The Power of Fear

The thing about fear is that it is a double edged sword. People forget that it is an important and useful emotion that keeps us from jumping from a cliff or putting our hands in the fire. Fear reminds us that we are mortal and that we need to have both caution and reserve in life. But if we listen to nothing but our fear we will become trapped within it an fail to do anything in life. Most of our fears are reasonable and healthy; like being afraid of falling. But some are nothing more then traps. It is important to know which fears to listen to. Let’s talk about why we have some of them and what to do about it.

When it comes to social fear, things get complex. It is important to listen to our fears because not everyone out there is going to be nice and some will out right want to hurt other people. But most people are good and will try to do the right thing. Most people will not want to hurt you and are feeling just as muddled about being social as you are.

Listening to our social fears breeds caution and this is important. But don’t let these fears consume you. And know which social fears are reasonable; like being aware that you should guard your drink at a bar to keep someone from putting something in it. But there are fears that don’t help you since they are regarding things that you can do nothing about.

The fear of being wrong…

You will be. Period. It is a part of being human. We are afraid of being wrong because we have pride. Having pride is a good thing because it helps us build our self-worth. But don’t let it overwhelm you. Being right isn’t valued by others nearly as much as being genuine. So, take your time and think things through before acting on them or saying something. When you are wrong, own it and do what you can to make things right. Then move on. The hardest part about being wrong is that social rules are complex and not everyone will agree on what “wrong” is. Sometimes you have a agree to disagree. Other times you need to focus on the fact that you hurt someone even though you were doing what you felt was right. In those cases, try to explain why you made that choice and express that you regret that it caused them hurt.

The fear of being weird…

You are. This is all in the eyes of the beholder. Some people will like you and some people won’t. Some people will think you’re weird. That’s just the way it works. We are afraid of being weird or not fitting in because we want to create human connections, we need them. But even if you pretend you’re something that you’re not, there will be people who like the pretend you and people who don’t. Be genuine so that the people you draw into your life are the kind you can trust and can build real relationships with. If you pretend you’re someone you’re not, you will never have anything but pretend relationships.

The fear of having conflicting values…

It isn’t really having values that people are afraid of. It is the conflict that having them creates. We are afraid of conflict because we don’t want to hurt others or be hurt. Sometimes we are afraid of them because we just don’t know what to do about the situation. But here is the thing about values: we all have them. Part of being genuine is embracing your values and living up to them. People will respect you for having values as long as you are not aggressive or abusive when standing by them. Remember that having a conflict doesn’t mean you need to have a fight. If you have a hard time handling conflict in a productive and respectful why or just want tools to do it better, I recommend this book: Crucial Conversations.

The fear of being judged…

Sometimes, this is the same as being afraid of being weird. But it can also be about wanting to feel like we are good enough and that we are performing well. This fear frequently comes out in the work place and in relationships. We want others to judge us as being good at the things that we do. However, we have no control over this or their measuring stick. Allowing others to determine our self value will always leave us feeling that we are lacking because there will always be people who think we can being doing more or doing better than we are. Instead, we need to judge ourselves based on our past performances rather then comparing ourselves to others.

The fear of being intuitive…

Intuition is powerful. We use it all the time and rarely think much about it. We’re afraid of using it because we live in a world of science and logic. Intuition doesn’t feel like it belongs in that world, but it does. Because science can’t explain everything. It can explain very little about human interaction and yet a young child can understand and intuitively follow social rules. The times that we notice our intuition are the times that it doesn’t fit with what our logical brain is telling us. When your gut says “this guy is creepy” even though he has done nothing but be nice to you. Know that logic nor intuition are fool-proof. Following either will lead you to being wrong at times. I’m not one that will tell you that you should always follow it. But keep in mind that our intuition is based on our lived experiences and that’s our brain making deep connections. There are worth giving consideration to.

The fear of being hurt…

You will be. Unfortunately, we don’t get to have the beautiful things like awe and joy without fear and sorrow. The paradox here is that fearing getting hurt in a relationship will lead you to being hurt from loneliness or lack of fulfilling relationships (because you’re having the pretend kind). All relationships end in loss. We either part ways or the relationship ends with death. Loving means we will be hurt. But without it, we fall into despair and depression. We cannot avoid suffering. What we can do is work towards making ourselves more resilient and improve our ability to cope.

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