Fear.  Miedo.  Peur.  Furcht.

Pick a language, any language; it’s always an ugly word.

For years, and in countless situations, people have commented that I am brave.  “Fearless” has even been applied.  Every time they say it I just shake my head and try to deflect.  I’m not overly modest, I just know the truth.

I spent years in terror, afraid that people really didn’t want me around after all.  I thought I wasn’t worth very much, not pretty, not interesting, not fun, not attractive, not good enough, not even really very nice.  I didn’t like myself and I didn’t think other people liked me much either.  I let myself be used, because I thought, “I’d better make them happy, or they’ll stop being my friend.”

Thank all the gods THAT bit of misery is over!  I still have days where I think everyone else outshines me and I’m the ugly duckling, but those are rare. Still, I don’t think I’m brave.

Sometimes it simply doesn’t occur to me to be afraid in a situation.  That’s not bravery, it’s naivete.  Sometimes it’s that I’ve done something often enough or researched so much that I’m fully confident.  Sometimes it’s just that I know I have to put on my big-girl pants and do the scary thing anyway because I believe the outcome will be worth it.  And then sometimes I cave and give in to the fear.

I caught myself doing that recently.  A friend from work called.  There was going to be a party, his brother’s bar, lots of people, lots of fun: did I want to come with them?  Literally hundreds of times I have walked into a party, a job, a bar, a hostel, filled with strangers.  It’s not a thing I’m incapable of doing.  Some of my favorite people and best memories are mine because I walked into a room full of strangers and did it with swish.

This time, I froze.  And then I heard myself stuttering a broken excuse.  I was making lesson plans; I needed to finish.   It wasn’t true, but how do you say, “I’m suddenly terrified,” without sounding like a fruitcake?

I would love to excuse it away, but I know better.  I was purely overwhelmed at the thought of a room full of people I didn’t know speaking a language I only halfway understand at the best of times, and not one close friend to stick by my side.  So I didn’t go.  I regret throwing away the chance to get to know my coworkers better and meet new people, but sometimes my “bravery” slips away to reveal the true Evie.  I’m just a girl.  Sometimes a scared one.