Fight or Flight

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I grew up in a family and household that was very open and honest, with parents that were blunt in their directness. You always knew where you stood with them and where they stood on all matter of issues. Especially my mother, who raised my sister and I tough while still making sure to love us as well as demonstrating what being fearless was. Matter of fact, it was through my mother that I have come to understand what fearlessness truly is, and conversely, what it is not.

Naturally, most of those family traits have been deeply embedded in me. Some aspects of my family character are more readily apparent and were more readily adopted than others. My openness, my direct honesty, I come by naturally. It’s that fearlessness in facing the world that has been the biggest struggle for me. I have an innate fear of failing, that is, failing to live up to my highest aspirations. Decisions made due to past failures and disappointments that have been provoked by my own doing. Finding a comfort zone that falls short, but seems satisfying, satiating my fear of taking off and flying to higher levels of myself became my escape route. I always found ways to conform or change things in my life to make it easier to settle in being complacent, getting comfortable with or at the first sweet spot I could find without even considering the inspiration that caused me to leap in the first place.

From relationships, to jobs, to an internal and external sense of wellbeing, and even in the conversations I have with myself about things that I could never be proud of. My convictions and personal resolve seemed to be shrinking as I begin to create these fantasies of happiness and success that are somehow so much easier to get to in my head, knowing in my gut that I have fallen short of what I truly deserve.

Trying to run from the best version of myself isn’t something I did with deliberate intentions, but it is something that I applied quite adeptly and creatively in convincing myself that less is more for some time now. We’ve all struggled with “the usual internal demons” as I like to refer to them: self-doubt, personal insecurities, those seeds of negativity that were planted and nurtured by the various haters who have crossed our paths, as well as the discouragement we experience when we are the only ones willing to fight for what we believe.

Sometimes it’s total strangers and sometimes it’s people we know and love who suppress our ambitions and crush our dreams, helping us to yield to the voice in our heads crying. Adjusting to deal with all the resistance to advancement is nothing short of suffocating and paralyzing. We’re up against a virtual maze of mental and emotional imprisonment that is never easy to escape without deliberate determination, and oh yea fearlessness!

Swimming in a pool of self-doubt and giving in to self-pity had me questioning everything from career choices to my purpose on earth. Living in fear goes against everything that I have been taught and that I know within myself. I knew that if I didn’t at least attempt to climb the mountain and pass all the tests that come my way, I would never amount to shit. So, I jumped.

When I made the decision to move to NYC, I knew two things; I wasn’t going back to Arizona and I was going to grind my Black ass off. “Soon as your feet hit the ground, start running was what my mama told me before I left. A metaphor so easily understood that I took those words with me and haven’t forgotten them to this day! Living in a new city, especially a city as fast-paced as New York City would test me on every level, even those I never thought to prepare for. I was so accustomed to coddling myself even when I knew it was to my detriment, but in New York, I would be forced to find the strength and mindset to persist, to fight, to persevere, and to win! Living in fear had been keeping me bound to my own self-imposed limits and blinding me to opportunities that would only be mine if I stretched myself. I had to find a way to tear down the walls I had built that bound my potential.

Leaping out on faith is easier said than done since fear offers many creative excuses and helps us find comfort in mediocrity. I had something to prove to myself and to be honest, I found living in fear to be mentally exhausting at the least and pathetic in its worst sense. Just not conducive to growth and fulfillment. Fear stunts your growth and cripples our ambitions, while conjuring up false impressions of what may be possible or what’s seen as “impossible”. Fear creates stored anxiety and paranoia that can overshadow all aspects of our view of ourselves and once that happens, depression and further fears are manifested. We can’t allow fear to bully us and dictate how we interpret and enjoy life’s experiences, or not. We have to make a deliberate choice to want to step out of that fear start fighting for personal fulfillment and joy for ourselves. Fighting for your potential, fighting for your goals, fighting for your today and tomorrow.

That’s the only way to begin to propel yourself through the mire and confusion of day to day challenges and setbacks and begin to be all that you dreamed and imagined for yourself but could just not see it through. Life is funny like that. The fearlessness only kicks in when you decide to get out of your own head. I was forced to understand, I mean really understand that aspect of myself. Failure is a part of life. It’s another avenue for learning life’s lessons. Fear doesn’t have to be part of it or play a role if you choose to deny it a foothold.

Being intimidated is normal and it’s okay to acknowledge, but living, dwelling and growing in that fear is debilitating and will ruin any chance you have of competing and completing this journey of self-love and experiencing a version of your best life as the best me you can be. How much do you love yourself? Enough to take a chance at greatness?

Be good to yourself.

Janelle Parrish is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Using her voice to share her struggles, stories, and journey, she only hopes to be a progressive tool for other young black women like herself.

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