Over 10 years ago, in the close-knit group of our 16-person college class, someone decided to give each classmate a Harry Potter character. And I was given Luna Lovegood.
I remember feeling so embarrassed. “Am I really that dim-witted?” “Does everyone think I’m super awkward?”
“I know my eyes get kind of big and round when I’m daydreaming…does everyone notice that?”
Since I’m not one for bringing attention to myself, I quietly accepted the fact that I’m known as the bimbo of the group and continued my classwork.
This question is often asked when getting to know someone: “What is your greatest fear?” Most people have their answer ready — a fear of heights or needles or enclosed spaces. For me, I don’t have the common fears that are an easy one-word answer. I will jump out of a plane and skydive tomorrow if I had the chance. I actually enjoy watching my blood get drawn; I find it fascinating. And I have no problem being in an elevator or crawling into a small space. For me, if I say my actual greatest fear(s) (is there really only one for you?), I worry it will either end with me blabbering away for way too long or me sobbing.
When I begin to write down my fears in private, there is an obvious pattern. An inner turmoil that has been festering for too many years: the fear of what people think of me. The fear of judgment or being seen as a lesser person and the embarrassment or humiliation that comes with it. I know this is a struggle for a lot of people, but it wasn’t until I met my husband that I realized it actually isn’t as common as I thought. My husband couldn’t care less about what people think of him. It is a quality that drew me to him over 11 years ago. He taught me I can be free from these chains of self-doubt and insecurity. But it is so engrained in my daily thoughts that I am not sure it is something I can change.
All the fears I have — the overwhelming anxiety that I am perceived as a gullible, boring, naive, head-in-the-clouds, unattractive, awkward, lazy, oblivious, or a self-centered person — all point to me having some kind of mild social anxiety disorder. It is literally like pulling teeth for me to just write that down and I’m terrified of publishing something like this on my own website. But it’s time to unmask the fear and give it a name. As much as I hate labels and the fact that the word “disorder” makes me cringe, I hope by giving it an (un-diagnosed) name, I will hopefully stop denying the fact that I’m just an introverted shy person and realize the amount of time I spend being worried and self-conscious about irrational things is disrupting my life more than it should be.
The fear is unmasked and named. The vulnerability wound is cut open. Now what?There’s still more unmasking to do. Maybe I’ll actually get the therapy I’ve always mentioned I’ve wanted to. Maybe someone will realize they need to face their fear and call it what it is too.
A few months ago, I was telling my husband the story of me being dubbed as Loony Luna. Apparently, it has been a big deal because I still remember it well 10 years later. My husband may not remember this conversation, but what he said completely changed my mindset on my “fear” of being Luna Lovegood. He told me it was the greatest compliment, that it was true, and began listing all the positive qualities he saw in me that I share with her: kind, loyal, accepting, resilient, flexible, forgiving, genuine, love-focused, and belief in the goodness of people.
I sat back in my chair. He was right. Why did I always see it as a terrible misimpression? My fear of being perceived as the few character flaws of Luna made me overlook the amazing qualities in her that I can actually agree are part of my identity.
That conversation changed my perspective — being called a Luna is a total compliment and I feel honored to be compared to her characteristics. Luna is quirky, but she owned it. I’m aspiring to be more like her and accept me for who I am — and work on caring less about how others think of me. As a mother, I am teaching my children to be confident as the person they are — I want them to be unashamedly them. Just like Luna. Maybe I should start listening to myself too.