When we’re born we come pre-programmed with two, and only two fears: The fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. After that, anything that makes you fearful, anxious or in doubt about yourself is learned or conditioned. And with every new bogeyman, we dream less, we hesitate more and the sphere of our infinite potential shrinks.
Some fears are downright useful – hot stoves, hungry tigers, high-voltage wires. These are the “Oh crap! That bus is about to hit me!” kind of scared and they’re just smart survival instincts.
But most are constraining, restricting, limiting. In the face of them we believe less, try less and become less. These are the non-stop, low-grade, chronic, “How-am-I-going-to-pay-the-cable-bill-this-month?,” “Why-hasn’t-my-friend-liked-my-Instagram-post-yet?,” “I-think-I’m-supposed-to-worry-more-about-climate-change,” “I’m-sure-these-symptoms-mean-I-have-cancer!” kind of anxiety. It’s the kind of scared that, late at night, when you can’t sleep, the cascade of hideous outcomes ends with you pushing a shopping cart along the sidewalk or rotting in a Turkish prison.
Then, just for fun, let’s add in those self-doubts that are purely the result of our conditioned beliefs. The ones that set limits for ourselves before we’ve even tried. “I’ll never be good at math.” “You have to be lucky or criminal to be rich.” “I can’t get up there and sing karaoke!”
It sucks to be scared all the time.
So let’s stop.
Turns out that, with the exception of the hot stove/oncoming bus kind of anxieties, none of the rest are based on any external reality. They’re our over-active imaginations cranking up the fear factor. They’re our tendency to immediately go for the worst-case scenario that has you landing in that Turkish prison.
In other words, our fears, our anxieties, our self-doubts are self-imposed.
And they come with an ‘off’ switch.
We’ve immobilized ourselves with our addiction to CNN, Twitter and the gut-wrenching competition to win that last spot in the best pre-K so your three-year-old will get into Yale. None of which are mandatory.
Remember “Chicken Little?” That dim-witted hen who, when an acorn fell on her head, concluded that the sky was falling and proceeded to instill mass panic among the rest of the farmyard animals? It’s a cute story and it’s easy to see the folly of jumping to conclusions based on fake news.
Remember “The Emperor’s New Clothes?” The dim-witted emperor and townspeople who believed the con men who told them that only the smart people can see the cloth? It’s a cautionary tale for those who can’t or won’t think for themselves.
When we allow our imaginations, our psyches and our inner monologues to be hijacked by fear-mongering headlines and Twitter posts, our wits are also dimmed. And our infinite supply of human potential is stolen.
Such a colossal waste!
But what about Chicken Little? Like her, I spent way too much of my life convinced that the sky was, indeed, falling. That’s how we all feel when we’re so trapped in our very real, personal panic. It’s impossible to think calmly and rationally. And as imaginary as these demons are, the power they wield in our psyches makes them impassable roadblocks just the same.
Sooner or later, every one of us gets fed up with worrying what others think, hiding under the bed and surrendering command of our lives.
In spite of the power those demons wield, it’s entirely possible to remove those roadblocks. Since it’s all self-imposed, we can learn to unplug from the fear. We can untangle the net of fear, anxiety and self-doubt that keeps us from exploring and our limitless human potential. We can live up to the promises we’ve made to ourselves.
Anyone can do it. But only if you’re willing to hit that ‘off’ switch. Only if you want to leave the drama behind and get to know the valuable, competent, courageous, remarkable human being that you are.
Overcoming the fear, transcending the anxiety, conquering the self-doubt. That’s what i-fearless is all about.