We typically don’t say, “I’m afraid.” In fact, it’s probably been years since you’ve since you’ve said it. The boogeyman causes us to be afraid. The 6 o’clock news causes us to be afraid. As kids, we were afraid and could admit it, but at some point being afraid became a sign of weakness. So, we quit saying it.
Guess what? It’s okay to be afraid. Our brains are wired to fear danger, real or imaginary. It’s part of our defense mechanism. Fear triggers a problem-solving response to equip us to face the danger. If you’ve ever wrestled one of your biggest fears in your dreams, that’s the amygdala at work. At one point, our ancestors dreamed of fighting lions at night to work out how to defeat the foe. Now we dream of meeting deadlines (of course, the “dead” line is now just hyperbole). Don’t fear.
I’m afraid. Boy, now I’m waiting for a kid named Jonathan from my seventh-grade class to come and beat me up, but seriously I have fears (less than battling lions) that I face every day.
- I’m afraid I don’t spend enough time with my kids.
- I’m afraid I don’t measure up.
- I’m afraid my marriage will fall apart.
- I’m afraid I drink too much.
- I’m afraid I’m going to drop a ball.
- I’m afraid my house will burn down.
- I’m afraid the economy will fail.
- I’m afraid I’m going bald.
Light and Truth
Now, when I was a kid, and I told my parents I was afraid, two things happened: 1. my dad turned on the lights, and 2. my dad spoke truth into the situation. Now, My fears were a little more pronounced, shall we say, because my dad shared all of his stories from the FBI. More than fearing the big, bad boogeyman, I was scared that one of the top ten most wanted felons, but that’s a different story for a different post. My dad would come in my room, turn all the lights on, and he would proceed to walk me through the house with all of the lights on until I was convinced that not a creature was stirring not even a 250 LB escaped convict. Then he would take me back to my bed and tell me the following: 1. Don’t you think I can “take” anyone? 2. Don’t you think the dogs would bark if someone were in the house? 3. Don’t you know I have (name any number of guns) etc.? 4. Don’t you know that it is statistically improbable that anything of this sort will happen?
Thinking will not overcome fear but action will.
W. Clement Stone
Being AFRAID is a trigger. The question is what do you do with it? Hiding from it only compounds the fear. Expose fear by bringing it into the light and be honest about what is causing the fear. Only then can we address it. Otherwise, the fear becomes anxiety, desperation, and ultimately paralysis. Awareness, on the other hand, is empowering. Replacing “AFRAID” with “AWARE” changes the conversation.
- I’m AWARE I don’t spend enough time with my kids, AND I am going to put down my phone when we’re together, pay attention, and plan activities that are fun for us all.
- I’m AWARE I perceive I may not measure up, but I’m confident that I’m living my life to the best of my ability.
- I’m AWARE my marriage is delicate, AND I need to invest the time in keeping it fresh and fun.
- I’m AWARE I may drink too much alcohol.
- I’m AWARE I could drop a ball, so I am going to delegate more.
- I’m AWARE my house may burn down, and I’m going to make a simple plan to preserve the irreplaceable items.
- I’m AWARE the economy may fail, and I have no control over it.
- I’m AWARE that, in fact, I’m going bald, and I’m comforted by the fact that baldness is a sign of high testosterone.
We are too worried about what others think to admit being afraid. Someone may judge us. Someone may even laugh at us. In my experience in life, I will say, that those that identify their weakness and act are truly the strongest among us. Their vulnerability gives them strength greater than any overcompensation tactic.