For the longest time, I struggled with the crippling fear of speaking to people in authority over me. Even as an adult in her 30s, this fear of speaking to superiors would paralyse me with anxiety.
I suppose it was a fear that stemmed from my childhood; I grew up as the only girl in a family that had really strong opinions about everything. Unlike me, my loved ones have a way with words – and they’re loud too – which made me feel like I couldn’t really speak up and voice my opinions.
It’s not that they weren’t reasonable people – conversations were just so tense and harsh. In the face of any disagreement, I’d walk away feeling condemned for what I felt. I grew up feeling this sense of rejection every other time I expressed myself.
After a while, the voices around me must have silenced mine.
In early August, I accepted a contract for a start-up company that was scheduled to commence towards the end of the year, with mixed feelings of hope and hesitation.
I was glad to have a job, but months before it’d even officially started, I was already feeling slightly uncomfortable – having been pulled into meetings and set on tasks I hadn’t exactly signed up for. And despite my continuous efforts to try and voice my concerns, I felt like nothing was getting through to them, not even my suggestions on how to improve things.
It grew more and more apparent that this job might not be what I was called to do – I actually felt more strongly for women’s health and coaching – which was not what this new job was about.
Again, I could feel that the same old inner battle churning inside me. Should I arrange to speak privately with my boss? I couldn’t possibly … Or could I?
All I could do was pray. I kept asking the Lord for His strength, peace, clarity, courage and discernment to help me through this, and not be once again consumed by my fears of what others may say.
On most days, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and uneasiness, but all I could meditate on was the truth that God would lead and show me the way to go.
I asked the Lord for His strength, peace, clarity, courage and discernment to help me through this, and not be once again consumed by my fears of what others may say.
I finally started drafting an email to my boss, telling him that I might need to take a break to reconsider the job. It was so difficult to voice my thoughts even in written word that I had to enlist the help of a friend.
Within a few minutes after I’d sent it, my phone rang.
I didn’t answer it. I couldn’t. A wave of fear had sprung up in my heart, and years of traumatic experiences from running my own business, falling prey to convincing sales pitches I should have said no to but couldn’t … It all came rushing back as anxiety overtook me in that moment.
I could imagine what my boss would say. He’d give me all sorts of reasons to stay despite the bad fit of the job, pressure me to hang on – and knowing me, I’d be too scared to just say no.
But I didn’t want to run away this time, and so I knelt down and prayed. And once I felt His presence and peace again, I knew the responsible thing to do was to send a message and set a time to speak over the phone an hour later.
As I prepared for the difficult conversation ahead, I reached for the Holy Bible, asking God for His help, and was led to the Psalm 34:4.
“I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all of my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)
I broke down, meditating on His assurance over and over till the time for the phone call came.
A few weeks later, I sat in my final meeting with the team. It wasn’t entirely pleasant, with a slight air of unhappiness and disappointment, but I’d prayed for the right words and effective communication of my thoughts.
In the past, I would have crumbled under the conflict, unable to endure what felt like accusations, and kept silent about my real feelings. But this time, I focussed on the promise of Psalm 34:4, and as I left the meeting room, I felt a new lightness in my footsteps.
I’m sure that I’m not alone in this struggle. Like me, many of you probably find it difficult to just say no and voice out your honest opinions because of fear. Some of us react to these pressures by either caving in to requests, or developing a passive-aggressive attitude because of the bitterness inside.
But the goodness of God is beyond what we can ever comprehend. He never stops reaching out to us, and when we take that leap of faith, trusting and leaning completely into His love, we are set free from all crippling fear.