What is fear? Is it something that slowly grows inside us, silently slipping into our minds undetected, taking root and flourishing until it reins over our very actions? Or is it something we are born with, that has always been there haunting our dreams waiting for the perfect opportunity to present itself? There is no foundation to fear. No beginning. No end. It just is.
It comes in so many forms, affects people in ways that some may never experience. Is there truly a person on this earth completely without fear? Or are the fearless just those that convince themselves they do not fear because they are afraid of fear itself? When put to the task of describing fear, I find myself short on words. What is fear? How does one describe the feeling that steels a person’s insides and triggers a feeling akin to panic in someone’s heart?
Some, I have found, like to scorn fear. Take coulrophobia for example, it is the fear of clowns. One asks how can someone fear something as fake as a clown? It is just another human being dressed in a silly costume with paint on their face. So the phobia is looked down upon, almost as if it is lowlier than other fears. I think the fears with no substance, no reasons if you will, are probably the worst to withstand. Do not get me wrong, I’m not saying they create worse experiences of fear than other phobias. In that area, I believe they are all equal. I am just saying, when it comes to having the fear and dealing with society, I think it would be harder to have a fear no one understood and scoffed than one that everyone could relate to. Actually, I know. It has happened to me.
It is terrible being scared of something but not being able to explain why. You try so hard to come up with a reason for yourself for being unreasonably terrified, but all you come up with is that you must be a freak. Something must be mentally wrong with you. Then society in general looks down on you for it and your worst fears-pardon my pun-are realized; you do not fit in. I sometimes have this problem with my fear of needles. I am not scared of them in general, it is just when they intentionally take a needle and put something in or take something out of my veins with it that I have a problem. For some reason, the thought of it just triggers some panic mechanism in my brain. I have tried to justify this to myself before, but never quite reach the conclusion I am searching for. Then the blood drive comes around and I would be all for helping people by donating blood, but I cannot get past the needles. Every time I tell someone I am not able too because of my fear, I always feel like they are looking down on me with the thoughts of if they can overcome this tiny obstacle, what’s wrong with me that I cannot?
This brings me to my fear that receives this question from others more often. Most do not look at it as a fear, but living with it, it feels every bit like a phobia to me. I am shy. It is no big secret for anyone that knows me. Call it quiet, bashful, backward, whatever you want, that is me. Usually shyness is considered a part of someone’s personality or character and more times than not, is usually looked at as a flaw. Because of it, I am very inclined to avoid as many social meetings as possible. The fact of the matter is that I am terrified of talking to other people. I cannot even tell myself why. I know for a fact that I do not care what people think about me, I am probably the weirdest person I have ever met and I am proud of it. So what is it that stops me from speaking? It is the unexplainable fear that consumes my life. It has no grounds, no foundation, and yet it stands strong and unmoving.
On more than one occasion, I have had someone outgoing say to me, while discussing my ineptitude of speech, that they too were shy; they had just learned to overcome it. To me, this implies that I am therefore weaker than they. They are so superior that they had overcome something I could not. It is almost like a slap in the face every time I hear it, even if unintended. On every occasion I have just let it go because how am I to explain to someone unwilling to believe in it the one thing I cannot explain to myself?
For my whole life, I have felt inferior to everyone else, if they could do it, why could I not? They say ignorance is bliss. In this situation, it is very true. To not have to know what it feels like to fear something so mundane, to not know the feeling of rejection of society, to not know the feeling of fear itself, would be an awesome state of bliss unattainable to most.
I once looked through my old grade school papers that my parents had kept and I found something that struck me as really sad, for lack of a better word. My school had a program called “gifted” and it was for those who did really well in school. It gave them more challenging material so they did not get bored and also rewarded them for doing well. What I found was the report from when they had tested me in first grade. It was a letter denying my enrollment in the program. I read through it to see how bad I did since I did not make it and was surprised to see I had above average marks in almost every subject. I swear I am not trying to brag, but the point I am getting to is the comment at the bottom. It stated, more or less, that I showed superior skills in math and did very well over all on the test. Still confused as to why I was not let in I read on. The administrator then stated that “the student” was extremely “reticent” and did not speak unless spoken to and I believe it said something about eye contact. I was unsure of what reticent meant at the time so I looked it up. Reticent means disposed to be silent or not to speak freely; reserved, reluctant, or restrained.
Because I did not talk a lot and did not share everything I knew with strangers, I was therefore not as smart as the other students. Because I had a fear I can to this day not explain, I was of a lesser mind and not worthy to be placed in the program regardless of my other skills. So this is what fear brings us-a disjointed society with so many unanswered questions. It leads us and others to believe that we are less than we actually are. Just because it cannot be explained, it must mean there is something wrong with someone who has it; like it is a disease. But nobody should ever feel inferior because of something out of their control.
So in the end, my conclusion to the question “what is fear” is that it does not matter. Fear is fear. The more important question is why can nobody seem to accept other people’s fears even if they are unexplainable? Why can society not accept that fear has no explanation or boundaries and that it does not make anyone less of a person than they? The burden of fear is great enough in itself without scorn and rejection. Without support from others, the weight will become overbearing and begin to crush us. What is fear? It is a part of us. It is a part of being alive; maybe not a very fun part, but that is why we have each other. We are not meant to carry it alone. If everyone learns to help and accept each other, the question of fear becomes insubstantial, the question of why becomes irrelevant. Who cares why? All one needs to know is that it exists and accept, help, and encourage the people who endure it.