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What Am I Afraid Of?

Fears, tears, and “right heres” are medals of courage.

Key points

  • Fear is key to moving forward in life. Without it, one can never develop courage, which leads to the reward of excitement.
  • Healthy fear is a disguise for positive change, but unhealthy fear is an overload of "what ifs."
  • Willpower is often not enough to free someone who's trapped in fear. Yet, hope creates a connection to something outside oneself.

There will always be one thing that weighs heavily on our excitement about our future. That is our fear.

It’s so ironic that a portion of our brain loves fear and loss of control. Amusement parks make a lot of money from throwing people into fear and harm's way, and we love it. We pay, and we wait for hours in line just to be scared. We go to haunted houses to get the adrenaline rush of fear.

Fear is such a tricky secret. We love it. We hate it. We need it. Without it, we would never accomplish anything significant. If we have no fear, we can never develop courage. It is through courage that we discover the reward of excitement. Imagine that reality.

Fear is a major positive element in moving forward.

There are four types of fear: Healthy, Unhealthy, Inevitable, and Phobias.

Healthy fear

Healthy fear is our friend. It is not an irony that the bigger we dream and the more we want to succeed, the greater our fear. Fear is a disguise for positive change. Change brings new growth. Healthy fear is like a vitamin.

Unhealthy fear

Then there is the unhealthy fear: the overload of “what ifs” and what might happen. A woman in one of my groups once said, “I’m worried about the next shoe dropping, even though everything is good right now.” The man sitting next to her said, “Sounds like you don’t trust ‘good.’” Hmmm. Trusting good.

Another woman was tired of hearing people tell her she could get hit by a bus tomorrow. She questioned the reason to be constantly afraid of what might happen, encapsulating her research into a book she titled, Who Are These Bus Drivers, and Why Are They After Me?

When we are cloaked in fear and entrenched in the dark side of sadness, we are not able to see many opportunities. Stepping through and letting go of fear is one of the most difficult challenges we face in life. Playing tug-of-war with our negative emotions seems ridiculous in hindsight, but it can be so very real in the present moment. It might seem that letting go is not an option.

Inevitable fear

Inevitable fear includes things like death. It does little good to constantly worry if you might die. Many people fear change. It’s perfectly normal to crave a certain amount of stability and control; however, change is inevitable. Sadly, we are often not in control of it. The Serenity Prayer begins with, “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”


Phobias are endless. They can range from the most common in America, which are arachnophobia (fear of spiders) and acrophobia (fear of heights), to hundreds of others, including globophobia (fear of balloons), alektorophobia (fear of chickens), and omphalophobia (fear of belly buttons). And of course, there is phobophobia, which is the fear of being afraid. I often use these, and dozens of others, to demonstrate the extremes that our minds will go to in order to make us afraid.

Stepping through fear

Fear is not the enemy. It is the emotions that fear causes that bring us discomfort. It is important to allow those emotions, not try to brush them aside and ignore them. Dr. Robert Maurer says that we should learn two huge lessons from children: They are not afraid to tell you what they are afraid of, and they do not apologize for crying. "When was the last time you heard a small child say, 'I’m so sorry that I get emotional when I talk about this?'" asks Maurer.

Once we embrace the fear, address it, and step through it, we can search for the light at the end of the fear tunnel.

There are just as many beautiful “what ifs” as there are negative “what ifs.”

The importance of hope

From the day we are born, it is human to have fear. How could you not be afraid after being squeezed through a dark tube and then awakened by a strange man with a mask who slaps you on the bottom?

We will always have new fears that pop up daily, and there are lingering fears that we never seem to get rid of.

“What you are afraid of is never as bad as what you imagine. The fear you let build up in your mind is worse than the situation that actually exists.”—Spencer Johnson, M.D.

When we are trapped in fear, very often our willpower is not enough to get us out. That is where hope becomes so important. Think of hope as a best friend who sits down next to you and puts their arm around you. You become connected to something outside of you. Fear and hope can have the greatest soccer game in your head, but hopefully, hope will win the game.

Fear is a four-letter word, but so is hope.

Moving forward

I have mentioned in my past posts that one of the greatest ways to step through fear is to confide in a best friend or a family member. Welcome the offers of positive connections. Hearing yourself speak the words can be healing.

Consider times in your life when you have felt a beautiful presence of hope and powerful profound positivity. Maybe you were looking out at the ocean, up at the stars, or at the earth below your plane window. Maybe you were listening to music or staring at art. Can you remember the feeling? Hope is not tangible. It is a feeling. It is faith. It is trust. It is surrender. It is knowing that everything in the universe has always worked out.

Now go get on a rollercoaster and scare the #*~` out of yourself.


Brown, Brene, PhD, LMSW (2012), Daring Greatly, Penguin Random House, New York, NY

Johnson, Spencer, M.D. (1998), Who Moved My Cheese?,” G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, NY

Maurer, Robert, Ph.D., (2004), One Small Step Can Change Your Life; The Kaizen Way, Workman Publishing Co., New York, NY.

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