Last night I must have been really bored, as I sat with my daughter and watched a show called Britain’s Worst Teeth on BBC America.
Essentially, they followed four people, all in their twenties, who out of fear had avoided the dentist for many years, even though they had serious dental problems. One woman had severe damage from bulimia, her teeth smoothly worn stumps from acid burn. Another woman, a self-confessed sugar addict, had pervasive decay in her mouth. But the worst were two siblings, a brother and sister, who both suffered from an irrational fear of the dentist.
Both siblings were so terrified of the dentist that they underwent hynotherapy just to get them calm enough to travel to the dentist’s office. Outside the office, the sister began shaking and vomited several times, until the hynotherapist calmed her down enough to get into the office. Once there, the brother got the treatment he needed (though he had to be sedated), whereas the sister never got past just a basic cleaning (and I learned that watching a dentist pick large chunks of plaque is quite nauseating).
I watched this poor girl suffer (even eating soft foods is painful for her) and thought how, even with a mouth full of rotten teeth, the treatment is nowhere near as bad as living like that. But her fears had become so overwhelming she just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t get the help she needed. The contrast between her brother, who was thrilled with his new life, and her pain and reclusiveness was heartbreaking.
It reminded me that we all have our irrational fears that keep us from growing and learning, whether it’s our fear that our religious beliefs might not be true, or it’s our fear of trying something daring or new.
I used to have this crippling fear of embarrassing myself in public. I would avoid public speaking like the plague, and I had trouble even talking to cashiers and salespeople in stores. As I mentioned in another post, I’m grateful that my church experience helped me overcome that fear.
I’ve also had a problem with confidence in my writing abilities. When I finished my master’s thesis, my first thought was, “This really sucks.” But blogging and writing here have helped me overcome that fear of failure, and I’m writing a book now.
So, what are your fears? What are they holding you back from? And what have you overcome?