Fear is a funny thing and a concept I have been pondering a lot recently. For most of my life, fear has always been something to be considered in an extreme manner. Think along the lines of fear as you would perceive it in a horror film. Or the kind of debilitating fear you would experience being placed in a life or death situation. These are examples of fear on the far end of the spectrum and not a situation that one is likely to be placed in during their life. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.
So what then is fear that we can relate too? Let’s first look at the definition of fear:
“an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
Thank you Google. You’ve pulled through in the clutch again.
Ok, so it’s an emotion and an unpleasant one. Duh. Reading into the rest of the definition though is where we can dive into some discussion points.
One, it’s caused by the belief that something is dangerous. Check. If I believe that something is dangerous, I’m likely going to fear it. The level of fear is the deciding factor that affects our ability to act. The perfect example for this is the X Games. In my humble opinion, those guys are crazy. They are often on wheels/skates/boards/skis/etc… and are traveling at high rates of speed doing tricks or courses or racing in such a way that my ass puckers tighter than a snare drum! It blows my mind how athletic and tough those guys and girls have to be in order to not just function in that capacity but to excel at that level. Personally, those activities just make me think of concussions and broken bones and not the excitement of competition. However, I played football for a number of years(even some semi-professionally) and there are a lot of people who would view the idea of slamming into other grown men(some more growner(not a word) than I was) at high rates of speed slightly insane.
Fear all comes down to our perception of what is “dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” If our desire to perform an activity is greater than the perception of danger, possible harm, or threat, then we are going to embrace that activity. For example, I think motorcycles are awesome. I love the idea of cruising down the interstate with the wind blowing and music playing and my engine humming. But, if you refer back to my post Learn. To. DRIVE., I think there are a lot of people that have the privilege of driving that are idiots. Big time. So I choose not to own/operate a motorcycle because I can’t trust that other people on the road aren’t going to smash into me. If that happens, I lose. That all relates back to the idea of perception. People can look at different activities and have completely different perceptions of what is “dangerous, likely to cause harm, or a threat”.
Up to this point, the post has been kind of a ramble. I’ll own that. But just like Michael Jordan didn’t hit every game winning shot, I am not going to make every blog post a perfect, riveting, dynamic piece to read. Sometimes it’s just rambling. Where my head has been really looking at fear though is through the lens of “Fear of Failure”. This concept of failure and what that means to me has plagued me my entire life. I’ve always been afraid to just act and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed out on opportunities simply because I was afraid. There was an example this past week that I will probably be kicking myself about for years. I have always wanted to own a 1968 Camaro. I was driving through a rural part of the state and in this super small town, I saw a 1968 Camaro SS sitting in this bank parking lot. On the Camaro it said, “Inquire in Bank”(spelling is rough sometimes…). I stopped for a second but didn’t go in right then because I didn’t think I’d have enough time to do that and still make it to my appointment on time. I also just figured that it would still be there on my way home because it’s small town USA. Well, maybe you can tell me what was in that bank parking lot when I went back through town later in the day? That’s right…not the Camaro. It had literally been sold that day. Because the bank had it, my guess is that it was a repo. I might have been able to buy a car I had always wanted for a bargain price because the bank was just trying to offload a bad loan! But because I was afraid of being late, I didn’t stop and at least look into this opportunity that rarely, if ever, comes along! Same way of how I was ready to pull the trigger a few years ago and buy 1000 shares of Facebook stock when it was $21/share. Didn’t do that. Now it’s over $150/share. I was afraid of “failing” by losing $21,000. But you might say, “You never know how that one might have turned out. FB could have gone to $10/share and then you would have lost money.” True. But it was something I believed in and had good information to support my decision and I balked. Because I was a chicken shit.
My fear of failure stems from the desire to not want people to be disappointed in me. I’ve recognized as I’ve gotten older that that is something I wrestle with almost daily. Whether it’s my wife, my kids, my boss, etc… I want people to not only be proud of me but to like me. This isn’t necessarily a bad trait but it can impact smart decision making because I don’t want to make someone mad. Or it can delay decision making while I decide if this will gain me favor. I’m sure that if I sat down with a psychologist, they would somehow relate this to my parents and some of the interactions and approval or lack thereof that I received while I was growing up. That’s fine but the part that is most frustrating is that I recognize what’s happening and still struggle with it. The concept of needing approval is so strong that even though I’m a rational adult and know what’s happening, I still hesitate to make decisions because of it. I admire those people who can just latch onto something and go for it. I want to learn how to code but haven’t made any progress because I don’t want to start and realize I started in the wrong place, screw up the process by which to learn, choose the wrong coding language, etc…. So what have I done to make progress on these questions/concerns? Nothing. I’ve been afraid and hesitant to go any further.
We all have the ability to overcome fear in our own right but it’s not easy. If you’re like me and are afraid of failing, you really have to have an amazing support network that will encourage you along the way. Whatever fear you’re dealing with, you have to own it and take steps to overcome it. Maybe you’ve wanted to skydive but are afraid of heights. Just start jumping off the couch. Practice small jumps like that and work your way up. It’s possible because people have done it. Fear is a bitch and can keep us from being great. Don’t let it. Unless you’re afraid of spiders. I don’t know what to tell you about that. Pick one up maybe?
Being afraid of failure, I’m going to go get a pint of ice cream. I’m afraid of not being able to finish and I’ll show that stupid ice cream who’s boss!!