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The Fear

Lily Allen’s song “The Fear” slams the vacuous world of celebrity as well as offering a poignant insight into the fears I believe many young women are harbouring.

Warning: the clip below contains strong language.

During the research process for my upcoming book, The Butterfly Effect, I had the opportunity to speak at length with many teenage girls who said that they were adept at pretending they were “all over it”, “onto it”, “okay with it”. Many girls wear a Perfect Girl facade.

Underneath, they tell me they actually feel scared, confused, exhausted. And lonely.

“I sometimes think I am the only one who feels like I am not really good enough . . . My friends seem so confident that I am scared to tell them what I really feel . . . I don’t want to look weak.” Julie, 14

“I feel so alone a lot of the time. Like, am I the only one who worries about my weight? Who feels self-conscious wearing clothes that show so much of my body? I feel like maybe everyone else is normal and I am a freak.” Dione, 16

“I am afraid. I can’t show it, as that’s a weakness and I might be targeted by other girls at my school if they see it. But I am afraid a lot of the time. I am scared of not being loved. Of not being noticed, of not getting it right (clothes, music, etc.) and then looking stupid.” Claire, 15

“I am really scared of making a mistake or failing. What would people think of me if I got it wrong?” Paris, 16

“I am scared I will never be beautiful.” Siobhan, 13

When I hear girls talk like this, I feel compelled to work harder to offer them voices of difference. I also suspect that by refusing to talk about the fears we all have, and more importantly how we have also overcome these, we run the risk of pathologising adolescent angst. How I love rock group REM’s lineEverybody hurts, you’re not alone . . . hold on.”

There is much to be gained from being more open about our fears and sharing our own journeys.

What are you scared of, and how might you manage these feelings and triumph over fear?

Published inBody ImagePower of Words

11 Comments

  1. I completely agree that a lot of girls try and put on the facade of being completely in control, happy, together and…in many respects, completely devoid of negative emotions.

    I’ve been sitting here having a think of what I am afraid of, and what I’m willing to admit I’m afraid of. I have to tell you that there’s a pretty huge ravine between the two.

    I ridiculously afraid of spitting chewing gum out onto the footpath – besides being bad for the environment, I’m afraid that someone will be murdered in that very spot, and they will get my DNA off the gum and charge me for a crime I never committed. How do I overcome this fear? Quite simply, I don’t. I just don’t spit chewing gum onto the footpath.

    However, on a more serious note – I think I experience many of the fears other teenage girls do (ha! I only have 6 months left of saying that!). I’m afraid that I will never be smart enough, that I’ll never make my family proud, that I’ll never be good enough, happy enough, just to name a few.

    Most of these are not the overwhelming fear which completely dominates my life. However, managing these feelings is not always easy!

    I think it’s extremely important to take a step back and assess what these fears are really about. I think it’s also important to look at it for what it is.

    There’s a story on Reach Out which I love. I will share the link with you here. It’s not my story, it was written by a young person years ago who developed an intense fear of eating around other people (although as far as I’m aware they did not have an eating disorder).

    http://www.reachout.com.au/default.asp?ti=1334

    “Like an Olympic sprinter on the starting block waiting to run the race of their life I looked at my glass. I summoned all my strength, picked up the glass and sank the contents in a single gulp. ‘Great!’ I thought ‘That is the only time I will ever have to drink water in public for the first time. At least next time I’ll have something to compare it to’.”

    This paragraph is so inspiring – this person’s attitude of “that is the only time I will ever have to drink water in public for the first time” is AMAZING.

  2. Thank you Ella for sharing this – very insightful. You’re so right; too often we teach girls to swallow negative emotions rather than encouraging them to work through these. In her extraordinary book “Teenage Girls In Crises” respected therapist Martha Strauss talks about girls being consumed by rage and despair; and of them being so afraid of expressing either that they internalise these emotions.

