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Understanding Emotions Series: Fear

I'm a recovering perfectionist. #INeedAllthePrayers

For any of you who are also perfectionists, you feel my fear-based pain. For my entire life, I've been highly concerned that what I do, whether it be a professional work or washing the dishes, that it won't meet the highest standard.

The first time I was designing clothes for FIFTN16, I remember working for hours and hours on a shirt up until the last few moments before I had to send the images to the screen printer. I remember thinking of all the ways this could go wrong or how many people probably wouldn't like it because it wasn't perfect. Essentially, I drove myself and everyone else crazy because I was filled with fear.

This underlying, continuous emotion has kept me from pushing through my emotional struggles, prevented me from growing as a professional and hindered most all of my relationships.

Let's talk about it.

What is fear?

According to the good ole dictionary, fear is "an unpleasant emotion cause by the belief that someone or something is dangers, likely to cause pain or a threat." The Anxiety Guy, Dennis Simsek, characterizes fear as "a necessary component to thinking and behavior that all humans face."

I couldn't have said it any better myself.

Fear is a natural human response and survival mechanism to any potential threat, perceived or real. Like all other emotions, fear informs you of the immediate environment and helps guide your thoughts and actions accordingly.

It's an incredibly complex emotion because the roots are different for everyone. Whether originating from trauma or from the loss of control, fear prompts an emotional reaction commonly known as "fight or flight."

Although I've certainly heard of the term before, what I didn't realize until recently is that regardless of the origin or the trigger of the fear... our bodies almost always respond in the "fight or flight" mode, a biochemical response, and stay that way until the imminent threat has disappeared.

What does fear tell us?

Fear tells us several different things.

  • There is immediate physical danger.

  • There is immediate emotional danger.

  • We've experienced some sort of trauma in our past.

  • We may be out of our comfort zone.

  • We may not have control.

  • We need to grow or change.

  • We are experiencing elevated levels of anxiety.

To work through any of these scenarios, especially if we have a history of trauma, anxiety or phobias, it's best to work with a therapist or even a psychiatrist to get further assistance and treatment.

Full disclosure: I do not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder but to frequently experience situational anxiety. This anxiety has gotten very bad at times and I've sought professional help to work through it. Sometimes fear is too great to deal with on your own... and there's no shame in that.

How does fear impact relationships?

We have all seen (at some point or another) how fear can prevent us from growing and evolving into the people we want to be. When we're comfortable, we often don't feel the urge to face any fear, namely because there is a complete absence of it in the first place.

Fear can be healthy, though. Sometimes the fear or losing a relationship or damaging it can motivate us in a good way to change and heal. However, when fear isn't dealt with appropriately (regardless of the severity) it can be very damaging to our relationship with ourselves and others.

In any relationship, whether it be familial, business, romantic, platonic, there is a certain level of fear. Maybe it's the concern of losing control, or people making choices that aren't your own --regardless, this emotion exists within everyone and in every relationship. What matters is how we leverage the emotion to make choices that align with our core values.

When we let fear control our lives, we may find ourselves doing the following things (all of which impact the relationship with yourself and others).

  • blaming others