Lessons on Fear

Seven Fears I Face

Spooky Forest

You might be trying to figure out what exactly these fears are that I keep mentioning. Well, you’re in good company. Because so am I.

A large portion of this trip is dedicated to pinpointing what fears I have hidden beneath the surface. And from what I’ve found, you usually can’t spot your fears until you put them to the test (which I’ve certainly been doing).

What do I mean by this? For most people, when they’re happy and feeling good, they don’t assume that there’s anything going on deep down inside. But take every last dollar out of someone’s bank account, and for most people, you’ll get to watch them erupt into a frenzied panic. This is a sign that they’ve been harboring the hidden fear (at least according to My Definition of Fear) of not having enough money, or the fear of lack.

Even when they go untested and unnoticed, your fears still dictate how you interact with the world. The fear of not having enough money often leads people to push their dreams aside in order to work a life-long job that they might not like. The fear of loneliness or abandonment might cause someone to put up with and stay in an abusive relationship.

The Seven Deadly Fears

So now, in an attempt to develop a clearer picture of what fears I’ve been attempting to free myself from throughout this trip (for both your benefit and mine), I’ve decided to compile the following list of those that I’ve discovered to date, along with a brief introduction to each. I may, at a later date, devote a post to each one of these, most likely at the end of this journey.

  • The Fear of Being Afraid

    Three years ago, if someone had told me that I was fearful, I most likely would have denied it and started swearing at them. People have an odd tendency to avoid admitting fearfulness, and a few that I’ve met have even gotten angry upon the suggestion. A good friend that I met only a week or two ago suggested that this might be called the fear of vulnerability, and I agree completely…although my name is catchier. Regardless of what you call it, this fear is the first and foremost one that must be overcome before all others can even be observed. If you can’t admit to yourself that you might have deep, hidden fears, then you’ll never be able to see and liberate yourself from the rest.

  • The Fear of Failure

    You may or may not have experienced this one for yourself. I’ve always had a sort of dark, ever-present cloud hanging around my head, for as long as I can remember. This cloud was the constant, nagging thought that I wasn’t working hard enough and that I should be accomplishing more in each moment. It was the voice inside my head that would remind me that I hadn’t completed my masterpiece yet and hadn’t done anything to justify my existence. It was the tingling in my hands and feet that would kick into panic mode any time that I sat down to relax and wasn’t being productive. I still have much to learn about this fear, but one thing that I do know is that it’s been challenged by the very nature of this trip. By choosing not to set any dates or deadlines, and without having any concrete goals, I was forced to learn how to subdue this fear from my first day out of Columbus, OH

  • The Fear of Lack

    My intense fear of not having enough money, which I’m nearly positive stems from my childhood, has been a very tough one to crack. It does seem like nearly everyone faces this one to some extent, regardless of whether or not they’ve watched their family face financial hardship. While it may seem perfectly rational, I assure you that worrying and fretting about what you might not have in the future does absolutely nothing to resolve the situation. In fact, I’ve seen more negative consequences from allowing this fear to consume the mind than I’ve seen positive ones, as focusing on what you don’t have seems to significantly blind you to what you could have someday and the hidden opportunities that are scattered along the way.

  • The Fear of Outward Appearances

    This one’s another biggie for me, as it’s nearly ALWAYS at the back of my mind. We crave the admiration and respect of our peers, if only because that’s how humans have evolved to survive. Our need for community became so strong over time, and our society so sick, that we’ve gotten to the point where we’re at today: from the age of 3 onwards, children rip each other to pieces and learn to judge and assess those around them based on how they look and act (parents take note, they learn this by watching you when you’re with your peers). Unfortunately, this leads to many of us choosing to alter our behaviors and appearances early on in life, in an attempt to gain acceptance. For me, it’s gotten to the point where the fear is so engrained into my psyche that I’ll worry about impressing people who live half-way around the world, whom I know I WILL NEVER meet again. Having this underlying fear only limits me. If one person chooses not to accept me due to my actions or how I look, then I have about 7.3 billion others out there who might.

