What makes you afraid? Don’t give me the stereotypical answer that it’s the dark or perhaps even worse… spiders. But what is it that you are terrified of? Often, what we’re afraid of doesn’t present itself to us directly, but there are consistent signs throughout our daily lives that reveal some of our deepest fears. It is quite a luxury that the fears we have today are more ambiguous and harder to pinpoint. But why is that?

The Origins of Fear

Fear happens to be a primal emotion that has been fundamental to our survival as a species. It proved very useful when it helped keep us away from hungry lions or bears willing to make us their next lunch. But as the human population collectively grew more intelligent and developed new technologies along the way, it created modern comforts devoid of these previous dangers. Unfortunately, human biology does not advance at the same rate as technology, and we have yet to outgrow this primal emotion. Fear has found a new way to manifest itself in our current state of constant luxury and orderliness. But there is a way to combat this staying power. Don’t allow your fear to control you but seek first to understand it so that you can learn to fight it, and hopefully even use it for your good.

So what is it that you are afraid of?

What Makes Me Afraid

I will share with you what makes me afraid and through doing so, maybe make you better able to think more deeply about what it is you fear.

I am afraid of not living up to my full potential with all of the so-called lucky breaks I have had in this life. To be born in the 21st century as an American already puts me in the top few percentage points as far as wealth and freedom are concerned in the world. Also, being born into an upper-middle-class nuclear family puts me in the “you won the lottery of life” bracket. To say that life has been easy for me is an understatement. But this has ironically made me concerned that my life of luxury has hindered me in regards to reaching my potential. Humans are creatures of habit, and we really enjoy making habits out of what is the easiest or the most comfortable. Why do something complicated when the easy way suffices, as long as it doesn’t bring apparent harm to yourself or others? It is this complacency that must be overcome, and the only way I can win this battle is to have a stronger emotion to override this complacency.

Bring in fear.

Learning to Fight Back

Although fear can often be crippling and prevent you from realizing your best self, if recognized, it can also be a tool for self-improvement. I harness this fear of “becoming a failure” by writing out what it means to beat it. Fear is no more the enemy than it is the motivator and it is only through harnessing this powerful emotion that we can become the people we want to be. It is through the act of writing out my goals with bullet points breaking down each goal that I can maintain my personal progress of becoming my better self. I also make an effort to associate myself with others that have become successful in their lives and careers, either in person or through books. Being able to understand those ahead of you in life and what they did to overcome certain obstacles and fears of their own can be enlightening, and it is alleviating to know that everyone has internal struggles and worries to deal with.

It is crucial that you take the time to have some introspection through some form of meditation, whether it be through taking long walks alone to think through things or keeping a daily journal to hash out your thoughts. I find it that the easiest person to fool is yourself, and it is only through the deliberate practice of understanding yourself that you can truly get to the root of some of your fears and why they exist. Start by asking yourself three why questions in a row to help dig to the root cause. It is often something that has been buried away in your subconscious that needs waking. A problem can only be solved once it is known.

Don’t let your fear rule you; learn to use it to elevate yourself.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Tips for Managing Fear

  • Read stoicism. Anything from Marcus Aurelius or Seneca.
  • Spend at least five minutes each day writing down your top three goals for the day
  • When afraid of trying something new, ask yourself if you were more afraid of the person you would become in the future had you never tried it.
  • Talk about your fears. It will help you realize that everyone is human and we all have similar problems, no matter how bad you think yours are.
  • Write out what it is you are truly afraid of. It is the first step to overcoming.