Be it the fear of death, the fear of failure, or the fear of public speaking, I have come to believe that these are all different versions of one original fear and that is our fear of looking or sounding stupid.
We fear dyeing because we don’t want to leave this world as average people or people who have left bad names for ourselves behind us. For some believers, we might fear going to hell, but even that would be a manifestation of our failure to be good people.
We fear failing not because of its consequences but rather because we don’t want the world to know that we tried something that didn’t work out or that we were driven to poverty, bankruptcy, or unemployment. Furthermore, we fear public speaking because we dread the possibility of saying something irrelevant, or forgetting our lines, or simply not getting our message across.
Otherwise we fearlessly mess up all the time in the privacy of our own homes. Think about it, how many times did any of us break a diet in private. We are fine with doing that until a nutritionist or a doctor challenges us to lose the weight, or until we find out that none of our clothes fit us, or until we see photos that show us in not the best of light. If our lack of fitness was a private matter we don’t mind it, but it is only when it is in the public eye that we care. We care because we want people to call us attractive, and because we don’t want to be labeled as fat. However, at this point I must say that can’t generalize about this issue, but I have seen it happen before and I have experienced it myself.
How many of us fear singing or dancing in public because we don’t want to look or sound stupid, and how many of us fear responding to a challenge in a meeting or even suggesting an idea . Our main fear in this case is sounding irrelevant. Some of us even fear being in a serious relationship because we don’t want the person we are interested in to realize that we are humans , and as humans we are not always calm, poise, attractive, charming, or even classy.
The examples are many, but the framework is the same. We as people don’t want to sound silly or stupid or bad. We don’t want to look bad either.
I guess this is a fair wish, but what happens when these fears prevent us from experiencing anything new or taking risks?
The answer is simple, we stay as we are. We stick to the job where everyone knows us and with the family that is forced to love us unconditionally. We associate ourselves with the circle of friends who think highly of us no matter what we do. We stay comfort zoned because the fear of sounding stupid is greater than our own ambitions to achieve greatness.
Today for example, I was this close from not trying out a game of virtual reality. I do realize now how insignificant the consequences are of this decision.
After all, whether I do or don’t put on the goggles that are to send me on a roller coaster ride in my seat is not a major issue. At least it won’t have a direct impact on my life. But yet, the fear of shouting, looking too old for this, or simply saying something I shouldn’t say was enough to make me walk away from a new experience.
The only reason I tried it in the first place was because my niece was begging me to, and because she was calling me a coward. While the lady was putting the goggles on my head I asked her if people my age did this. She said that they do. My fear of the world’s opinion was making me think twice about trying a ride that could be fun, bad, frightening, or revolting. It was almost going to prevent me from saying I did try VR. But, her words were enough for me to go for it.
On the ride itself I really shouted. It was scary. At first I apologized for letting out a scream but really I couldn’t help it. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff. But then less than a minute later I was ready to say something just as embarrassing. My niece was laughing at her ridiculous aunt and I could feel my face blush. Then at some point I stopped caring what other people thought. I figured that these reactions were beyond my control, so I dismissed the views of others from my judgment. It was only then that I started enjoying the experience, laughing at it, and even laughing at myself.
When the fear of sounding or looking stupid vanished I started having fun, and seeing the experience for what it is. It is a fun ride. Really who cares if some of us get scared?
There is nothing to lose in doing something one has never done before. After all, life is a rollercoaster. If we fear it, we miss the adrenalin rush we get from living.