  • The Fear of Being Alone

    This one very well might tie into the previously mentioned one, but I see it as slightly different, mostly because this fear relates more to my romantic life. There are many different names that I could probably call this: the fear of rejection, the fear of being unloved or unwanted, etc. Again, human beings have a natural desire to feel loved as part of a community. Yet our society is ill, and has led us to believe that true love is only to be shared with your tiny, familial circle, and that everyone on the outside should be kept there. Wrong. Love was something to be shared among all members of a community openly, in the forms of friendship, family and companionship. Instead, we’ve created a system where many of those who aren’t romantically engaged at the moment are made to feel unwanted and alone. Therefore, these individuals feel the need to change their lifestyle or position in life, just to gain the love (romance) of others. For me, it’s been at the point where I’ve attempted to alter my entire personality (from my late high-school years until one year after college) just so that more girls might like me, and I would feel wanted.

  • The Fear of Commitment

    This is an odd one. You’d think that once you’d found someone who could make you feel loved, or found a job in which you felt fulfilled, you’d be more than happy to stick with that path. But then there’s this other factor, which might be better described as the Fear of Getting Screwed Over Again. With past pain comes future fear (if left improperly dealt with), of this much I am certain. And for me, I think that my past wounds, from my disastrous relationship attempts to watching my father struggle with being repeatedly laid off for a few years when I was young (sorry Dad – don’t worry everyone, he’s always provided for us and has held fantastic positions ever since) may have led to my failure to make sounds decisions in my relationships and my career.

  • The Fear of Death

    Surprisingly, this is the last fear on my list and is the least significant one in my mind. Probably because it’s the most obvious, and the one that I’ve already had plenty of time to experiment with. When many people discuss their biggest fears in life, what they come up with is a variation of this one. What are the fears of heights, snakes, spiders, darkness, ghosts, and clowns, if not fears of receiving personal injury and/or death from these potentially lethal entities? I’ve been toying with this fear a lot throughout this trip, and have developed a plan for how I might eventually lessen it’s grip on my life. Now – and this goes to you Mom – don’t all rush to remind me that the fear of death is natural and necessary for living a…well, for living in general. No shit. But what’s your limit to how much I should be willing to fear on a daily basis? Admit it, a squirrel could kill me – and even stranger things have happened. So at what point should I stop prioritizing logic and just start living my life fully, rather than plotting how I might avoid death in the future?

    The way that I see it is that if a baseball comes whizzing towards my head, I will duck. And I can trust my mind to handle every similar situation accordingly, in the heat of the moment. But what I WILL NOT do is allow my thoughts or my actions to be shaped by what could happen. If I suddenly feel passionate about playing baseball (or about tearing apart my car and traveling across country), then I will play baseball, and deal with the “dangers” if and when they present themselves.

In Conclusion

So that’s my list of fears thus far. While you can probably come up with many more, I personally believe that all others are either a subset of one of these, or a weird combination of many of them put together. I think that’s why it took me so long to realize that I was fearful. With all of these fears working together, and yet each pulling me in it’s own separate direction, it was hard to see any pattern with the way that I thought and it’s direct effect on my life.

This list will probably change by the time I return to Pittsburgh, PA. I may find more. I hopefully will gain a more solid understanding of each. And if I play my cards right, I might even come home with a shorter list of fears than I left with! The first step to recovery is, after all, admitting that you have a problem.


  • Carol D'Amico

    When my mother died, I pretended she went on a long trip and she is still there. I did this because in this 1.5 years, your dad got laid off for 1 year, after 21 years because the company was folding , both parents died after 25 hospitalizations a month apart, I got pregnant at 44 and had your brother 1 month before the first one died and your dad went into Atrial Fib for the 2nd time. What helped me the most was realizing that I have never been in control and being a child of 2 alcoholics , control was my middle name. I did give my control up realizing God said He numbered my days the day I was born, fear or no fear I decided to live each day until then. I am thankful for each one of them and for you.

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