All Fear Is The Fear Of One Thing

For all the contortions we put ourselves through to avoid taking that leap, or starting that thing, or quitting that job, it’s surprising (and illuminating) to learn that all our hesitations can be summarized under one big theme.


That’s right. Both the fear of success and the fear of failure are really branches off the same root.


Think about it. When you’re afraid of failing, what are those horror stories you’re painting?


I’ll lose money.

I’ll blow my big chance.

I’ll feel like an idiot.

I’ll lose confidence.

I’ll get arrested.

I won’t have anything to fall back on.

No one will take me seriously.

They’re all going to laugh at me.

They’ll fire me.


And what about the fear of success?


Can I handle the critics or the haters?

Can I handle this responsibility?

Will people know that I’m really an imposter?

Will I let them down?

Will I be able to manage the workload?

Will my friends be jealous of me?

What’s going to happen next?

Will they want more of me? From me?

Do I even want this?

What if it doesn’t feel like I thought it would?

What if I don’t like this new “me”? What then?


What do all these fears have in common? It’s one thing. It’s the same thing in each example.


Did you figure it out?


It’s change. A change in status, safety, self-respect, identity, income, influence, ownership, responsibility, etc.


All fear is a fear of change that we may bring upon ourselves.


"May bring." And this is what makes the fear that much more powerful: the uncertain nature of it. We don’t know what will change, only that something probably will.


"Upon ourselves." It’s the voluntary vulnerability that scares us. It’s the “Who would I be if ________ happens based on my own doing?” conundrum. This is what sprinkles in feelings of pre-regret. (Pregret? Anyone else feeling bloated and pregret right now with a decision they have to make?)


When our hopes and fears all live in an imaginary future of our own creation we try to prepare for so many if-thens that eventually they collapse in on themselves. If only the world would hold still!, we think. Sadly, we’d have better luck trying to pin down a mother wolverine wielding only a strand of cooked linguini.


Static ideas don’t predict fluid worlds all that well.


You know this.


This is why we love homeostasis so much. Most often, we’d rather have a future where we know what’s coming—even if we don’t really like that thing—than face the prospect of an unknown outcome.


(See: everyone who keeps going to a job they hate, or stays in a relationship they aren’t fond of.)


A predictable routine allows us to rationalize a story about why we are who we are at this current moment. It’s hard to have a narrative of ourselves without the verb “to be.” I am a ________, so I do _________.


Perhaps this change you’re thinking about might alter what gets entered in those blanks, and therefore who you are might change. Are you ready for that? Could you handle that?


I believe you can because you’ve done it before.

  • For one, homeostasis is just an illusion. How many curveballs has life thrown your way outside of your own choosing? Illness, pandemic, recession, losing a job, boss leaves, war, death in family, etc., and you’ve bounced back.

  • You’ve done hard things. You changed your major. You’ve changed jobs. You’ve moved. You’ve molted. You’re resilient. And you’re still you.

Change is gonna come in life. It’s just a question whether it’s by you or to you.


So don’t just batten down the hatches, raise a sail from time to time.


Your story will be richer for it.

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