everything is scary when you’ve never done it before

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Let’s talk about fear: gut-clenching, heart-pounding, throat-closing fear. Evolutionarily, fear serves an important role; it tells us when shit’s going wrong, and gives us a boost of energy to deal with the threat (fight, flight, or freeze, baby!). Most of us are not being stared-down by a sabre tooth tiger, though, and the things we fear are a lot more subtle.

Fear is our mind protecting us, so although it feels bad to experience it, it is actually our soul’s profound cry for survival. We can be thankful for that. I experience persistent anxiety, which is basically my mind being in fight-or-flight mode most of the time. It sucks. But I’ve come to realise that functioning in the world with anxiety is actually a show of courage. Continuing on in the face of fear shows tenacity, not weakness.

Anxiety is kind of its own story, but it’s also analogous to regular run-of-the-mill fear in a lot of ways. People tend to feel that fear is a sign that you shouldn’t be doing what you are doing, like a pain reaction. You know when your hand catches a hot burner and you yank it away. Pain tells you something’s going wrong, and that you need to deal with it right away.

Fear is different, though: fear is a reaction to a perceived threat, not a demonstrated one. The point of fear is so that you can react in time, and thus avoid feeling pain. But the problem is that our fear-sensors are super-broad, and haven’t evolved since cave-people days.

We are hard-wired to fear new things, like sabre-tooth tigers. Sure, ol’ big-toothed kitty may be up for a cuddle, but chances are, it wants you for its dinner. Unless we know for sure, we’ve got our fear-sensors to take care of us. I find this a comforting thought.

But even if our fear reaction is supposed to be helpful, it fakking sucks. It takes a ton of energy and it just feels awful. Often we can be so avoidant of the fear reaction that we run from things that we think may cause us to feel fear. This is (I think) what JFK meant when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I *just* discovered this meaning in my late 30’s– prior to now, I thought it was just a pithy backwards saying that didn’t really mean anything. You know, like white guys are saying all the time.

Because our fear reaction is broad and unsubtle, it is not the best metric for whether or not something is a good idea. When you notice a fear reaction, you can acknowledge it without giving in to it. “Hey, fear: I see you over there. Thanks for trying to keep me safe. I’ma keep doing what I’m doing over here.”

Thing is, you’ll only have to do something the first time once. Chances are, once you break through that wall of fear, you’ll find that there was no need for it in the first place. Then you’ve done the thing, and it’ll be amazing. When you stop letting your avoision of fear dictate your choices, you’ll find all sorts of new opportunities waiting for you.

It’s gonna be great!

Featured image was created by the author using elements from canva.com.

Published by amy

Coffee-drinker, money-saver. Laughs at "that's what she said."

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