Franklin D. Roosevelt, upon being inaugurated as the 32nd President of the United States, said this during his First Inaugural Address: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” You can listen to and read his address here. After making the statement he goes on to describe that fear as “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror…” It’s no doubt an inspirational piece, but I can’t help but wonder: Do we really need to fear “fear”?
I Think Not
As defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fear is “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger” and “anxious concern”. It triggers that “fight or flight” response inside of you, which is why your heart races, your body tenses up, and you suddenly become increasingly aware of your surroundings. This response tells you that you’re about to face a threat, and that you’ve got to quickly assess the situation and decide if you’ll stand and fight or turn and run.
So what’s there to be afraid of? Should we really fear an instinct that can save our lives when faced with immediate danger?
We only covered one definition, though. The other:
I like to think of this one as those butterflies you feel in your stomach. That nervous, anxious feeling you get when you have to face a not so life-threatening challenge, but one that terrifies you nonetheless. Maybe it’s speaking in front of a large group of people, riding a roller coaster, talking to your crush for the first time.
Whatever it is that makes you stop dead in your tracks, makes your palms sweat, your heart race, it’s a horrible feeling of anxiety. It’s not so much a fear of the unknown, but rather, a fear of what could go wrong. Our brains often like to make predictions and jump to conclusions before an event’s even unfolded. This fear keeps us from stepping up to the podium, from riding that coaster, from talking to our crush. Time and time again. But must we fear it? Must we let this emotion scare us, hold us back from what we want to do?
Absolutely Not. And All It Takes Is A Change Of Perspective.
Instead of viewing fear as the enemy, why not instead view it as a friend? I like to think of fear as a thrill, as a rush of adrenaline, something that should get me excited for what’s about to happen next. Try to let that fear guide you, help you see what it is you need to overcome in your life. The next time you’re faced with a challenge you’d normally run away from, let that fear fuel you, pump you up, get you excited. Let it give you the energy to tackle the problem head-on. I believe that fear helps point us in the right direction, towards what we must face in order to grow. Like it’s a person sitting on your shoulder, pointing at whatever it is that scares you and saying “That, go do that right now!”
Fear isn’t your enemy. It’s your friend. Stop trying to ignore it and start listening to it.
“To use fear as the friend it is, we must retrain and reprogram ourselves. We must persistently and convincingly tell ourselves that the fear is here- with its gift of energy and heightened awareness- so we can do our best and learn the most in the new situation.” – Peter Williams