I don’t know if you have been there before, when someone you greatly looked up to said something that dashed any hope you had in you at taking a shot...
I was raised to be proper. Join the queue, never jump the queue; I was taught to not raise my voice, to keep a low profile. Very good lessons but they unwittingly came with some downsides– you see, growing up during an authoritarian military regime created a flawed subdued psyche in most Nigerians; it made you keep a low head, keep quiet and take abuse for as long as you can, not because you do not care enough to fight for yourself rather you are cautious, careful and many other things we use to disguise the real thing. FEAR! You see others stand up for themselves in the banking hall because a teller attended to someone else who came long after them and didn’t join the queue while you feel “well… it’s just one person. No problem”. You go to make payment for a service, see clearly posted in the room that the fee is N3000 but the attendant says N3500 and your protests never leave your head or at best you grumble under your breadth as you remove the N3500 and pay. You then return to your place of comfort and lament or even transfer the aggression of your loss unto others who, in their own fear, take your anger in silence and sometimes, assuage your feelings. The first step to tackling fear is recognizing it for what it is. Here’s how I did it, or rather, how I am doing it [because some things are so ingrained they can hardly be shed at once]
WHAT IS THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? AND WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THAT WORST THING?
I have always marveled how I’d park my car a long distance from my destination so as to secure a good parking space and when I walk closer to the place I see someone who, despite seeing a long line of parked cars far away, still comes close and somehow finds a space to park. So I began to do that too – it is a small chip of my mountain of fear but it was part of it all the same. The worst thing that could happen is I would have to go around and return to where I was initially- The fear of starting over. I began to challenge Gatemen who’d say “Oga space no dey inside” and found to my surprise, that space indeed ‘dey inside’ for those who insist. I began to register my displeasure to public servants who rendered their service in a less than decent manner and found that, they not only knew they were wrong, they even apologized. I saw that when I resisted others jumping a queue, not only was I making a difference for myself, others who were also held by fear found their voices. I suddenly could tell a policeman, without being apologetic, that there was “nothing for weekend”, I could openly disagree with my more popular influential social media friends and heavens wouldn’t fall. These, on their own, are very little victories but the most important discovery I made was that the more little victories I had, the more courage I had to pursue and win at somewhat bigger battles. I asked myself what the worst that could happen was – and I was prepared to embrace it.
Not all fear is bad. Scripture talks about the Fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom. Another is the Fear of being ordinary or average in life, channeled properly; it could be a propeller against your other fears. What if I do this? Well, What if you don’t?
A year ago, I went into a business venture with a risk of possible embarrassment because it was ‘beneath me’ and that with the Kryptonite of Nigerians –“What will people say?” Today, from that venture, I am in the process of joining a new company, and founding my own by the time this piece goes to press– all of these exposing me to the possibility of leaving my “stable” government job but I will be fine. I know this because I have chipped enough blocks off my mountain of fear. You can too.
My name is Adekunle, I am passionate about social change and like to think of how I can make society [particularly Africa] a better place. I tweet at @adekunleth
“I am the dreamer who broke up with fear… Now I am living my dream. Let’s live our dreams together!”