In honor of Halloween, I want to talk about fears.
I’m not just talking about those irrational phobias we all have — fears of spiders, clowns, etc.
I want to talk about those everyday fears. The ones that are always lingering in the back of our minds and influencing our decisions.
I’m afraid of letting other people down. That’s why I take on more work than I can realistically handle. And yes, I’m afraid of spiders too.
Whether or not we like to admit it, our fears play major roles in our lives. Our decisions, or lack of, are influenced by fear. Our inability to hold on to — or let go of — relationships can be motivated by fear. Our willingness to say or do what we really want in life can be influenced by fear.
I don’t think we can escape it. So instead, we cope with it.
But I’m not sure that’s entirely fair to ourselves. Fear shouldn’t cause us to freeze up or stay the same, it should motivate us to do or be better.
I was afraid when I asked my boss if I could cut back my work hours a bit. I hated the idea of him being upset or disappointed. But I did it because I knew that lightening my workload would help ease my stress and allow me to put more effort into the work I could do.
Some people are afraid of “failure” in life — whatever that means for them. Some people are afraid of loneliness, while others fear commitment. Some are afraid of independence and some are afraid they’ll be reliant on others forever.
There is no right or wrong fear to have. All of these fears are very real and valid in their own ways. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of college students and their stressors.
Thinking about all these fears — some of which are contradictory in nature — I can’t help but wonder why we let ourselves get so wrapped up in what might happen. Yes, our choices and actions have a lot of influence over our futures. But there’s just no way of knowing whether or not things will work out exactly how we intended.
There’s so much in life we have absolutely no control over. And yet, we put so much of our time and energy into worrying about things that, more often than not, are not nearly as bad or impactful as we expected.
So here’s my advice: rationalize with yourself. Whenever you start to stress or panic over something that hasn’t even really affected you yet, remind yourself that things are rarely as bad as they seem.
My mantra is “Everything works out in the end.” No matter what I’m going through or how hard I think something is going to be, I always have to remind myself that, afterward, I will look back and realize that my stress or fear was not necessary.
Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that we can cure our anxieties with a few positive thoughts. But maybe we can lighten the load a little bit.
I wish I could say things were simpler than that, but let’s be real here. We’re all screaming on the inside for a reason. If those reasons were easy to avoid, then I wouldn’t be writing this column.
Fuerstenberg can be reached at [email protected]