There is nothing abnormal about being afraid.
Anyone who says they are afraid of nothing is either kidding themselves or just isn’t prepared to admit that they have a bogeyman or two living in the dark space under their bed. The kind of bogeyman that knows the precise and perfect time to surface and keep us awake deep into the small hours of the night worrying about all of the things that apparently, we are most definitely not afraid of.
So yeah, there is nothing abnormal about being afraid.
fears are normal, what we are afraid of just changes as we get older
Once upon a time we were scared of the dark, of strange noises and of that monster who lived in the furthest corner of attic.
Fast forward a few years and we were afraid that no-one would love us, that no-one would ask us to dances or on dates, that we weren’t popular enough, pretty enough or handsome enough.
Then we were scared of failing. We feared university exams or job interviews. Feared being the one cut from sporting teams or the one who would be retrenched when the company took a sudden turn for the worst.
Follow this with being scared we might not get pregnant or, for that matter, were pregnant. That our first born would be something less than perfect and ‘what do I know about being a parent and how will we ever raise a family when the world as we know it is all going to shit.’
we were probably a little scared of getting older
Because ageing, believe it or not, is a little scary.
And the reason that ageing is a little scary is because ageing is something we can project. We can see the effects of getting old. And we see it in others long before we see it in ourselves.
We saw it first in our grandparents and now, as we are moving steadily through our fifties we are seeing it in our own parents. Of course, this is supposing that our own parents are still alive because for many of us this will no longer be the case.
Perhaps we witnessed first hand the effects of age. Perhaps now, we are beginning to feel first hand the effects of age. And believe it or not, age can be debilitating because not every one ages as posture perfect and as happily as we sometimes convince ourselves to believe.
And f**k me that is a little bit frightening. Becoming infirm. Becoming housebound. Becoming less mobile, less sensory aware, less active. Less independent.
Which of those isn’t a little confronting?
hold on, i’m male, i’m not scared of anything
I sort of touched on this in the opening few paragraphs of this post and believe me when I say, I’m with you, for the most part anyway.
I’m not scared of anything is almost the same as I don’t want to be scared of anything.
Almost, but not quite.
You see, I do have fears. Not the type of fear that will freeze me on the spot and leave me a pathetic mess and needing a back rub. That’s just embarrassing. But fears? Yeah, I have a few.
- my health deteriorating, (specifically my mental health)
- the fact I am probably looking at the end of my career because of the above
- financial concerns
- not being able to do the things that I want before I am too old
- the welfare of my family
grown up fears, different to childhood fears because…
Because as children, adolescents and even as young adults we lack the life experience to understand our fears properly.
As we age, we build our experience layer by layer. The thing is that generally, we don’t realise this because when we are young we want everything to happen immediately. We want that instant gratification and life, at times, just appears to happen so fast.
We don’t often stop and think when we are younger. And we don’t really begin projecting into the future until we get a bit of age behind us. We think we project but because so much is happening, because we are layering our life experiences and because life is well, new, all we are really learning is how to live. Do you remember when you stopped being scared of the dark? When you stopped believing the old lady in the creepy house on the corner was most definitely a witch? No, you probably don’t.
It just happened.
But as they say, with age comes experience. With age we have listened and we have seen. As we age we have more to remember and at times more to regret. With age we can start to see our mortality and we realise that there is just so much more that we really want to do. Or really should do. And this is one of the main reasons that we do become fearful.
Because we understand what fear is.
so then, what are you most fearful of?
Is it financial security? Or maybe you are worried you will be alone? Are you worried your health will decline? Are you worried you may be forgotten? Unloved? Ignored?
Maybe you are afraid that you have failed. Failed as a parent. A spouse. A provider.
That you weren’t successful enough. Brave enough. Impulsive enough?
Are you fearful that life has already passed you by?
Or maybe you are just fearful of getting old?
men and women, we are different
I know this because I am a man.
I am also married to a woman.
And as long suffering as at least one of us is (me, obviously) I know we are different because, God forbid, we talk. And the times that I choose to listen, sometimes I find that I learn something. Of course it’s stuff that I probably already knew but have just happened to forget. I’m male, which means I have a lot going on. All of it important.
But one of the big things that I have learnt recently is that women are, generally, locked in to far more supportive networks than we men. And when it comes to dealing with our fears, this is a very good thing and something we men should take the time and energy to learn how to do.
But, for the most part, we don’t. Which is why it is more than likely there will be few, if any, comments from males at the end of this post. Because as men, we just don’t seem to do that. We don’t open up. We don’t communicate like women do. And honestly, I was always the first one to run and hide whenever a little communication therapy was suggested. Until recently, that is. But even then I was literally forced into it and it took a serious ego re-focus to get to the point that I would actually start to communicate.
so how, as men, do we get around this?
Let’s say, for examples’ sake, that as men, we have no intention of running off and shouting out our innermost thoughts to the very first unfortunate who is willing to listen.
So what to do?
Well it seems that there is only one person left who just might be willing to listen while you sit down and have a sulk.
Yep. That person would be you.
And honestly, who better a person to admit to that you have the odd fear or two than to yourself?
There is certainly nothing soft about it. What would be soft is hiding from it until it really is too late to do anything about it. Of course, changing the way that we think is not always easy, but it is much easier when we find ourselves confronting something than if we bury our heads in the sand and just hope everything will work out the way we want it.
Because as we move through life we do find ourselves with concerns, with worries and yes, with fears. But moving through our fifties is not the time to retreat into our comfortable and self contained shells. It is the time to crank it up, to get motivated and to work hard at being the best possible people that we can be.
And if this means confronting and then dealing with the odd fear or two, then so be it. You know, finding a little bit of that inner strength and fortitude that we men are supposed to be famous for.
After all, there’s no point in being frightened, is there?
(For further reading, specifically on fear of failure, follow this link).