BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

It’s OK to be Afraid

On the side of the desk in my teenage bedroom, I scribbled in Sharpie the two-word mantra by which I thought I should live my life:

No fear.

It was a slogan I adopted from an apparel company of the same name that was popular in the mid-90s. I proudly sported one of their hats throughout my high school years.

Despite knowing my mom couldn’t have been happy with my furniture desecration, I wrote those words where I did because it was on the same level as my pillow, and I wanted to them to be the first thing I saw every morning when I opened my eyes.

I was certain that a life of success was one that was free of fear, and I was convinced that the daily reminder would propel me down that path.

But as has proved to be the case with most of my teenage beliefs, I didn’t know what I was talking about.

For years, in everything I did, be it my first day at a new job or my first date with a new girl, I told myself to be fearless.

I, of course, failed in this endeavor. Every single time. No matter how determined I was, and now matter how hard I tried, I was still afraid.

Which gave me one more thing over which to beat myself up.

It took me more face plants than I care to count to finally realize I was fighting an unwinnable battle.

Fear was part of my life, and it always will be.

And it will likely always be part of yours.

Yes, there are those who have been blessed with no nerve endings, just like there are those who have been blessed with an uncanny ear for music or a 48-inch vertical leap.

Those people should be appreciated. But they should also be classified as the exception, not the expectation.

(I’d also assert that we all have our vulnerable spots; just because you can soar past rocky outcroppings in a wing suit doesn’t mean you’re not afraid to, say, take an improv comedy class.)

For the rest of us mortals, the goal isn’t to not have any fear; it’s to find ways to better manage it.

Journaling, therapy, meditation, breathing exercises — these are just a sliver of possible steps you can take that can help harness the (perceived) horror, that can transform the overwhelming into the attainable.

But the first — and arguably most important — step is accepting that it’s OK to be afraid.

It doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you inadequate, and it doesn’t make you any less capable of achieving what you want to achieve.

It just makes you human.

*****

This article originally appeared on 100 Naked Words.

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