I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about fear. Wondering what it is I fear most, that darkest demon that I’ve avoided far too long. But to get there, to travel deep down to where the demon lurks, I must first understand the true nature of fear and what it consists of. The Dictionary defines fear as ‘a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid. ‘ After reading the definition there is one particular part that stands out to me the most, “whether the threat is real or imagined”. The significance of this segment is extraordinary. This implies that fear is NOT real. That fear is just a product of our imagination, nothing more, nothing less.
How is this so! I know we have all felt true fear! And in those daunting moments there is not a feeling in the world comprised of more substance, more authenticity, more realness than the increase of one’s heart rate and the tingling of his skin. Because when the hair on your neck stands up and your pores start to sweat, there isn’t an emotion out there that is more alive.
This brings us back to the initial question, what is my deepest fear? At the surface level it might be a fear of heights, spiders, or closed spaces. Go down a little deeper and you might find the fear of bombing an interview, being in the spotlight or losing a loved one. Still none of these are my deepest fear. My deepest fear is much more complex. It is the root from which the rest of my fears are grown. My deepest fear is being known.
Being known means letting someone else in. It means peeling back all the outer layers and revealing who I am at my core. Coming out from behind the fake smiles, forced laughs and shallow jokes. It means removing the mask and showing who lives beneath. Because my deepest fear is not of this world. My deepest fear is myself.
I fear myself because there is no one else to blame. There is no one else to point fingers at. There is no one else to carry my burden because when it comes down to it, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”
Knowing that I control my destiny is both liberating and frightening. On one hand, the ability to dictate my life path and make of it what I choose is a great opportunity. But with great opportunity comes great responsibility. In a world littered with mediocrity, people are starving for greatness. People are starving for someone to raise the bar and heighten the expectations. Not necessarily from a success or capitalism standpoint but rather from a relational one.
We live in a ME society where the majority of people are self-seeking, always looking out for themselves. This doesn’t mean that it’s their fault or that they can’t change, it just means that we have failed them by setting the standard so low. From the iPhone and laptops to texting and group me, there is little to none one-on-one, face-to-face communication anymore. The result is a loss of people skills that is ruining a generation. Lost in the text messages are smiles, tears, anger, joy (emojis just don’t cut it), the emotions that make us human.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it is that life is about people. It’s not about what people can do for you but rather what you can do for people. And what you can do for people doesn’t mean that you get something in return or that they owe you one. It means that you selflessly serve out of the kindness of your heart. Help the ones who can’t help you. The ones who you may never cross paths with again. If we all just dedicated ourselves to one random act of kindness a day, passed on just one smile, or positively impacted one life then this world would be a place worth living.
Enough ranting, now back to my deepest fear. I fear not doing anything about it. I fear having the opportunity to leave a footprint and walking through the water instead. Because at the end of the day if you want to make a change, you have to BE the change. The man in the mirror, the man of whom you are the most afraid is the one who can make a difference.
This is why I fear myself.
I fear failing my family.
I fear failing my friends.
I fear failing the world.
I fear that when all those layers a peeled back, when the last strand is removed that they will discover a coward. A coward who was presented an opportunity and ran from it. A coward who’s destiny knocked at the door while he bathed in a tub of fear. Scared to leave his comfort zone out of terror that the seas would be too rough. But I argue that the rough seas are what life is all about. The storm beating down on you, the waves rocking the boat, to truly live one has to FEEL. Whether that feeling is great triumph or great heartache, to feel anything is better than having never felt at all.
I have studied many times
The marble which was chiseled for me—
A boat with a furled sail at rest in a harbor.
In truth it pictures not my destination
But my life.
For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment;
Sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid;
Ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances.
Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life.
And now I know that we must lift the sail
And catch the winds of destiny
Wherever they drive the boat.
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
Edgar Lee Masters