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  • Writer's pictureDiane Henderson, LCSW

The Stingray

Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Empowerment Tip # 3: Empowered People are NOT "Scaredy Cats".

There Are Five Basic Fears

Fear of Being Found Out

Fear of Scarcity

Fear of Life Without Purpose

Fear of Not Being Able To Sustain Success

Fear of Rejection

I have been blessed with four grandchildren, two of which are girls. My oldest granddaughter came to visit me once when she was about seven. I had known for quite some time that she was scared of the dark, but until this visit, I didn’t realize how many fears she had and how deep they ran. When I asked her to do something for me, and she was too afraid to do it, I found myself losing patience with her. At first, I insisted that she do it regardless of her fear, but melted and gave in when I saw big, alligator tears falling down her face as she begged me not to make her.

The next morning, we chatted about her fears. I shared my concern that she would miss out on many life experiences if she allowed her fears to make her choices for her. That afternoon we visited a Marine Science Museum that had a stingray petting pool. Many children were leaning over the pool, putting their hands in the water, touching the stingrays as they glided by. My granddaughter was excited. She put her hand in the water, but each time a stingray would come near her, she would get frightened, stiffen her arm, and pull her hand up and away from the water. As the stingray began making it’s turn to glide away, she would hurriedly push her hand down to try to touch it. She missed every time. I tried to talk her through her fear. I told her to be calm, still, and patient. I explained that he was probably sensing her fear. I assured her that there was no possible danger, that no child had ever gotten hurt petting these creatures. I was gentle and soft with her, but internally I felt impatience bubbling up. I thought it odd that I had little patience for this.

Once again, a stingray came full throttle toward her. She looked at it, then she stiffened, raised her arm, looked at me, and said, “Grandma, I know I am making it all up in my head, but when I see his face coming at me, it scares me.” Once again, she missed her chance to touch the stingray. I thought, How interesting. I use those words with my clients almost every day. I tell them that they are making up their fears in their heads. Then a light bulb went off in my head and it became very clear what my impatience was all about. I was seeing myself in my grandchild. I wanted her to be different and braver than me. I didn’t want her to be held back in any way in her life because of her fears. So, I asked myself what is it that the little girl inside of me needs in those times when I get scared and hold myself back from taking risks or living my life to the fullest. The answer came in loud and clear. I WANT SOMEONE TO TAKE ME BY THE HAND AND LEAD ME THROUGH THE FEAR. I then turned to her and said, “Let’s try something different. Put your hand on top of mine and let’s go under the water together. She smiled and said “Okay.” It didn’t take long before a stingray approached us. With her hand on top of mine, she felt safe and did not stiffen or pull away. She was able to slide her hand off mine onto the stingray. She smiled and looked at me beaming with pride.

Great gifts sometimes come in small packages. That little girl taught me a lesson that day. I had a shift in how I face my own fears. I am now brutally honest with myself about them. It also became very apparent that my business would have grown ever so much faster had I found the right people to hold my hand and guide me through the risks, rather than backing away and finding excuses for not doing what needed to be done.


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