Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons Dryhead
"Of all base passions, fear is the most accursed". - (King Henry the Sixth, Part 1, Act V, Scene II).
I would like to preface this post by saying I may be overthinking this and this is only the start of a conversation. To rephrase Billy Joel- 'I may be wrong, but for all I know, I may be right'.
I listen to quite a few podcasts and I'm often drawn to posts and articles where people talk about overcoming their fear. The more I've listened and the more I've read I think we need to define fear before this conversation continues.
I'm going old school English major on the word and here is the definition from the Oxford English Dictionary:
An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat
Now look at the word anxiety:
A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome
I think sometimes when we are talking about fear we are actually talking about anxiety. Who cares? Well, I do, because it drives me crazy, but I also think it is important, so we are having the right conversation. When we use the word 'fear' we've immediately escalated the issue and labelled it as something to be scared of.
Here's a hypothetical- I want to launch a business and open up a physical space. What am I afraid of? Except for the fact that I have PTSD and jump at the slightest noise- I don't have anything to be afraid of.
Am I anxious? Hell yes. What is the thing that keeps me awake at night? That I'll go broke and be homeless. Ok, so if that happens so what? Unless you have alienated every single person in your life you are not going to be homeless. Looking at the worst case scenario you can see that the things triggering my anxiety are kind of ridiculous.
I get anxious going to an event, yet I do it anyway. Am I afraid? No, because I'm pretty sure I'm not in danger. I get anxious when I launch a new product because I'm worried that no one will like it. Again, not afraid, because there is no danger. Unless I am wearing a fur coat that I made and wearing it on the street and get assaulted by PETA, then I am not in danger.
I would challenge everyone to reframe the conversation. There are things that are fear inducing because of the perceived threat. I've even talked about facing my fears because I view them as crazy dangerous things I have to do. But I think we do ourselves a disservice in the long run when everything is some 'fear' to challenge. We've ramped up something in our mind to be this huge looming thing, when really, it's an opportunity that is going to cause us some anxiety.
Edit- Rereading this I wanted to acknowledge that some of us have very real fears, for example, I have a friend who is afraid of birds. In her mind the birds are coming for her. I do not want to sounds like I am discounting things that people are truly afraid of.
Originally posted 4/25/14