Staring down at the ocean from the beautiful Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, I watch my friends jump off the cliffs into the ocean. Meanwhile, my legs pull back to safer ground, trembling. My friends inquire as to why I won’t jump off with them. I stare blankly, and stammer some kind of reply like “I’m not a strong swimmer” or “It’s more fun to watch”. The real reason? I’m horribly afraid of heights. AND swimming.
The last couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting on and analyzing my relationship with fear. By asking myself questions such as “What decisions in my past (and present) have I made because of fear?”, “What is the real reason I feel fear in such situations” and “To what extent is my fear justified”, I’ve learned a lot about how I make decisions and what drives me. And, honestly, I’ve been a bit disappointed in myself. Why can’t I live my life more “on the edge”?
With COVID-19, I’ve found myself taking the “safer at home orders” a lot more seriously than most people in my age group. My hesitance to engage in a lot of activities that my peers are has made me think about WHY I am making those decisions. In many cases, I do feel like my decision to stay home is made in fear. I am afraid of catching the virus, but even more compelling to me is the fear of infecting a loved one who would suffer worse consequences than I . I fear not doing my part to help society get better. I fear not doing right by my fellow human beings.
Which leads me to another conclusion: some fear is GOOD. It keeps you safe, and it keeps you alive. Fear is a biological response that we all experience when we encounter danger. Perhaps my caution with socializing in the pandemic is my body and mind telling me I need to keep myself and others safe. Maybe it’s not.
In so many aspects of my life, I struggle to find the balance between keeping myself safe and feeling like I am living my life fully. I worry that I am wasting my youth by being cautious, and that I am not taking the chances that I should .
Even though it is overwhelming, I work hard to confront these fears when they arise, and I do my best to deconstruct them. More importantly, I’ve worked on trying to communicate these feelings to inquiring loved ones, so that they better understand where I am coming from. Sometimes, talking through these irrationalities with others can help me realize that what I’m afraid of in my own head is silly when I say it out loud.
If you are someone who struggles with fear, I invite you to engage yourself in thought and journaling to try to deconstruct those fears. When you feel a new fear (or an old one) arise, ask WHY and link it to when you’ve had that feeling before. Think through (and write down!) all of the evidence that makes your fear likely to occur, and all the evidence that proves it’s unlikely. More times than not, there is less evidence that makes your fear likely than that which makes it unlikely. Try to ground your irrationality in the rational world.
Likewise, if you know a friend or loved one who struggles with fear, ask questions. Engage them in dialouge, and do so without judgement. While what they are afraid of seems odd to you, keep in mind that this is something they’ve probably struggled with for a long period of time.
I don’t have the right answers for confronting fear; it’s something that I deal with daily. Fear is part of the human experience, and we all deal with it one way or another. No matter how or when you feel fear, know that you are never alone in experiencing it.