’re all unsure.  Maybe we’re all wondering how to raise these ladies.  Maybe we could do this together.

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