How My Worst Fear Became My Greatest Strength

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“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.”

― Albert Camus

I was fourteen years old, sitting in the doctor’s office with my eyes closed. My heart was pounding with anxiety, as I was waiting to hear the outcome. I had school myopia, a condition of near-sightedness that causes distant objects to be blurry.

“Quite common and nothing to worry about”, my doctor confirmed.

But as my vision got worse, I couldn’t help but wonder what my life would be like from that moment on, especially at school.

For a big-haired, geeky girl who was bullied by older, more popular girls since grade one, I was terrified of any kind of change and the fact that I now had to wear glasses was making me shiver.

After being beaten to unconsciousness and having a lock of hair ripped out, which left a bald spot on my head that took months to heal, I started wearing hats. And now, those huge, heavy eyeglasses became yet another thing to worry about, which made me seek out new ways to stay unnoticed.

Still, even though the outside place was cruel, being at home was a whole different story.

I was in my own world where learning and imagination ruled. My glasses reminded me of everything I was – curious, peaceful, and thirsty for knowledge and adventure – a hard working kid who had big plans for the future.

But then the morning would come and I’d dread going to school. There were countless times when I would forget my glasses on purpose because I feared I would be an easy target. Sometimes I would hide them in my school bag, until one day when my vision got worse and the doctor ordered me to wear them all the time.

I was constantly living in fear that someone might hurt me, so all I could think of was coming up with new techniques to defend myself. And despite my efforts to look less noticeable, the bullying continued when I suffered a concussion after being pushed, hitting my head on a metal desk rod. I had firecrackers thrown at me regularly. I was called weird a million times.

But living in fear and hiding from the world was not the answer. I knew that I had to face my worries so I decided that I was not going to stay where I was. I was determined to make a change.

It was time to take a deep breath and be courageous.

And while I was still afraid deep down and knew that they could hurt me physically, I believed that nothing could crush my spirit.

So I made a plan.

I practiced running fast in case I had to run for safety. I stopped wearing my hair down, and instead of hats I started wearing ponytails. I secured my glasses with a strap behind my ears so that they could not fall down and break.

And when I realized that the fear I was unwilling to face was just in my head, I was ready to embrace the reality and move forward. My love of learning and being in school was so much stronger and more important than the fear I felt.

Time went by and 16 years later, I finally found the courage to do LASIK (laser eye surgery). I was ecstatic, and the next morning when I woke up and realized that I could see without my glasses, I cried.

It was a moment of pure joy and happiness.

But as I got rid of my glasses, a part of me disappeared.

Somehow I lost that sense of boldness when attacking difficult problems and having the courage to deal with the fear of the unknown. While they may have looked silly to someone else and appeared to be a great cause for bullying, those glasses were my strength and my knowledge – I identified with them.

Today I don’t have self-esteem issues and I don’t fear people anymore. But it took years to get to where I am today.

And one thing that helped me overcome my shyness and gain more confidence – believe it or not – were my glasses. The ones I wear today.

Here’s what I mean.

A few years after my surgery I bought a new pair of glasses without correction lenses.

But I didn’t need to wear them. I chose to. Because even now after all the traumatic experiences and the strength I gained, I am not immune to fear and limiting beliefs.

When life gets hectic or I start working on a new project and that insidious fear creeps in making me doubt my ability to succeed, I put my new specs on and immediately change my perspective. I am that curious, big-haired, cheerful girl who doesn’t give up.

I speak in a lower tone. I am calm and creative. I believe in myself. I am ME. And I am more than confident to wear my “fake” glasses in front of others.

Still, even though people perceive me differently when I wear glasses today, I don’t need their approval and I don’t mind what they think of me anymore. I don’t need to look smarter. I don’t need to impress anyone. I know who I am.

This gives me confidence and courage in moments when I am most fragile and I don’t feel that I have what it takes to continue. And this is what matters to me.

You are who you truly believe you are.

So don’t let anyone persuade you that different means wrong. You have the power within you to change the way you see yourself and how you want to feel.

You have the ability to always be a winner and turn your fear into strength. Never lower your standards for someone else who doesn’t believe in you or can’t see your worth. Because you are worthy of your dreams, and everything you’ve ever wanted to achieve.

Never stop being different.

Who wants to be “normal” anyway?

What do you do to overcome low self-esteem issues and what are some of the ways you used to turn your fears into your strengths? Share your amazing stories in the comments!