Bloody Mary and My Irrational Fear
Have you heard the myth of Bloody Mary? Where, if you stand in front of the mirror chanting her name, she shows up in all her gory glory, ready to break through the mirror and torture you to death in all sorts of horrific ways, just like she did to all her victims who walked the earth while she was still alive. Yup, that's the one.
This little “scary story” tormented me my entire childhood. (If we’re being honest, also, into some of my adulthood, and possibly on occasion, I still don’t look at mirrors in the dark on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. But that is beside the point.)
When I was about nine, my fear of this evil demon woman became a major problem. I begged my parents to remove all the mirrors in our house, and I even began developing a phobia of going to the bathroom. So, my mom did what any logical human might do and decided to prove to me that this so-called looking-glass ghost was not real.
She took me into the bathroom with her, held me close, and told me that she was going to turn off the lights and say "the name we shall not mention” three times. She promised me that I had nothing to be afraid of and that we would both be ok.
So, like any rational nine-year-old, I began thoroughly freaking out! This was the end; I was sure of it. My mom was summoning the spirit of some historical serial killer whose thirst for blood was never satiated, and now she would be feasting on ours tonight. I remember thinking that we would be chopped into so many tiny pieces that my dad wouldn’t even be able to tell who was who when he returned home after work. Obviously, I screamed in terror, hoping the sound of my voice would drown out my mother's summoning. I'm sure all our neighbors within a hundred-mile radius thought I was indeed being murdered.
But no, I was just standing in a bathroom, in the dark, with my mother.
As you’ve probably already guessed, by the fact that I am still alive today to tell this story, Bloody Mary did not show up. My mother and I survived, although I’m fairly certain, we both carried scars from that evening for years to come.
Why am I telling you this story? Because this was clearly an irrational fear. The story was made up, I saw kids in my grade do the dare and survive, and then my mother, whom I love and trust, proved it to me again by showing me with my own two eyes that I would indeed not die from this silly, if not gruesome, story.
Yet, I stayed afraid for years. Why? Because the image I had made up in my mind had somehow become stronger than the logic that had been placed before me. Of course, I was a child, and my imagination was absolutely off the charts, hence my chosen profession, but this is a common occurrence in most of us as full-grown adults. We believe a made-up story full of fear, even though all the evidence points otherwise.
How many theoretical stories have we made up in our minds that have kept us up at night?
How many times have we been afraid to move, afraid to make a decision, and sometimes still even afraid to look at ourselves in the mirror?
Here are a few made-up stories I have believed about myself.
No one will ever love me unless I am perfect and can offer them something worthwhile. This fear has kept me from opening up to others.
I am unable to focus or be productive, so I am unworthy of the work I have been called to do. This fear has kept me from even trying.
If I allow myself to be too happy, I will be absolutely devastated when something terrible happens. Therefore, I always need to be prepared for the worst. This fear has kept me from being able to fully embrace the joy of many happy moments.
I have lived most of my life believing the story that I will never be good enough. This one is the worst of them all because everyone knows not having the approval of others is nearly as painful as dying by a mirror demon from the Middle Ages.
In all seriousness, if I believe these stories, which have no basis in truth, I am still like that little girl doing the potty dance because she was too afraid to go into the bathroom.
It’s just painful and unnecessary.
So how do we start to discern the truth from the lies?
First, we test them.
Is it true that I am perfect? Nope! Do I still have people who love me? Yup! Do I always have something worthwhile to offer them? Nope! In fact, as I type this article, I’m in two-day-old pajamas, my hair is tied up in a messy bun, and I’m fairly sure I didn’t brush my teeth this morning. This is the epitome of not having anything to offer my husband at the moment, and yet he still loves me. So, is my first fear true? Not at all.
Next, I ask the people around me.
Instead of thrashing against my mom like a wild boar caught in a hornet's nest. I should have believed her. So now, I ask people I trust to help me see the truth about myself. My sister has been pivotal in helping me remember how far I have come in this writing journey when I begin to believe the story that I am unable to focus long enough to succeed. I let her speak that truth over me, and I accept it.
Lastly, I have learned to tell myself a different story. I tell myself that heartache is a promised part of life, so I will celebrate the happy moments to their absolute fullest, trusting that God will be just as close to me in the tragedies as He is in the celebrations.
I don’t know if I will ever be good enough at anything, but I do know one thing I am enough for what matters. There is only one Being whom I need the approval of, and He is the author of the truest story.
Rational fear can be a useful tool. But irrational fear can be a prison keeping us from reaching our full potential.
We need to be sure that we are fearing the right things, in the right proportions, for the right reasons.
The first step in this process is learning if the things we fear are even real.
I will be honest, there is still the rare occasion when I get up in the middle of the night to pee, and I get that eerie feeling that if I look up, that black-haired woman from my nightmares will be on the other side of the mirror tapping her nails on the glass, just waiting for me to say her name so that she can break through and finally prove my mother wrong after all these years.
But here’s the difference, now I trust that this story is not real, so I can push past that fear and continue on to pee in peace.
What is an irrational fear you have that is beyond logic? Will you be like little me and wait years to discern the truth? Or will you trust those who have gone before you and start believing a different story?