Fear affects everyone, must be faced to overcome

Illustration by Sarah Warner

Illustration by Sarah Warner

Chaerim Kim, columnist

Fear is an unexplainable idea that finds shelter in every person, and a generalization that has infinite amount of categories. Whenever someone asks, “What are you afraid of?” my initial response is “Birds.” I am afraid of all types and forms of birds including pigeons, parrots, ostriches, chickens, and geese.

I don’t know why I get chills when I see a bird 10 feet away from me or when seagulls fly around my head at the beach. Some people have traumas of heights because they fell off from a high building unwillingly or because they were trapped in an elevator once. Fear is inevitable, but the extremity and the form of fear varies for everyone.

Fear often creeps in unknowingly. If everyone really is afraid of something and fear is only produced through near-death or horrifying experiences, that means everyone would have gone through a trauma, and I hardly believe that’s the case.

Now let’s dive deeper into the concept of fear. When people ask me about my fear, I automatically answer birds. However, that’s not the greatest fear I have. Some of the most detrimental and harmful fears are the intangible fears experienced internally. If I was truly being honest and not ignoring by deepest fear, my answer to “what is your greatest fear?” would be the fear of the unknown.

Not knowing what questions are on the final exam, or what I got wrong on the final exam, or what job I will have in the future gives me anxiety. Even when I feel like I have overcome my fear, it always creeps back in me. However, over the course of dealing with this terror, I realized there is no need to worry about the future.

What happens, happens and the time moves on. As of what I know, time doesn’t stop for anyone, and I will eventually discover my future as it becomes my present. I waste so much time being afraid of and ignoring the future that I never accomplish what I need to do in the here and now.

Other examples of the intangible fears could include the fear of disappointing others, loneliness, and being humiliated.

Though it sounds terrifying, I encourage everyone to acknowledge fear. There are great values and benefits in taking steps to overcome your frights. When I felt like I’ve disappointed someone, especially my parents by not achieving their expectations on grades, I feel the urge to seclude myself from my parents and somehow avoid my fear so I don’t feel guilty. Through the course of my life, I realized no human can satisfy everyone in this world.

Therefore, you will eventually disappoint someone in your life. Don’t value yourself according to others’ judgements and expectations, and do not depend on other people. No matter how much you trust them or love them, humans are humans and they are prone to fail and disappoint you somehow.

Going along with the idea of disappointment and dependence, some are frightened by the thought of isolation. Whether it may be when studying or eating lunch, there are people who need to be surrounded by others to feel accepted. This is the fear of loneliness. But let me tell you there is nothing wrong with being alone! Being alone does not mean loneliness.

Most of our internal fears are created by our own judgement of what others think about us. Yet in reality, what others think may vary completely different from our own thoughts. According to neurologist Joseph Ledoux, “Human anxiety is greatly amplified by our ability to imagine the future, and our place in it.”

Especially when it comes to fear, we always think of the worst that could possibly happen which is often incorrect. Being independent is powerful and offers an opportunity to find yourself rather than yourself in a group.

The fear of humiliation goes hand in hand with the fear of public speaking. Many are afraid of speaking in front of a large crowd because they may be humiliated in what they might say or in what might happen unexpectedly. As mentioned before, what we imagine is far worse than the reality. According to statisticbrain.com, 60% of things feared will never take place in reality. Once you actually speak in public, you might feel more confident in yourself and be assured that your frightening imagination was nowhere near reality.

Even if our worst fear does become a reality, our imagination would be far worse than our encounter. If I see a crowd of birds blocking my way as I’m walking, my initial thought would be that the birds would immediately fly and attack my face with their sharp beaks. But honestly, the birds would just fly away in their separate ways when they hear my footsteps walking closer to them.

If you think you don’t have any fears in your life, reflect deeper and ask yourself if you’re hiding your fears. Sometimes our fear stresses us out so much to the point where we completely ignore its existence in us. Though this may seem like a good idea, fear creeps in. You never know when fear will come and attack you. I would prefer to be aware and have control over my frights rather than having terror play with me.

Through my journey, I found value in encountering my fears. Unfortunately fear cannot be avoided in society forever. Though that specific moment of encounterance may be difficult, you slowly find more confidence in yourself by conquering your fear and by knowing that your fears cannot control you.

The National Institute of Mental Health notes that extreme fear increases the risk for anxiety as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Not only does encountering your fears a confidence-booster, it is a treatment for your mentality. Unless you have a crazy fear of meeting monsters or trees falling on your body, I encourage all of you to someday conquer your fears and discover the endless benefits of overcoming fear. I assure you, you will survive.