Fear is a powerful force.
There are rational fears. There are irrational fears. There is biology and there is psychology.
Fear leaves us awake at night. Fear makes us run. Fear can consume us.
Predominately, fear keeps us safe.
Fright, Fight, and Flight
From the dawn of time (yes I’m being mildly dramatic) fear has served a biological purpose. The fight or flight response – a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival – is what makes us run away from the bumble bee trying to sting us (especially if we are allergic); gets our heart pumping when we stand too close to the edge of a cliff; makes us kick and scream when someone attacks us; and what stops (most of) us from approaching a wild grizzly bear to take a selfie for Instagram (although sadly I’m sure this has happened).
We fight or “take flight” and we stay alive.
Evidently, fear can be a good thing – a rational thing.
…But sometimes it’s not.
Fear is the thief of dreams – Brian Krans
While fear is a vital and necessary response to protect us from immediate threats, often times we (as humans with overactive brains) have fears that extend beyond the realm of physical danger.
In a general sense, we fear what we don’t know: What does the future have in store for us? Will the things we want to happen actually happen? What if they don’t?
(Seriously though, the unknown is scary ass shit.)
More specifically, in today’s socially oriented society, we fear embarrassment and rejection, we fear losing an opportunity, we fear betrayal, and we fear emotional pain. We also fear disappointment in ourselves, in others, and by others.
Basically, we spend a lot of our time scared of things we don’t actually have much control over.
Irrespective of this fact, we still do everything in our power to prevent these fears from becoming a reality.
We don’t apply for our dream job because ‘we might not get it,’ we don’t ask the girl down the hall on a date because ‘she might not like us,’ we don’t commit to a new relationship because ‘it might end badly,’ and we don’t move to a new city ‘because we might hate it’.
Sure – maybe you won’t get the job, maybe she’ll say no, maybe you’ll break up, and maybe you’ll hate that new city. Maybe you’ll feel rejected, embarrassed, hurt, or disappointed.
….BUT maybe you won’t.
What if you do get your dream job? What if the girl down the hall ends up being the love of your life? What if that relationship becomes the best thing that ever happened to you? What if that city is your favourite place on earth?’
Without the risk, there’s no reward.
The Good (or Bad) Old Days
Inevitably the older we get the more suitcases we have to lug around with us (i.e. baggage). In other words, as the days go by, the likelihood we’ve been embarrassed, rejected, or hurt increases exponentially (some of us to a more traumatic extent than others). If we have, regardless of the context, it probably sucked, and not only were we afraid of it happening in the first place, but we are now really really afraid of it happening again.
Moving forward, each and every negative experience we’ve had contributes to the decisions we make and the way we perceive the world around us. By default, we put up walls, we create barriers, and we try our damnedest to protect ourselves from ever feeling the humiliation, sadness, or despair again.
We live our lives in fear constantly anticipating the worst, assuming that just because something happened once it’s bound to happen again.
But we shouldn’t.
We have a tendency to view “baggage” (of the emotional sort) in a negative light. The more hurt and pain we’ve experienced the more ‘damaged’ we are – but the way I see it, you can fit a hell of a lot more useful things into TWO suitcases instead of just one. Strictly speaking, shitty or not, we learn, we grow, and we become stronger from every experience we have.
Embrace it…and don’t let fear decide your future.
Life isn’t perfect. You’re going to get rejected, you’re going to be embarrassed, and you’re going to get hurt.
But that’s okay.
Because everything you’ve ever experienced has brought you to this moment, everything you are going to experience from this moment forward will bring you to where you are supposed to be, and everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear*.
Take the risk. Hold on tight. Enjoy the ride.
What are you afraid of?
*Thanks George Addair for your wise words