Recently on a drive back from New Orleans to South Carolina, I tuned into The Moth Radio Hour. It had been awhile since I had listened, and this particular episode couldn’t have come at a better time.
As I look to make life changes for the better, I realize that fear is the one consistent factor that holds me back. Fear of change. The very thing that I counsel my clients on and the advice I dispense in credit union marketing and strategic planning sessions, is the very thing that holds me back.
Reflecting back, most things I fear never come true and steal my joy in the present. My guess is, as you reflect on 2020 and think ahead to 2021 you are facing your own fears surrounding your credit union. Decisions you need to make but are not for fear of the unknown – personally and professionally. The opening story on The Moth put fear into perspective, and I hope it will encourage you to overcome your fears as well.
This particular episode opened with a childhood story from Zaena Tessema, who talked about her and her siblings fear of Dedebe. Growing up, her mom would control Zaena and her siblings with fear by using only the words: “Do you want me to call Dedebe?”
What is Dedebe? Zaena described Dedebe as “an invisible babysitter and enforcer of the rules.” The fear was so much that Zaena and her siblings never even talked about Dedebe. It was just understood that any misbehavior would be met with the threat of Dedebe.
As they grew older and left the house, one day the subject of Dedebe came up. As the discussion went on, they realized that Dedebe looked like something different for each of them. For Zaena’s older brother, Dedebe was a giant spider hiding in the shadows, which made sense because he was deathly afraid of spiders. To Zaena’s sister, Dedebe was just a man that would come and punish you if you did something wrong. Zaena had the most elaborate and creative interpretation of Dedebe: a vampire rabbit that would sneak up behind you and bite your neck.
As years went on, Zaena and her siblings finally asked their mother: “What is Dedebe?” Her mom chuckled and told a story of Zaena’s sister, being very uncooperative while she was trying to change her diaper. Her uncle was passing by and saw the struggle and said, “If you won’t stop, I’m going to call Dedebe.” She stopped fussing, so from then on Zaena’s mom would just threaten to summon Dedebe.
But what was Dedebe? “Some guy we used to know back in Ethiopia, he was just kind of weird.”
“All these years I came close to wetting my pants at the fear of Dedebe,” Zaena remarked on The Moth.
Zaena summed up her fear of Dedebe, and the fears of many with this powerful statement:
“What you’re scared of, really isn’t anything at all.”
Dedebe may not be a spider or a vampire rabbit for you. It may be fear of failure. Your Dedebe may be fear of change because of the unknown. Perhaps your Dedebe is fear of judgment from others from loss of social status or an economic fear of not having enough.
To me, Dedebe is a little of all of those things mentioned above, but the work I’ve been doing on myself this year through reading and coaching has opened my eyes to the same conclusion that Zaena and her siblings discovered as adults: We are wetting our pants over something that probably doesn’t exist.
As you continue to lead your credit union through this pandemic and into the unknowns of 2021, I urge you to write down your Dedebe’s, your fears. Write down the truths next to it and keep that note close by, so you have it with you the minute you get that sinking feeling of fear in your heart and gut. The moment your mind tells you it’s going to call Dedebe, whip out that note and remember the truths. Your team is counting on you. Your members and community are counting on you. And imagine the personal transformation within your family dynamic if you replaced your fears with truths.
If fear is holding you back, I have two resources for you:
- Several years ago (2012 to be exact), I penned a series on this very site called “Dr. Seuss for Credit Unions,” and one article investigated a scary pair of green pants in a story called, “What Was I Scared Of.” This is a great short read that puts our irrational fears into perspective, helping to overcome those fears to make better decisions and experience more joy.
- Talk it out and gain perspective. What fears do you have that are keeping you from making good decisions that will grow your credit union?
I’ve spent a lot of time this year reading, reflecting, discussing and working on my fears. I’d love to share that journey with you and talk through your fears. Email me at email@example.com and let’s connect.