Fear is a Fraudster

When I was five, my dad stuck a fork in an electrical socket and scared the hell out of me. That was his objective. He wanted to teach me about the dangers of electricity by making me fear it. Mission accomplished. Even today when my husband goes near a switch with a screw driver, I wince and turn away. Thanks for the lasting lesson, dad.

Fear is a pervasive part of the human experience. I think we might fear just about everything, and sadly, we start very young.

My four year old nephew recently refused to go to daycare. When my sister dug around a bit, she determined he was afraid the kids would tease him about his t-shirt. Did I mention he’s four years old?!

A good friend of mine who’s getting a new boss is spending all her time in the lead up to his arrival frantically patching what she thinks may be holes in her business strategy because she’s afraid he’ll spot the holes (are they really even holes?!) on day one and fire her. She can’t even conceive that he’ll be impressed by her strategy, or offer her some advice on how to make it stronger, versus throwing her out on her sorry ass.

A former colleague spends all his time blocking and tackling because he’s convinced his co-workers are out to make him look bad and he doesn’t want to get blamed for stuff. Blamed for what and who cares if he gets blamed?! What is with all this fear? Have we all gone mad?

Politicians, the media, religious leaders, even our own bosses use fear to their advantage. Fear makes us vote for some guy and not the other because we’re afraid one will tax us to death while the other takes away our right to health care – and we arrive at these conclusions without even reviewing the facts; we simply hear the fear-mongering language and let our blood pressure and anxiety do the rest. Or we stay in that job we hate because we’re afraid we can’t get another, or at least one that pays us as much as the one we’re so miserable in, and we need that miserable job because if we don’t have it, we’ll wind up living in a car, our marriage in shambles, insert more fantastic melodrama here.

Fear is insidious, and we follow it like a pied piper. It’s a fraudster, parading around in the form of trusted advisers and leaders when meanwhile, it’s all about making us weak and malleable. We fear change, being judged, being hurt, hurting others, being ignored, being loved, being hated, we might even fear being being! That’s an awesome tool for others to use to keep us in line.

Here’s the truth: there are things to fear in life – a knife wielding psychopath, a bus careening toward us at an intersection, the ebola virus. But we should fear these things when they happen to us, not if they might happen to us.

F@#k fear; let’s take the power back from those who lord it over us. Start by being smart. Get the facts. Don’t stick forks in electrical boxes, but don’t drop into a fetal position every time you’re presented with an appliance that needs to be plugged in either. Don’t jump to conclusions. Don’t think catastrophically. Don’t let it fool you. Breathe, and buck it.

Fear is a fraudster. It’s time to call it on its bad behaviour.