We live in a world where we are surround by things that have the potential to cause us harm and make us afraid. Some fears are healthy as a means self-protection, but there are many that aren't and fear is learned. It usually starts as our parents are teaching us about things that really can hurt us, while others turn out to be old wives tales:
"Don't touch that! You'll burn yourself."
"Don't climb so high. You could fall and hurt yourself."
"Don't run so fast. You could trip and scrape your knee."
"Wear your coat, so you don't catch a cold."
"Don't sit so close to the TV. You'll ruin your eyesight."
Fear may help us learn, but it can paralyze us, while also having the potential to motivate us, for good or bad.
Personally, I have a few fears that either make me run for the hills or paralyze me:
Snakes make me run - doesn't matter whether its poisonous or non-poisonous. Staying away from poisonous (or venomous) snakes is a healthy fear.
Anything involving high places - like bridges, ladders, or skywalks - has the potential to literally paralyze me with fear. As long as I'm in a car, I can usually handle most situations. Call it irrational, but it is what it is. After all, falling from a high place can cause a lot of damage to the human body.
When I say that fear can motivate us for good, I'm thinking about things that make us break from our comfort zone:
Hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail or any trail alone, especially as a woman, to show yourself that you're not afraid of anything challenging.
Going white water rafting with a group of co-workers to overcome your fear of 1) white water rafting and 2) getting to know your co-workers (think social anxiety, commonly known as shyness).
Getting over your fear of failure to get your college degree so you can get a better job, because you're afraid of not being able to provide for your family.
There are so many things in life that we do where we have to overcome some fear in order to do them:
Doing gymnastics - think about the balance beam, the uneven bars or the jumps, flips and turns - any one of those has the potential to go wrong and cause injury.
Learning to drive - a car can be great but only if you're able to control it.
Learning to swim - after all, humans can't breathe under water, but knowing how to swim could save your life or someone else's at some point.
Traveling to new places - you don't know your way around or it's an area with lots of civil/political unrest, but you've always wanted to go there.
Writing and publishing a blog - showing yourself to the world.
All of these things can be dangerous but they have the ability to expand our lives and minds.
But fear can also be bad and motivate us to do things that aren't good for us. My best example is an old TV show called Monk. The main character was a big time germaphobe, but a pretty brilliant detective. His fear isolated him and it took years of therapy to overcome that fear. Even then, he didn't function in society like most people do.
When I get out and about, or go to the store, I see too many people who are obviously afraid. Even I may have some fear - you never know what can happen in a parking lot these days - but I stay aware and go about my business. Nothing is ever going to be 100% safe. You really have to weigh the risks against the benefits.
Sure, you can order your groceries online, but do you always get what you want or need? For me, going to the store gives me the ability to pick and chose the items I need, and see for myself when things are out of stock. I'd rather go myself than run the risk of getting something I can't or won't use as a substitute. My fear of not getting the things I want or need far outweighs the risk to my safety of going to the store.
So, don't let fear control and run (or ruin) your life. Too many things have been done in the name of safety that are completely unnecessary. Remember that you only have one life to live on this earth (unless you believe in reincarnation, that is). There are no mulligans. Once it's over, there's no going back. Do a cost-benefit analysis (and stop listening to the news), toss that fear in the trash and experience all that life has to offer.
In the words of Dennis Prager, "Safe equals never."
What are you afraid of? Have you overcome some fear in the past? What's your biggest phobia?
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