Challenge 3: Fat, Failure, and Nothing At All

Challenge # 3: Describe three legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears.

The word “legitimate”  makes this one tricky for me because I’m not sure whether I should be interpreting it to mean “real fears that make you jump and scream and run into another room” or to mean “agonizing anxieties about life, the universe, and everything.” I decided to go with the latter. (The former, in case you were wondering, would be: Loud noises, falling from a height, and being barefoot in proximity to something venomous.)

Ergo (Latin!) here are three legitimate fears:

1. Getting Fat.

I admit that this isn’t the most profoundly thoughtful of fears. There are worse things than getting fat, like dying in a horrible fiery plane crash or being raped or being eaten by a shark, but these are not things that I would count as “real” fears. For one thing I would not be responsible for the horrible fiery plane crash, the rape, or being eaten by a shark- these are things outside of my control. I would be responsible for getting fat.

So this is a legitimate fear for three reasons: the first is because it would be my fault. The second reason is that, when looking at photos of my ancestors the person whom I most closely resemble is my mother’s-father’s-mother: a smiling zaftig German woman named Marie. Marie was a whole lotta woman. The comparison was made sometime during my teenage years during which time I was hyper aware of the fact that I was not skinny or tan like my classmates. My face at the time must have betrayed my dismay because I recall being reassured that “she also lived through the depression and didn’t have very good nutrition” and that I, as someone with superlative nutrition, would easily escape the fate of my genetic disposition.

I wish I could say that this was the reason that I started running regularly (it would be a lie- I started running because I thought it would make me a Jedi) but it’s the reason why I haven’t stopped. The third reason I am so terrified of getting fat is because I don’t lose weight. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I exercise: the weight never comes off. The only thing that has ever successfully taken and kept weight off was the time I avoided all added sugar for nine months. I was skinny and miserable. Life was no fun without cake at birthday parties or cookies at Christmas. So I try to strike a balance between enjoying life (and cakes) and running and a constant anxiety that each new pound that I put on might never go away.


2. Failure: Not Being Good Enough

“That doesn’t count” You may say, “That’s a universal fear.” So what. It terrifies me an informs the decisions I make every day so it counts. It’s the demon voice in my head that makes me want to curl up in a ball under my desk every time I get a rejection letter. It’s the reason I make jokes at my own expense. It’s the reason I find it difficult to participate in direct competitions: because I get so bound up in worrying about whether I am Good Enough that it actually makes me less good at whatever I am doing.

I don’t know how this one became a fear, although if I were to guess I would say it is some kind of subconscious fear that I won’t live up to my parents expectations in some way. Not that my parents ever had explicit or demanding expectations: they have always been very supportive and loving, but I have always had a sense that I was somehow different from what they thought I would be. Perhaps whenever I have defied their expectations there has been a moment of surprise in which I felt uncertain of their approval and perhaps this uncertainty made me think I needed to Try Harder to achieve it.

I don’t blame my parents. I think this fear is part of human nature. Why this fear is so profound in my life is unclear to me, but I know for a fact that it is the reason why I’ve always worked to be pleasant and friendly and apolitical and extremely private with my sex life and opinions. You might think that the Fear of Not Being Good Enough would lead to a safe and risk-averse life except that it is constantly at war with my third fear the Fear Of Not Living Up To My Potential.


3. Not Living Up To My Potential/ Not Doing Enough

This one sounds silly and pat like saying that all I wish for is world peace and an end to hunger. It doesn’t feel silly and pat, though. Some of the things from my past that have fucked me up the most were things that I didn’t do and now I’m too old to do them and get away with it. Knowing the gut dropping, throat closing, anus puckering regret of Things Left Undone from my past has given me a healthy fear of Not Doing Enough in my present.

My biggest fear isn’t dying but rather is dying without accomplishing anything first.  I believe in past lives, but I don’t believe in future lives. At least, I don’t believe I will get another chance to do all the things that I don’t do in this life so I need to make it count.



~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 14, 2013.

One Response to “Challenge 3: Fat, Failure, and Nothing At All”

  1. Get out of my head!!!
    Always reassuring to hear someone else has similar fears.

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