Ever since I was a kid there have been things which have scared me to no end. The first time I was ever really afraid of dying was when I was 8 years old, playing hockey. I remember it very vividly – I was afraid my hockey stick would break and somehow cause me great injury. Naturally this never happened, because the odds of that ever happening are less than miniscule. It didn’t stop me from being afraid of it however, and for as long as I can remember I’ve been afraid of various events that never transpired.
What I’ve learned from this, is that there are a few ways to handle fear – fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of failure or any number of other fears you might conceive of. You can either succumb to your fears, which means that you let your fears hold you back from doing things, which might be a good idea in the case of crocodile wrestling, but which might not be a good idea, when it comes to asking that girl out. You can also choose to do things in spite of your fear, or you can investigate them and figure out exactly why something scares you, in which case you might learn a thing or two about yourself.
The many faces of fear
All three of these modes of dealing with fear have been useful to me, to some extent – for instance, I was overweight as a child and had to go to fat camp, which has instilled a borderline unhealthy fear of ever becoming overweight again. This, however, has also allowed me to cultivate a few healthy habits in terms of sleep, nutrition and exercise, and has spurred me to educate myself on this subject matter, more than I otherwise would have, and for that reason, I’d argue that this fear has turned out to be a net positive for me.
So fear can actually help you in a variety of ways if you know how to harness it correctly. Fear however, can also be detrimental to your well-being. More than once, I’ve found myself in a rut, because I’ve been afraid of something. For instance, I’ve been afraid to put all my effort into something, because I’ve been afraid of what happened if I failed. The result of this fear is simply that I’ve done work, which has been of poorer quality than I would otherwise have been able to deliver, and there is no benefit to this whatsoever. This is an instance when fear is very clearly and unequivocally holding me back, and I’m sure you can think of instances in your life, when you’ve experienced something similar – because fear is a very human emotion, it happens to the best of us, and the best we can do is simply to recognize it for what it is, and act accordingly.
So what is the best thing we can do, when we recognize that some fear or other is holding us back? One thing I’ve found to be exceptionally helpful is to confront the fear that is impacting my life, and writing down what might happen should it come fruition. For instance, if I put all my effort into my work, and I still fail, I will gain a realistic knowledge of my current skills, and I will obtain an understanding of the areas where I need to improve. As long as I keep in mind that everything in my life is subject to change, and if I apply what I know, I can grow based on the feedback I receive from my work. This is such a powerful strategy, that the very that there is something to be afraid of in this regard seems ludicrous.
When we see fear for what it is – namely a feedback mechanism which allows us to recognize and work on our weaknesses, we become that much stronger, and fear loses its death-grip over us. Keep in mind however, that not all fears are bad, and we must be aware that there are good fears and bad fears. Fears which keep us from acting stupid and fears which keep us from achieving our dreams, and the better we are able to distinguish between the two, the better our lives will be.