At some time in our lives, we’re all afraid of something. At least I think it happens to all of us. There’s all kinds of fear, of course. Some ‘fears’ are usually classified, by ‘professionals’, as phobias. Those ‘persistent’ fears we go to all lengths to avoid. I’m afraid of spiders, snakes and heights. What’s your diagnosis? Fear? Or phobia?
Makes no difference to me, really. I don’t like them. And I do avoid them. And I don’t want to go into therapy to confront them, or conquer them. I’m perfectly happy living without them. While at one of my jobs, years ago, we had a huge party at the CN Tower. It was for clients. It was at their revolving restaurant, which is 351 metres (1,151 feet) high. The equivalent of 114 stories.
There’s a glass floor and high speed glass elevators. What an ideal location, for someone like me. An acrophobic. I was part of the senior management team at the
time, so I pushed for a different locale. Told them I’d be hanging out in the lobby all night. Needless to say, I was overruled. There were a lot of out-of-country guests coming. And the CN Tower is one of Toronto’s most popular tourist destinations. It offers amazing views of the city.
Turns out I’m not alone. They get tons of visitors who are terrified to even step foot in the elevators. Why they choose to go there, then, is beyond me. I certainly wouldn’t. Not willingly.
Anyway, they send you up with a ‘shrink’, of sorts. The back wall of the elevators is solid, not glass. They have you face that. Either for the duration of the ‘trip’, or until you feel comfortable enough to turn around, face the glass (and your fear) and look out. They talk a lot to distract you. They also recommend you go up and down several times. I managed to do it without having a coronary, and even enjoyed the party. No, I have never been back.
Like I said, though, fear comes in all shapes and sizes. Combinations and permutations. What makes your heart pound? Your palms sweat? Your mouth go dry? Stops you dead in your tracks?
Roller coasters? Bungee jumping? Flying? Dentists? Doctors? Public speaking? Animals? Commitment? Needles? Rejection? Failure? Success?
Yes, there are those who are afraid of succeeding. Not being a psychiatrist or a therapist, I’m in no position to say why. Maybe because added responsibility usually goes hand in hand with success. Having to make tougher decisions. Leading more people. Facing more hurdles. More challenges. Like I said, I don’t know why. Just making an observation.
There are bosses who lead, by fear. I’ve known some. They figure if you’re frightened enough, or ‘on edge’ it keeps you alert. On your toes. Determined to succeed. Needless to say, I disagree with this philosophy. Far as I’m concerned, it’s wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Not being fearful doesn’t mean you don’t care. That you’re not committed. In my opinion, fear does just the opposite. It paralyzes you. You can’t see the opportunities. Can’t make decisions. It makes you uncertain. Timid.
Not what I’d call the right skill set for a great leader. Someone you’d want to turn to, when you’re scared.
Several years ago, I had an idea. For a business project, for myself. The individual I was targeting is extremely successful and well-known. Powerful. At first I did angst, a bit, over whether or not I should try to contact him. And then I thought, “To hell with it. What’s the worst that can happen?” And when you think about it, what’s the big deal? You’ll be ignored? Laughed at? You’ll get a “no?” A ‘rejection’?
I went for it. After an initial response asking for more info, it went no further. I don’t see it as a failure, though. I see it as a success. Because most people would have talked themselves out of writing him. Because of ‘who’ he is. The fact I tried gives me tremendous satisfaction. Sure, I would have preferred a “Yes”. But the ‘outcome’ isn’t as important as the ‘action’ I took. Not to me, anyway.
Besides, I don’t handle ‘not knowing’ very well. I torture myself with all manner of ‘possible outcomes’. I’m not a writer for no reason. I’d much rather know, even if the answer is one I don’t want. Which is why I prefer to take the chance. To ‘go for it’. For me, knowing is always better than not knowing.
Fear rears its ugly head in our personal lives, as well. Men are sometimes afraid to ask the women they’re interested in, out; for fear their feelings aren’t reciprocated. Sometimes they shy away from taking a great relationship to the next step. The thought of being in a ‘serious’ relationship is just too frightening. What if they feel too stifled? What if they’re miserable? What if they fail?
Women are often afraid of sharing their true feelings with men they care about. Even spouses. Explaining what they like, what they want, what they need; talking about what’s not working. What they don’t like. In and out of bed. Afraid of hurt feelings, and even anger. Or being accused of being too demanding, of never being satisfied. Of the moody silence that can follow such conversations. Even friends have been known to avoid being completely honest with each other, afraid of the consequences. Preferring, instead, to let resentment or anger or disappointment build up.
How can we do that to ourselves? To let fear take that much control. The by product of honesty doesn’t have to be negative. What can possibly be bad about being honest with someone you really care about? Doesn’t that make for a better relationship. And if it doesn’t, what kind of a relationship is it? How good can it be?
Carpe diem, I say. Seize the damn day. Fear not.