Picture this: you’re on the athletic tracks getting ready for the race of your life. All kinds of scenarios go through your head: What if I screw up and fall over? What if I miss the starting pistol? What if…? Fear is our “emotional reaction to something that feels dangerous”.
We all have experienced periods in our lives when an explosion of “what ifs” come over us. If we let the fear of failure or the fear of the unknown define us, we will always be living under a dark cloud.
Fear Is Learned
Scientists say that newborns only have two fears: loud noises and falling. In other words, every other fear we have we learn. Going a step further, we often have the tendency to internalize our fears and prioritize our fears. Sooner or later, the very fear or fear itself limits us from living our best lives.
If many of the fears of life are learned, when exactly do we learn them? Scientists have suggested that a lot of the fears that become ingrained in adulthood start young. This is because we all have heightened brain plasticity at a young age. This means that our brains are still evolving, changing, and receptive to new ideas and stimuli.
Therefore, a setback in childhood can become internalized and crystallized into the way we respond when things go wrong. Our brains are so powerful that we can make (wrong) conclusions on why we failed, internalize those thoughts, and begin to let fear cripple us when we have to attempt something similar.
The good news is that the brain continues to maintain elements of its structural plasticity well into adulthood. Scientists wrote, “Brain structural plasticity is an extraordinary tool that allows the mature brain to adapt to environmental changes, to learn, to repair itself.”
This means that by constantly thinking of crises as opportunities for growth, we can slowly get rid of fear. Instead of fearing that your performance at work might get you fired, use it as motivation to be better. Instead of fearing that you might fail at a new venture, tell yourself that you are more capable than you think.
Running Your Race
Let’s return to the analogy of starting a race. Despite any fears that professional runners might have, they manage to push them away at the starting line. They are able to focus on the one thing that matters most: finishing strong.
This is often the case with life as well. We often experience thoughts that can pull us down — but only if we let it. However, life is not a dress rehearsal. This means that we must not let fear or anything else hold us back from pursuing our dreams.
The starting pistol in your life is about to go off. It’s your turn to discard fear and embrace confidence and strength.
- KidsHealth Behavioral Health Experts (2022). Fears and Phobias.
- Reilly KM (2006). Newborn Baby Fears.
- Lee FS (2022). Learning Fear.
- Rosa CL, Parolisi R, Bonfanti L (2020). Brain Structural Plasticity: From Adult Neurogenesis to Immature Neurons.