The Word: Fear

 “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create…Fear is a choice.” – From “After Earth”

Fear is a choice. That notion still rolls around my mind as both incredibly unfathomable and immensely empowering. I believed for years that fear was inherent in all of us; everyone is afraid of something and that’s an unchanging fact of life. Why would anyone actively opt to be afraid? I’ve come to realize that fear is safe. It prevents us from taking risks and allows us to continue existing safely within our comfort zone, day in and day out, living the same way forever.

As a basic survival instinct we constantly scan our environment looking for potential threats and responding accordingly. Although, lately it feels as though everything is a threat, preventing one from truly living. We live in fear of everything. We’re terrified of each other, ridicule, failure and the unknown. Retreating further into ourselves and our established lifestyles, becoming frail and dull, seeking refuge in our habits, encouraging a mundane existence of safe routine. This is not living.

I’m not saying everyone should be fearless; I believe that’s unrealistic. Fear is a necessary element of life, offering the opportunity for us to evolve individually and as a group. But only if we address the aspects of life that terrify us. By succumbing to our fears and allowing them to lord over us makes us weak and limits personal and societal growth. Finding it within ourselves to overcome fear is the greatest victory of all, better than whatever tangible reward we receive from beating that fear. The prize is staring fear in the face and telling it you are stronger than it, and you will conquer it. That sense of triumph is incomparable and worthy of tremendous celebration.

In five short months, I graduate from college. While a wonderful achievement it also means a complete upheaval of the life I’m accustomed to living. I haven’t the faintest idea of what I’m going to do after graduation, let alone where I’m going to live, and that is unspeakably terrifying.  

I’d like nothing more than to blame this upsurge of anxiety on my impending graduation, but this is not the first time I’ve felt paralyzed by fear. As I recognize fear becoming more prevalent in my life, I notice the same happening to everyone around me. People wear fear as though it’s the latest trend, worry lines and tension causing people to walk through life hunched over, completely withered by fear. Today, people are afraid of everything.

It’s tempting to simply claim defeat against my fear of the unknown and fear of failure, settling for a safe life rather than fighting for the life I want.  I’m afraid of making the wrong choice and becoming stuck on a track so distant from the life I want that it would be impossible to find my way back. However, a recent conversation convinced me that this fear is irrational. There’s no such thing as a wrong choice. Every choice is important and provides you with invaluable experience that will help guide you to what you really want. You just have to be brave enough to take the leap.

Therefore, as we begin this New Year, I urge everyone to take whatever your fears may be and challenge them with a new perspective. Learn to love the unknown. Let the unpredictability of this year fill you with life. Welcome anything that makes you afraid and find your strength to overcome it. Face your demons. Beat them down. Tell them they have no power over you. Fear may be a part of life, but don’t let it keep you from living.

“What if I’m not good enough?”

“Then you’ll get good enough.”

From the series finale of “Six Feet Under”

Live fearlessly, give it your all, don’t let the fear of failure hold you back from taking a risk and achieving something great. Even if your first effort isn’t enough, you will grow and adapt and next time, I guarantee you, it will be enough. Don’t let fear cripple you; let it fuel and inspire you in your every endeavor.

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