Turning fear into bravery
This is Everyday Feels, a podcast about emotions for kids and their grownups. In each episode, Nakita Simpson and Dr. Lockhart explore a new emotion, breaking down why we may be feeling that way.
Nakita: Dr. Lockhart, thinking about this episode, what happens when two emotions we’re familiar with combine?
Ann-Louise: Oh, that can get tricky, because it can feel overwhelming when we’re trying to make sense of two different emotions, especially if they both feel very similar. We should definitely talk more about that.
Nakita: Speaking of feeling two emotions at once, I think it's time we heard from Julia, from Maryland, who shares a memory when she felt scared and nervous.
Julia: Hi, my name is Julia. I'm six. I live in Maryland.
I was scared and nervous when I first saw Enzo because I was scared that he was going to bite me. He is one of [my] nanny's dogs. He's a baby dog. He looks so cute. I mean, he's not cute. He looks really weird, but his teeth are sharp, so I'm scared that he will bite me…I just tried to walk away from him. And then like a couple of days passed. I was fine with him because he turned [out] so cute.
Ann-Louise: Thank you Julia for sharing your experience about feeling scared and nervous when you first met your nanny’s dogs. I felt a little nervous too!
Nakita: Good point, Dr. Lockhart. Feeling scared and nervous feels like a lot of things at once! Are there some helpful words we can use to describe all the things Julia must have been feeling at that moment?
Ann-Louise: That's a great question, Nakita. Now there are definitely words we can use to describe feeling nervous and scared at once. These are called synonyms. These include words such as hesitant, unsure, distracted, confused, doubtful, and afraid.
Nakita: When I hear these words, it reminds me that feeling scared and nervous about something like a dog I’ve never met feels different from being scared and nervous about taking a hard test. Why does feeling hesitant feel so different than just feeling scared or just nervous?
Ann-Louise: You know Nakita, it depends on the situation and what it means to the person experiencing it. Also, if you have more support in the moment, it feels a little bit easier to handle. Like in your example, if you’re scared and nervous about meeting a dog, but your nanny and mom are nearby, you know you are safe and can go to them if you need to. But, if you’re at school and about to take a hard test, you don’t really have that same support. So, those feelings aren’t comforted. In the hard test situation, you might feel afraid, confused, and even distracted.
Nakita: That’s another great point Dr. Lockhart, what makes me unsure can look really different than what makes someone else feel hesitant!
I remember when I started middle school and how much harder it was for me to fit in than my classmates. I think about how nerve wracking, or doubtful, I felt inside my body.
Ann-Louise: That sounds so familiar. I had that same experience, especially because I went to a new middle school that was much larger than I was used to. I didn’t know anybody. I felt so uncomfortable and really nervous.
Nakita: Dr. Lockhart, before we wrap up, are there any tools for feeling nervous or scared and any tools you can think of that would help our listeners and even the grownups?
Ann-Louise: Absolutely! You know, I have one reminder and two really helpful tips.
Always remember your feelings are not your enemy, your feelings give you messages about other people and the world around you. So just notice those feelings. Even the ones you usually try to avoid. I know it’s hard, but this is such an important part of the process, and it helps you grow.
First, start by saying a strength statement. You can say it in your mind or out loud. You can say: “This feeling is trying to keep me safe. I’m okay. I can feel brave and scared at the same time”. Changing from the scared thoughts to the brave thoughts will shift how your brain sees them. Maybe not right away, but it certainly will over time.
Second, if a person or situation is creating unsafe feelings in you, you can say “Stop! That makes me feel uncomfortable.” It’s okay to tell someone how you expect to be spoken to and treated. Yes, even if the person is a grownup. Then, go to a safe adult and let them know how you feel and what you need. You deserve to feel safe!