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Afraid of Fear

There was a time in my life when most things scared me.

Dentists. Cars. Weather. The dark. Ghosts.

I would go to sleep each night and pray to whatever gods or spirits might be listening, asking them to protect me until I woke up. At that point, I imagined, I would be alert enough to start worrying again, giving me some kind of will-powered protection against the supposed threats I spent a great deal of my time fixated on.

It’s possible to get over fears, though there are still things that put me on edge. I’m still afraid of things like failure and death and being mutilated by wild animals or malfunctioning heavy machinery. But one of the more significant evolutions I’ve undergone in the past decade is that I’m no longer afraid of fear. Or to put it another way: simply being afraid of something does not deter me from doing it.

In fact, I’ve found a lot of value in pursuing the things that initially scare me. This serves the double-purpose of reiterating to myself that fear can be a silly reflex, not an absolute judgement of how dangerous something is, while also allowing me to destroy potential experiential ceilings before they have the chance to form.

The latent benefit of chasing down your fears and proving them harmless is that you expose yourself to people and places and experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have reason to seek out. This makes you a more well-rounded person, and allows you to see the world from many different angles.

I’m not saying you should ignore your instincts and jump into a pit of hungry lions. I am saying you should question your instincts and make sure a more primal part of your brain, shaped by genetics and your upbringing and biases, isn’t keeping you from living your life due to fears about what could go wrong.

Only by testing our limits can we know how far we’re able to go, and only by shoving fear out of the way are we able to see that it’s just a shadow making scary shapes on the wall, not an actual monster.

Update: April 4, 2017

I wrote this just as I had moved in with Josh and Ryan from in a house in Missoula, Montana. We’d just started a company called Asymmetrical Press, and wanted to work on it in person for a spell, before I headed back overseas. It was a blast, but I was mightily disconcerted by the idea of 1. housemates and 2. living in the US after a long while of only living elsewhere.