Fear is my friend. I didn’t always realize this, though.

Sometimes fear is self-inflicted, like when I chose to see Psycho as a kid. For months after that, I was afraid of shower curtains, hilltop motels and even my dear grandmother.

Most of my early fears were not manufactured at the movie theater, though, nor could they be smothered by buttered popcorn and strips of red licorice. I remember hiding behind a bush as my school bus passed, then running the two miles to school before the bell rang. I did this because I feared the children who would be riding the bus with me. In my head, I had branded boys like Bobby Vincent and John Preston bullies because they appeared older, bolder and more self-confident.

As an adult, I feared that I didn’t measure up to anyone’s expectations. I was terrified that others were paying special attention to me, waiting for me to mess up in one way or another. Because of this self-imposed fear, I was always looking to do the unusual, the spectacular, to prove my worth. Sometimes I’d make up accomplishments or personality traits to meet these imaginary expectations. Other times, I would abuse alcohol to get by. Of course, such actions only intensified my fear.

Even though I didn’t know it at the time, fear was my friend. It had its way of setting off alarms in my head and forcing me to confront my false beliefs and behaviors. By paying attention to my fear and what it was telling me, I realized that my adult fears turned out to be the same as they were in my school bus days. I recognized that I am not the center of anyone else’s world, which helped me take the next small step away from fear and toward the life I wanted to live. Paying attention to my fear brought my feelings into check and gave me the freedom to appreciate myself and others.

Psycho and other macabre movies pale in comparison to the scenarios we can orchestrate in our own minds. It’s comforting to know we have the power to direct our own scripts and endings.