The Life of a Fellow: Aelita
Advice from the Fearful
The seniors at Kensington are graduating in 5 weeks, and I have been thinking of what I can say to them; of what I can ask of them before they leave.
This is all that I am sure of, and from here I will make my request:
Vulnerability, honesty, and compassion make us human.
There are invisible walls that we build around ourselves, as protection, and as a remedy to fear; fear of dismissal, fear of failure, fear of genuine self-reflection. They separate us from realities that we do not want to face, and from all those who call into question the perfect image that we wish to project. Walls that are meant for protection however, will only end up isolating.
You will feel your flaws anyway. You will be afraid anyway. Not because you’re doing something wrong, not because you are not smart enough, or attractive enough, or eloquent enough, but because we live in a world of unknowns, and you will always have questions. You will be afraid, and in being afraid you will be amongst the 7.2 billion people worldwide: people who are afraid to go home, people who are afraid to leave home, people who are afraid of taking a step forward for fear that there won’t be any ground beneath them. This is a fact of life, and we do no good by pretending otherwise. Do not deny the reality you are living in, do not deny the people who hold up mirrors and ask you hard questions.
Build a fortress around yourself, and you will seem confident, powerful, but you will always feel a little bit weak, a little bit fearful.
Here vulnerability and honesty come in.
Admit that you are afraid, and you will learn that no person is impenetrable. No one who has ever sat in a classroom or stood in front of an audience has not at one time or another felt terrified and underprepared. You will learn that no one started out “smart” or “talented,” but instead gained skills through asking for help and failing over and over and over again, until they had tried every solution but the right one. Admit fear and you will learn that real confidence is standing unshielded and unapologetic.
And here compassion comes in.
You are not any more flawed than anyone else; you are not any less worthy of forgiveness. Be kind to yourself.
So my request: Do not shut yourself away in a windowless room, do not inflict punishment upon yourself in repentance.
Ask for support, admit that you are scared, and then take a step forward anyway.