Is Fear the Precursor to Our Anxiety?
Is fear the opposite of confidence? Can you be confident and fearful at the same time? Is anxiety the same as fear? Does fear cause anxiety or can anxiety manifest without fear? What is success?
I’m not a clinical psychologist and I’m not going to pretend to play one on the internet, however I’m pondering these questions. Many people, myself included have been fearful, anxious, and confident at times. I recall going through school and preparing for my national board exam for physical therapy that I was fearful I wouldn’t pass and anxious (restless) likely due to the unknown. However, at the same time… I was confident that I had studied adequately, confident that my schooling had more than prepared me, and the fact that I passed all of my practice tests gave me a statistical certainty that I would pass on the first try.
My mindset at that time was that I was going to pass but I was nervous that I wouldn’t pass. I was fearing the negative outcome (although it was statistically very very low) and anxious because if I did not pass, how would I view myself, how would those around me view me, how could I survive without having a job that would pay the bills. Reflecting back it seems that my anxiety and fear was due to the anticipation of how I would feel if those things were to come to pass rather than the things themselves.
‘Perception is reality’
Not only have I felt this way when studying in school but also in my personal relationships, business relationships, and back when I was a high school and collegiate athlete. What happens if my family member doesn’t recover from their heart surgery, how will I manage working 40 hours a week as a W-2 and simultaneously build a business? Why am I not improving my athletic ability and will I ever become better? Will I actually be successful, and, what is success? I’ve experienced and continue to experience these questions and I try to think about them in the following way.
The unknown is always anxiety producing because we always want things to workout. We always want to plan for all of the little details. We want the world to behave exactly as we predict. Just imagine, how wonderful it would be if all things went exactly according to plan without any hiccups. What a glorious (and somewhat boring) life that would be. If roadblocks get in the way of what we’re trying to do and it seems like the resistance is mounting, this is a time where many of these feelings and questions come into play. “Am I good enough,” “Do I belong here,” “Will this ever workout?”
‘The best laid plans of mice and men…’
If you’ve met me and chatted with me, I’m definitely more of a laid back guy, someone who is usually pretty relaxed. Although… I do have a history of getting fired up when talking about pain, sports, healthcare, politics, and cognitive biases/logic. With that being said, I try not to take things too seriously and I recognize that when working with people we are all coming at the same problem with a different perspective, expectations, and beliefs.
In moments of introspection I recognize that my own feelings and beliefs mirror those of nearly every human on the planet. That my perceived suffering is not unique. We all experience feelings of profound doubt, fear, and anxiety. Some among us certainly experience this to a stronger degree if ranked on a scale of 0-10 and this is likely due to a multitude of factors including, environment and biological predispositions. There is solace in knowing that you are not the only one. This is not necessarily a ‘misery loves company,’ feeling rather a, ‘I’m not alone,” feeling.
I also find that when I become so future focused and neglect to appreciate the process, that this will cause a greater deal of anxiety and ultimately will decrease my progress towards a particular goal. The approach that I have taken to decrease this feeling is to set a goal, create a plan, and execute. What’s also been helpful is to track execution, to log it and when I’m feeling anxious, like i’m not doing enough, to look at all the things I have done.
Create benchmarks for yourself and modify your approach to get there if your current approach isn’t working well. Life’s about trial and error.
‘The more errors you make, and the quicker you learn from them, the faster you will reach where you are attempting to go.’
‘Fail fast and fail often’
This is the iterative process in its purest form. Not being afraid of failure, but embracing it as a learning process, to do it better the next time, and the next time, and the next time.
Then, don’t stop.
To your introspection,
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