The Apparent Randomness of Fear

Fear works in weird ways. I am terrified of driving but riding in the passenger seat of a careening vehicle doesn’t bother me one bit. I shrug at air travel, roller coasters, and rickety bridges, but the climbing wall at the gym takes great courage. In university, whenever I saw mandatory presentations on the course syllabus, I felt so much anxiety that I sometimes ended up dropping the class. Yet, in junior high and high school I eagerly signed up for theatre classes and was an active member of the drama club.

What’s the difference, really? Why do I still feel so much fear upon entering a room full of strangers and yet feel nothing but excitement when starting a new job or moving to a new city?

It doesn’t add up. I try to tell myself that if at the age of fifteen I could deliver a ten minute soliloquy on tampons during a one-act festival in front of an auditorium full of Mormon teenagers, I can handle introducing myself to a person I don’t know. And yet I just can’t seem to get the words out. It is just so much easier to sit at the one empty table, pull out my phone, and pretend no one else is in the room.

Heck, now that I am remembering said one-act festival, I recall how miserable that whole weekend was for me during all the times I wasn’t on stage. While performing, I was fine. Nervous, sure, but not nearly as frightened as I was when it came time for lunch and I had no one with whom to sit. Practices were torture, waiting for my turn. And there was nothing more awkward than hanging out in the green room between scenes. Reading lines someone else has written under the bright lights was easy. Being myself in daylight when I could see the expressions on my peers’ faces, was much, much harder.

Blogging is the same. In real life I am private, reluctant to share even the most basic details of my life with others. It takes a long time before I am comfortable enough with someone to even talk about my family or my favourite colour. It takes even longer before I divulge more personal information. Yet, online, there isn’t much I hold back. Sure, there are some lines I won’t cross, some secrets that aren’t mine to tell, but my life is an open book, as they say.

Why is that? Why do I have such a hard time being myself with physical people I can see and such an easy time baring all to the world under the sheer cover of my computer? Why is it so difficult to just be me when someone is smiling back?

Why could I belly dance in a Middle Eastern restaurant but I can’t sing in front of my practically husband? Why am I fascinated by spiders but my skin crawls at the thought of a worm? Why can I handle a million swearing customers but have to psyche myself up to book a dental appointment?

I guess there is no use in asking such questions. There is no logic to fear. I’ll just have to continue plugging on and bumbling my way through the ickiness of inadequacy and self-doubt. After all, I am hardly alone.

8 thoughts on “The Apparent Randomness of Fear

  1. Well hun you describe what it’s like to be a human being. We all have things we fear. Before I lost a lot of weight I was a loner and hated going out. Since losing 9 stone and turning 50 I am a different person. The weight loss has helped my confidence, but turning 50 was the real change. Don’t know why but I felt like now every day has to be made the most of. I don’t need to explain myself to strangers and my friends get me anyway.

    Those that matter don’t mind, and those that mind don’t matter.

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  2. LOL! I’ve always told my manager at work if he ever makes me give a presentation to a large group of clients/co-workers, I’ll probably quit first!

    I was a very shy child and I will say I have outgrown (in my 50’s now) most of it (other than public speaking!). But even now, I hate making phone calls, even those as simple as ordering a pizza.

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  3. No, you’re not alone — as you can see from the other comments — but I have never been afraid to say what’s on my mind. In fact, that trait has gotten me into plenty of trouble over the years! And, I don’t care. My attitude has always been “what you see is what you get, so if you want a friend who will walk on eggshells around you, go find someone else”. My Mom was the same way, so I get it honestly (as hubby would say). But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve made a point of steering clear of situations where I know I won’t be able to keep myself from saying what I really think. I’d rather be kind to a friend than prove s/he’s wrong about something.

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  4. No idea, but you hit the nail on the head. I’m way different in person than I am online or on the phone even. I wish I had the confidence to be myself.

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  5. My husband loves to act and perform. I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to have to memorize lines and give a performance.

    But put me in front of 30 first time home buyers and I give the performance of my life.

    In other words, I’m your opposite twin. πŸ™‚

    What’s really fun is when you think you’ll fear something just to find it doesn’t scare you a bit. I almost didn’t go to see the movie All is Lost about a man whose sailboat sank on the Indian Ocean leaving him stranded in a life raft. Reviewers called it more terrifying than The Perfect Storm.

    But I was too busy thinking of what I would do in the same situation to feel scared. I really surprised myself.

    Have you ever expected to find something frightening that turned out to be easy? Or do you predictions of fear always come true?

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  6. If only we knew why fear affects us in the ways that it does. We’d have the world by it’s toes if we did.
    I will say that some fears shed away the older you get and others do not. I’m still trying to figure it out.

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  7. “at the age of fifteen I could deliver a ten minute soliloquy on tampons during a one-act festival in front of an auditorium full of Mormon teenagers… ”

    You. Are. Awesome.

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