False evidence assumed real
That’s the definition that I used to always use for fear. Maybe it was to simplify it in my mind, and make it less intimidating. There’s something comforting about taking a feeling that is so profound and labeling it as something that is all in your mind; completely under your control. The thing is that I don’t actually think that this definition applies to fear. It applies to apprehension (which, unfortunately, doesn’t make quite a succinct and aesthetically pleasing acronym). In fact, I would say that there are only a couple of times in my entire life that I’ve actually felt fear.
Fear isn’t in your mind. It isn’t something that you can control. You can’t label it, you can’t alter the way that you experience it. It’s biological; a defense mechanism. In our quest to stay alive in the wild, as animals, we are programmed to feel fear in the face of things that threaten our ability to further our species. Most times, this applies to us when we face death. Being afraid is meant to awaken something in us that can take over completely. It makes us momentarily stronger than we ever thought possible, faster than we can comprehend, and ironically, braver than we thought we had the capacity to be. When faced with a threat, as animals, we feel fear so that we can go outside of ourselves to avoid danger.
But humans don’t live in the wild. Humans live in safe, neat, tidy little houses shut away from basic natural threats. We are sentient beings; so devastatingly self-aware, cognitively and intellectually focused that we’ve adapted our capacity for fear to include threats to our emotional wellness as well as our physiological being. But because our unconscious has made expanded our capacity for fear, our intellectual mind has expanded the word itself to apply to experiences that actually don’t exemplify fear-appropriate situations. And instead of letting fear serve it’s intended purpose, to bring us out of ourselves, we find a way to let it manipulate us further into selfishness. We make being scared such a pervasive emotion that it is easily avoidable. In other words; we mislabel emotions so that we can have an excuse to hide from them.
So let’s call it what it really is:
- ”I’m afraid of being rejected”= “I’m insecure and not emotionally sophisticated enough to deal with rejection.”
- “I have a fear of performing in front of people”= “I am not comfortable or confident enough in my abilities that I can rely on them consistently, and am consequently aware of/uncomfortable with the negative judgement I may be receiving from others.”
This isn’t to say that I don’t feel these feelings. I do, and they can be all-consuming. But every single emotion that you feel that isn’t a direct result of impending threat to your emotional or physical well-being is simply a result of some deficiency that you have as a person. It can’t be fear. It’s having knowledge of your shortcomings. It’s apprehension knowing that avoidable negative experiences could befall you. Oftentimes, we’re too weak to look our inadequacies in the eyes and accept them. It’s so easy, so convenient, and so comforting to say that we fear them as if we could do nothing to prevent their arrival. As if they will be of substantial harm and should requisition us pity instead of indifference. Here’s the thing about living, though. It doesn’t take very long, and there isn’t much time. We choose the paths in which we invest, and we make life decisions that will render us weak in some areas and strong in others. No person will ever be without apprehension, and no person will ever be without discomfort. As avoidable as it may be in theory or in hindsight; it is, as a feeling, a central and unavoidable part of the human experience. The best that we can do is accept what we aren’t (fully and without question), prioritize individually, and invest in avoiding the apprehension that we would find the most devastating.
When you accept that this apprehension is a direct result of your inadequacies, it’s much easier to control it. Instead of letting it consume us and weaken our abilities (going inside of ourselves as if nerve-wracking situations will disappear if ignored with enough vigilance), we should put fear into perspective. Most of the things about which we feel this apprehension will not kill us, no matter what their negative effects may be. So think about how your life will be different should things not turn out how you’d like. If you don’t end up dead, dying, or endangering the life of another: it’s wholly biologically insignificant. So remove apprehension as best you can, and just DO with the best of your ability. Apprehension, which we feel in the face of not being our best or happiest, ironically only serves to weaken us and hinder our performance.
It’s easy to say, I know; it’s significantly more difficult to put this into practice. But the most important lesson that we need to remember is that FEAR is outside of ourselves. It’s unavoidable, and it directly threatens our emotional or physiological well-being either directly or indirectly. Everything else that you’ve labeled fear is entirely inconsequential. So live, be your best, and don’t make excuses to cover up your self-induced deficiencies.