Many fears develop from our past experiences and interactions. They’re given significance and importance by how we interpreted (thought) and processed (emotions) what we experienced at that time. So let’s say while we were growing up we learned to be afraid of (or highly sensitive to) perceived or actual criticism, rejection, and punishments. It makes sense that as we mature, we might become apprehensive in situations where we feel vulnerable. We may panic when we fear of losing the approval, affection, or attention of potential partners or friends. If there’s a specific place, we feel vulnerable but can’t avoid, we may engage in other pre-emptive defense strategies to keep ourselves “safe”. These places may be the cafeteria at school or work, sporting events, or the local coffee shop. Any place where people are likely to engage us in conversation. For some, the strategy is to wear earbuds or headphones (even though nothing is playing), or have a tablet or phone in front of them, and avoid all eye contact with anyone within a hundred yards. Two hundred yards feels even better.
So, what happens when Sam, who recently “came out” identifying as non-binary, is shamed by parents, teachers, siblings, and peers? To avoid pain, it’s natural that Sam will start distancing themselves from people, everywhere they go; not just particular places. With time, this avoidance becomes a comfortable pattern of behavior. Without affirming support, Sam believes (and emotionally invests) in the narrative that people are dangerous to their well-being. In time Sam may project further and begin to believe that the world isn’t safe; that isolating is the only “safe” option. Sam dismisses long-held dreams as fantasy, and becomes convinced in the belief that they’re fine on their own; they doesn’t need people. One morning, following a terrible loss, Sam wakes up with the nagging feeling that life is passing them by. They feel empty, flat, and terribly disconnected from a sense of self, and old dreams. Looking around at others, Sam feels disappointment and a deep void within. Other people appear to be living vibrant lives. They’re authentic and transparent with their orientation and preferences, but they’re enjoying active social lives, adventures, and community participation.
This story of Sam is sad, but Sam and US, can take steps to have what WE want. It’s only our judgement and perception that gives validity to fears and creates emptiness, or the sense of loss, failure, or defeat. All our fears can be normalized if we recognize them as the opportunity to change what we think, and what we can or want to do. Failure is a persistent fear that some people cling to. They tell themselves that they can’t try anything new because they’re convinced, they’ll fail. With this self-defeating view, they will in fact, fail. We manifest our personal views and thoughts because our brain doesn’t know the difference. Our brain simply goes with what its’ always known, and our emotions and actions respond in kind.
Let’s step forward and take the view that “failure” of any kind simply presents us with the opportunity to review what happened. With this objective approach, review can help us determine what we want, and what we can do to make lasting and positive changes.
Fears lose power to govern our moods when we break them down. We can actively reframe them into tasks, or simply stuff to do. It’s not a question of our character; it’s just stuff to do differently! When a person intensely dislikes their job; it’s likely that the situation is a poor match for their personality, interests, and passion. At any time, we can look at what we really want, and then take purposeful steps to create change. Our fears don’t need to determine how we view ourselves; we can simply make a list of things we can do differently.