How To Overcome Childhood Phobias
When I was 8 years old, I was convinced that if I looked at a poppy I’d go blind!
One day a girl in my Nature class in the 2nd grade, waved a poppy in front of my face and said, “Look at this & you’ll go blind!” She was dead serious when she said it although she was only teasing me. Obviously this is a completely ridiculous & irrational fear but to my naive, 8 year old self, it absolutely terrified me!
When I got home that afternoon, I immediately went out to the back yard & painstakingly plucked every single poppy I could see & threw them over our neighbor's wall. As if that was going to solve the problem! I remember being completely obsessed with avoiding poppies because I really believed that if I stared at one for too long, I would gradually go blind!
I had nightmares about being chased by a Little Shop Of Horrors poppy & waking up trembling in the middle of the night!
Fears versus Phobias
Almost everyone has an irrational fear or two. Do you dread the thought of your next dental check-up? Do you freak out at the sight of a spider in your shower? When fears become so severe that they cause tremendous anxiety & interfere with your normal life, they’re called phobias. A lot of phobias stem from traumatic childhood experiences. Many people that are afraid of dogs could have been bitten by one when they were a child.
When I was in the 5th grade, I had an intense fear of being called up to the blackboard to solve a problem. I was terrible at Maths so I would sit at the back of the class to hide from the teacher. One day, she was looking for someone to call on, “Edel, can you come up to the board please?”
My heart started pounding, my palms were sweaty & I trembled with fear.
I slowly walked up to the board & picked up a piece of chalk. I stood there frozen with my back to the class for what seemed like an interminable amount of time. I could hear loud whispers & some of my classmates started giggling. This just freaked me out even more & I was afraid to turn around. The teacher sighed, came over, put a hand on my shoulder & asked me to sit down. I had to make the ‘walk of shame’ back to my desk with my head down. I felt an overwhelming need to just run out of the classroom & cry in the toilets. It was a traumatic experience for me.
Fear is a natural part of self-preservation. It allows children to act with the necessary caution to stay safe. Thankfully, most of these fears are passing & a result of childhood development. I didn’t want to allow my childhood fear of standing up in front of a group of people to carry on into adulthood & affect my quality of life.
Facing My Fears
I was a quiet, withdrawn & self-conscious teenager. Situations where I had to stand up & speak in class still freaked me out. When I was 15 years old, I joined a debating class to give me the confidence to speak in public. I enjoyed the class but it was a huge challenge to stand up in front of the class to voice my opinions on a given subject. My eyes always focused on the bitchy girls down at the back of the class with disinterested, bored looks on their faces. Seeing them made me nervous & forget what I was going to say. I always felt as if they were judging me with their disapproving stares.
How I Overcame My Fear Of Public Speaking
As part of my Personal Development Plan at one of my previous workplaces, my boss suggested that I take a 2 day assertiveness course. The objective was to improve my communication skills & give me the confidence to speak up & voice my opinions at meetings. Part of the course covered Confrontation & Dealing With Difficult People.
I found the course very useful & effective. It gave me a lot more confidence & the courage to say “no” in situations without being aggressive. It improved my communication skills & enabled me to be tougher in situations when dealing with clients or customers over the phone.
Today I’m proud to say that I’m a fully confident, articulate & assertive woman both in the workplace & in social situations. I’m comfortable standing up in front of my colleagues to give a presentation or speak up & give my opinion at meetings.
I’m no longer haunted by nightmares of being chased by a giant poppy!
If you are interested in improving your communication skills & becoming more assertive, check out this course: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/learning-to-be-assertive/welcome
Thanks for reading!