Is fear common for everyone? I'd like to believe so; however, for BIPOC people, being afraid is often a coping tool used to get through life. This fear makes reaching goals, practicing self-care, trying new things, and doing "things" that other cultures of non-color "do" somewhat more challenging. Why? Here is a brief understanding of how and why fear is a coping tool for BIPOC folks.
But first, disclaimer…this is NOT AT ALL to dismiss or say that any person, of color or not, doesn't deal with crippling fear due to trauma, abuse, family issues, etc. Here I highlight how fear impacts BIPOC folks and how we can gain new skills to cope with fear and move forward in ways that help us meet our goals & achieve greatness!
I am unsure if any of you reading know this, but fear does not mean "you do not do something"!! But this was news to me! When I looked up the definition of fear, I found that
fear (noun): an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fear
Growing up in a BIPOC family, a sense of fear & belief that the world was not a safe place for me was instilled in me growing up. An idea that trying new things was not ok for me because trying something and not doing well at it, losing, or failing would not only cost me but affect my family as they all had sacrificed and given up so much just for me to have any privilege.
"We don't just inherit our skin tone, the color of our eyes, or the broadness of our shoulders from our parents We can also inherit our family's story, narrative, and views about life. Within our family tree, we may represent the green, budding leaves, but the very branches that pulsate life into us are grounded in our ancestors' deeply embedded roots. There's a part of them that continues to live on within us, whether we are aware of this or not. While carrying on our family's legacy is noble, there can also be unresolved conflict and baggage to sort through and clean up."
Reading this helped me understand why fear was instilled in me and why it continues to be ever-present.
In recent years of becoming a small business owner and facing my fears, I began to do a deep dive within and started learning who I was behind the masks. I somehow stepped from behind it and lived despite fear pivoting my mindset, behavior, and practice to being UNCOMMON.
Here were the first steps in my journey:
1. Being honest with myself about who I was and what I needed: This is/was a critical first step for me. I had become accustomed to defining myself and seeing myself through other people's lenses. What they wanted from me, what they expected me to be, and what they "defined" me. Now I pointedly ask myself, "what do YOU want?" I say to myself, "this IS who I am!" Even if it does not align with whom YOU want ME to be. AND after asking and saying these things to myself, I listen, move, and behave in line with my authentic answers. Yes, even if it means someone else will dislike or understand it. See #3 😊
2. Letting go of trying to please others instead of myself: This was HELLA scary!! That meant accepting that I may let someone else down, others may be displeased or unhappy, and not meeting expectations. Pleasing others was something I lived most of my doing, and I thought that it was what I needed to do. Pleasing others was a part of my identity. But I realized that feeling this way was due to the generational trauma of FEAR. As a POC, it is essential to be palatable, pleasing, and non-threatening to move through the world more safely. These thoughts and behaviors come from my "roots." How was I ever to let go of this!? The answer for me was in holding space. I learned that by holding space for others, we are no longer responsible for how they feel; they are now responsible for their feelings. When we hold space for someone, we give them the space and autonomy to feel and experience everything, both good and not-so-good. Without these uncomfortable moments, growth and movement are incapable. That uncomfortable place is where everything happens! And most importantly, we stop being afraid of letting people be who they are and letting things happen naturally. I know! Letting people be who they are is probably the scariest point because letting people be who they are may interfere with our plans and expectations. However, I learned that allowing natural consequences to take effect and letting others indeed be who they are, takes me to the space and mindset of being aware, authentic, and honest, where I probably need and want to be anyway.
3. Thinking and feeling responsible for others: I thought I was responsible for everything happening with others and the world around me. (I don't know why because we are people, we are not the sun!) We believe things such as telling someone no to a request make us responsible for their success, failure, or feelings of disappointment. I learned that this is an irrational thought and far from the truth. People may say, "if you do not help me, I cannot get this done." The truth is, yes, they may only get it done if you help, but this is their problem, not yours. When we hold space for others, we enable them to develop problem-solving and decision-making skills, manage disappointment, understand how to do self-reflection to learn how they could have handled things differently, etc. No one needs to say no to everything, but we must assess ourselves first by reflecting on #1 and #2 to see what we need and what's called for now. If what is called for now is helping someone else, I will do that. But I now strive to know why I am doing something and for whom I am doing it. This way, I can prioritize myself when making these decisions.
Instead of reading this and returning to what you have always done, such as telling yourself, "I'm ok." Consider being honest with yourself and figuring out if you are ok or that is what you tell yourself to continue to push through. This typical response is a part of generational trauma and messaging. Yes, there is a time and place for pushing through and "faking it until you make it," but there is also a time to understand what is called for now. Try thinking and behaving differently by reflecting honestly on numbers 1-3 and seeking to understand what YOU genuinely need and want. Do The Thing and Become UNCOMMON!
Feel free to contact me if you are still unsure about your fears and how they were instilled in you.