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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

What’s in a fear?

On any given day, I walk into one of the big DeBartolo Hall (DeBart) classrooms for a lecture and my mind is briefly consumed with fear that I will accidentally tumble down the stairs in front of everyone in a series of flailing somersaults. With how clumsy I am, it feels like an eventual inevitability. 

Fear plays such a vital role in understanding ourselves. Fear doesn’t just tell us where our limits lay or let us know when we are in danger, it can also be a hint that we are embarking on something we really care about.

I’m not talking about the kind of fear you experience when you think you’re being followed. This fear, rather, is that slight tingle in your chest you feel when you’re stepping just outside of your comfort zone. 

Fear can be like a low-grade form of paralysis. Maybe if I play dead, my to-do list can’t hurt me. If I don’t start something, then I can’t fail at it miserably.

We all have those things we are scared to admit we care deeply about. It stings to get confirmation from others that we aren’t good at something we love or to be told that something we care about is a bit silly to be invested in. Maybe you’ve even caught yourself making a self-deprecating joke about that very thing, just to make sure no one can beat you to it. 

Recently, I got to thinking about what those fears are for me. I realized that I honestly used to be afraid of just talking about the things I’m passionate about. I would shy away from mentioning projects that I was excited about, or avoid telling people — even my mom — that I did well on something out of fear that I would sound like I was bragging.

There’s a specific flavor of fear that has a slight hint of excitement in it. This fear, I think, is what happens when the fear for the future mixes with hope for the future. I’m trying to learn to tune into the fears like this that I have. 

When in the times that I’ve been able to identify those fears and summon enough courage to throw myself into overcoming them, I’ve unearthed a side of myself that I didn’t know was there. Very few feelings rival that of newfound bravery.

Fear keeps us safe from harm, sure, but it can also keep us from exploring pieces of ourselves. I challenge you to consider what these fears are for you. What’s holding you back from going for it? What could change if you didn’t hide your passion?

Here’s to hoping I don’t fall down the stairs in DeBart anytime soon.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.