    I believe it is very important to help all young people develop emotional literacy so that they can clearly articulate how they are really feeling. Is it anger? Frustration? Shame? Envy? Disappointment?
    We also need to create a safe place in which they can then share the joyful…and the challenges.

    Hiding, and living in fear, is ultimately far more destructive than facing our personal demons.

  3. I’m not sure we’re all “consumed by rage and despair” – but I do think that bottling up emotions and fears can’t help anyone.

    But I completely agree that young people need to learn to identify what they are feeling.

    Very true that we must also provide a place to be joyful – because sometimes even positive emotions are regarded as “negative” in society. Pride, joy, etc. are often regarded as egotistical, or unimportant (because there is so much else going on, etc.)

  4. Sorry – should have clarified – Strauss talks about many teen girls in crises being consumed by rage and despair. Agree – obviously not all girls are consumed by such feelings.

  5. Jane

    Thanks Danni,
    I heard Lily’s song this week for the first time and thought it was fantastic!!

    I can certainly relate to “The Fear” as it feels a little like a sticky, darkness that invades my (our?) confidence at times.
    Thinking that for whatever reason I am not enough is not ok!! Sometimes I think I am too much – that is also not ok!! When I feel like this, I need to go into my quite space and regroup. It is there I can center myself and remember that I am perfect the way I am. There is no one in the world like me and I am here for a reason. Damn the never ending consumer driven messages that I have to be other than I am!! They are wrong! I will not allow “The Fear” and them to control me and make me feel less than!!
    Great post Danni
    Jane xx

  6. Hey Jane,
    I think that’s a really interesting way you’ve talked about the fear – almost personifying it. I think this method is really effective for overcoming fear – because you can stop laying blame on yourself (ie. Rather than “I can’t do that”, more “the fear won’t let me do that”).

    Sometimes I would guess there’d be some kind of counter productivity with the risk of people refusing to accept any responsibility – there’s a difference between blame and responsibility (blame is negative, where as taking responsibility is seen of as more positive).

    Anyway – I really like talking about “The Fear” as something that is not unique to one person because we are all afraid of something. The more of a “thing” it is, the more chance we have to unite against it (by talking about, and supporting others through).

    GO JANE! Don’t allow “The Fear” to control you. You do not need to live your life for anyone else, or to the ideals of anyone else. To quote Dr. Seuss “Today you are you, truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you!”

  7. Kelly Valder

    I just listened to ‘The Fear’ and couldn’t help but smile at “I am a weapon of massive consumption…” because of the t-shirts, knickers, etc you see our little people wearing with ‘Born to shop’, ‘Mummies Little Shopper’, ‘Loves to shop’ etc. Gee…mass consumption here they come!

    I believe that the lyrics provide a fairly accurate insight into girl world – I presented with Danni in NZ recently and “I don’t know whats real anymore” is certainly true for our girls in regards to the images they see. The younger girls especially have no idea about the extent of airbrushing and some don’t even know what cellulite is. How can they possibly know what is real if they never get to see it?

  8. Melinda L

    well since this post i have listened to this song more carefully when i’ve heard it on the radio. it is so good to get the alternative voice out there. so much trash around. I heard a song the other day that goes “shut your lips, do the helen keller and speak with your hips” or something like that anyway. not only stupid, but offensive as well. Yet another message that women are to be silenced and sexualised.

  9. Emma

    hey this is really random, and doesn’t fit in anywhere so i’ll put it in here. have u found a show yet where the main character isnt a skinny little twig? Well i have. Watch the vicar of dibley tonight, or search dawn french on google images. She is the vicar, and aint skinny little twiggy.

  10. I love Dawn French – she is one of my faves! The point we made though was that larger sized women are allowed to be the funny characters, or the bad characters – but rarely ( if ever) the straight, lead characters. We can laugh with / at them, or hate them – but not see them as the leads in a real life drama. Agree?

  11. Emma

    Hell Yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dawn French is sooooooooooooo entertaining, funny and awesomecated!!! (more awesome than awesome!!!)

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