1: an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger
2: anxious concern
3: reason for alarm
mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
I am afraid of a LOT of things. I could list them all here, but I don’t like my blog posts to be that long. I’ve been fearful for as long as I can remember, but most of my fears have been irrational ones. For example:
- Starting at the age of five, I was terrified that I would develop a fatal disease. This fear lasted about 35 years. I don’t have that fear anymore. Me being 5 years old and afraid of everything.
- I was also afraid of dying. I’m not afraid of that anymore.
- For many years I was afraid to fly, but that is another fear I have overcome.
Ironically, the things that I should have been afraid of, didn’t bother me much. For example, although I was afraid of developing a brain tumor all throughout my teens and twenties, I smoked cigarettes for a few years without any fear of developing lung cancer.
And despite my fear of dying, I used various illegal drugs without any concern about my health, or my death. (If anyone reading this is in their 20’s, and is in any way related to me, particularly if you happen to be in my immediate family, I just want to say – don’t do what I did.)
Yes, I was afraid to fly, but I have never been afraid of driving, and I am much more likely to die driving than flying. As a matter of fact, whenever I am anxious or stressed I get in my car and go for a drive. (I got some beer and the highway’s free, and all that. Unless you are on the NJ Turnpike, of course.)
As for courage, I never thought I had much of that. I have always had an extreme idea of what courage actually is. To me, courage meant that one isn’t afraid of anything. And examples of courage, in my world view, would be:
- running into the ocean to save someone who is being attacked by a shark
- putting one’s life in danger because of a deeply valued principle (i.e.; joining the military and going to war)
- being a whistleblower knowing that one’s job would be over, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to ever get another one
But according to the dictionary, courage does not mean the absence of fear. Courage means venturing into the fear, persevering through the fear, and withstanding the danger. If that is what courage truly is, (and if it is in the dictionary, well then, it must be true), I might have to admit that I have some of that.
I have done things that I was afraid of doing. Recent examples that I can think of are:
- going alone to Mississippi to work with Habitat for Humanity, thinking there would be other people who came alone, and discovering it was just me and a group of 10 people from a church group. I was afraid of going alone, and I was even more afraid when I thought I would be alone all week while these 10 people had a great time, but in the end I made 10 good friends. And we built a house.
- taking a writing class, despite my lack of confidence in my ability to write, then dropping out of the class because I thought it was too difficult, then overcoming a lot of fear to rejoin the class. And, again, I made some good friends, and wrote some pretty decent stuff too.
- running in races. For some reason, this terrified me for a very long time, and I don’t know why because my goal was never to actually win the race. Racing should be fun. After about my 25th race, I lost most of my pre-anxiety about racing, and then I took on the big challenge of becoming a running coach and starting an official running program where I actually have to coach runners. That was scary, and sometimes still is.
My recent lifestyle change has been one of the most fearful situations in my entire life, and I frequently hear my friends tell me that I am courageous. But I think I just do what I need to do. Giving up a lot of things that I am used to having in order to be independent is something I need to do. It certainly doesn’t feel like courage, and I am always aware of the undercurrent of fear. Maybe a better definition of courage would be: Doing what you need to do. You know: