Fear is a funny thing.
In the most basic, animal sense, fear is motivation for action. You see a polar bear on the ice and the subsequent shot of adrenaline urges you to run away. You peer over a cliff and your instincts tell you to back up. We've all felt this icy zing of fear as it shoots into our veins, propelling us into action.
But on the other hand, we've all come to know and dread the Fear (with a capital 'F') that society has told us we should avoid at all costs. "How to be Fearless," the headlines all scream, and we're bombarded by messages every day that encourage us to live a life free of fear--thus making Fear all the more present in our minds. We've come to fear Fear itself. We feel that Fear has no place in our lives, and that to feel Fear, even a little, will mean that we have failed somehow as an intelligent, 21st-century human being.
But is Fear really all that bad? Certainly in survival-type situations, Fear is good. It can help you keep on keepin' on. It's what motivates you to punch the 2,000 pound Great White Shark in the face when it's got your leg in its jaws. So why has Fear become something to be ashamed of, when it is as natural (and as healthy) to life as breathing?
It's easy to fall into the trap of trying to avoid your Fears, or thinking that you are weak, somehow, for Fearing the things you do. Certainly, you reason, no one else has a Fear of crickets. And besides, it's not healthy to think about the things you Fear.
But I argue that it is healthy. I recently took a few moments to think about what I Fear as compared to what everyone else seems to Fear, and came to a surprising conclusion. What I Fear (and, particularly, what I don't) can be drastically different from everyone else.
And that's when I realized that we put too much stock into fearing Fear.
Try listing out your Fears (and non-Fears) like I do below. You can make a full list or a shortened one. You'll soon realize that yes, you may Fear things that may seem strange to other people (but you'll also note that some things that other people truly, deeply Fear have no hold over you). Putting Fear into perspective can help you acknowledge that our society places too much anxiety and stigma around the emotion. Fear is on the same level as happiness, stress, joy, anger, sadness, etc. Obsessing over it will help no one.
Here's my (mostly comprehensive) list of Fears:
Falling from high up; not having enough money to go after my goals; running out of money while traveling; catching a horrible disease while traveling; living an aimless life; succeeding in what I want (the irony); failing myself or my family; presenting in front of crowds; ruining my healthy habits by traveling long-term; bungee-jumping; not being able to exercise; losing my healthy way of life through some fault of my own; glass elevators; bears when I’m hiking; bees and buzzing creatures of all types; crickets; men walking behind me at night; tidal waves; tornadoes; flying off a roller coaster; not accomplishing my goals; falling from up high; small spaces; living a dull life; having children; listing my Fears for people to see.
Now here's what I'm not afraid of:
Dying in a terrorist attack; taking calculated risks; traveling solo; going to the movies alone; trying wild new foods (pig’s head, blood pudding, and raw sea urchins, anyone?); speaking up against bullies; wolves; flying/turbulence; spiders; scary movies; haunted houses; dying; getting lost; my phone dying; being in a foreign land where I don’t speak the language; the dark; aliens taking over the world (hey, some people Fear it!); ghosts; being alone; asking questions when I don’t know the answer; change; being childless; making a mistake; never getting married; the zombie apocalypse; taking a punch while boxing; getting a tattoo.
This list should make you feel empowered. Yes, we all have things that we Fear. And yes, many of these things we may view as ridiculous, or we feel that they somehow make us seem weak, or petty, or childish. But when we put our Fears in perspective—and look at the things that other people Fear that we don’t—we realize that our Fears, with a capital 'F', don’t make us weak at all. They simply make us unique.
Kayla Maneen received her BFA in Creative Writing and minored in adventure and fun. After graduation, she worked on an organic farm in Ireland and taught English in Italy, and learned all there is to know about chasing sheep and eating long, leisurely meals with family. She is adamant about people living out their passions and reaching their highest potentials. Always follow that fire in your heart!