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Fear Is a Friend

Updated on September 21, 2011
Overcoming stage fright.
Overcoming stage fright. | Source

Fear is a normal human emotion, and it serves a good purpose. When fear is reasonable it equips us to fight or run, depending on how we perceive the situation. If, for example, a hiker meets a hungry bear on the trail, fear is a reasonable emotion, and the behavior it elicits in the hiker has the potential to save his or her life. On the other hand, unreasonable fear acts to paralyze a person from taking appropriate action and becomes an obstacle in the path of successful living.

Fear has sometimes been used as an acronym for “False Expectations Appearing Real,” and this tends to be true in many cases. When a person fears change, fears rejection, fears the unknown or fears a consequence that may be painful but not lethal, those fears are based on the assumption that whatever lurks ahead can’t possibly be beneficial. Further, the person tends to exaggerate the “pain” side of the equation, imagining the most extreme negative consequence will be the most likely outcome of any changes. For instance, when a department manager proposes some changes to the workplace, the immediate reaction on the part of many employees will be thoughts of job loss and extended unemployment that eventually lead to homelessness and destitution. Unreasonable fear is at the root of procrastination, self-sabotage, phobias such as test anxiety and other habitual behaviors that hold a person back from reaching their greatest potential.

A change in attitude with regard to a new situation won’t completely eradicate fear, but it will serve to stop wholesale panic from setting in. Using the previous example, the employees could change their thought pattern from “These changes will make me lose my job,” to “These changes might make my job easier,” or “If these changes make the company more profitable, and I work with them rather than against them, I will stand a good chance of getting a raise.” In most situations, the probability of positive outcomes is just as strong as the probability of negative outcomes. The difference in results may well have to do with the individual’s attitude and willingness to work through the rough patches.

Fear is the global response humans experience when confronting new or unknown situations. To embrace fear and use it as a motivator rather than accepting it as an obstacle turns what normally is a negative emotion into something positive. According to Susan Jeffers in her book, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway,” fear will only go away when the issue causing the fear is confronted. In Ms. Jeffers words, “…the ‘doing it’ comes before the fear goes away.”

One final note: confronting challenges and working through fear boosts self-esteem. When a challenging situation is overcome, a person develops a greater sense of competence and becomes more resourceful. Conversely, avoiding new situations and ignoring challenges stifles personal growth and reinforces a sense of helplessness. Experiencing fear is unpleasant, but an absence of fear in a person’s life may indicate an absence of growth.

John Cale's Fear is a Man's Best Friend

Are you afraid of doing something but still went ahead and did it?

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    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      That's true Parrster, preparation is a great way to balance fear. I'm sure we use preparation to some extent as we deal with our fears but not really conscious about it. Thanks for bringing up that insight.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Australia

      Neat hub. I have a love/hate relationship with my fears; for all the reasons you mention. The mindset needed to allow fear to become ones motivator is the biggest battle. Figuratively we step around the fear so that it is no longer a barrier pushing us back. Once behind us, it is still felt, but now we allow it to push us forward.

      One other thing I might add is that preparation is a great way to balance fear. I remember when I first had to do public speaking, I felt crushed beneath the weight of my fear. It was only my immense preparation that saw me through, the words coming to me by rote though my mind was muddled by fear.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks Tina V and appreciate the advice.

    • TINA V profile image

      TINA V 6 years ago

      This is an encouraging hub. Indeed, fear is normal; if a person manages it well, it can serve as a motivating or driving factor to achieve bigger things. If not, it can lead to anxiety. The video is working, but the lyric is not clear. Other than that, you must keep on writing informative and useful articles like this one. Welcome to Bookrix!

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks Wrath Warbone, I am glad you liked it.

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 6 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      Wow, what a fine article. Very clear and demonstrative of its validity. Thanks.

    • moiragallaga profile image

      Moira Garcia Gallaga 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thanks Dream On. I think we deal with fear or our fears in one way or another every single day. It's how we deal with it and overcome the fear that will lead us to new things or adventures, or to more success as pointed in my hub. I think one of the most basic and constant fear we face is fear of failure. On one hand this keeps us on our toes, making sure we do a good job, carry out our responsibilities, etc. On the other hand, this may also stop us from trying out new things, engaging in a new business venture, working on that invention in your head, etc. For me, it is not so much the absence of fear but more on how we handle it.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 6 years ago

      Very informative hub.I wonder if we could do without fear and use other good emotions to come to are aid in case of danger.In the case of a hiker let quick wit and intelligence come to our aid.Let us rely on our energy to try new things and our persistence to carry them out.Can we tap into our love for life to push us on to new and exciting advenures.Please let me know what you think?I tried the you tube video and It came up error.I will try again later.Thanks for sharing many good ideas.