Fear is defined by Dictionary.com as ”a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” (“Classic use of a definition as an opening hook. You’ve got ‘em suckered in now, Chase!”) If we were playing an icebreaker game and you asked me what was my biggest fear, I would first make a joke about how awful of an icebreaker game this was and then probably answer, “bald people.” (“And you just lost ‘em. Nice job, Chase.”)
I understand this fear is completely irrational. Most bald people I’ve met have been pleasant and not threatening. I don’t know what type of danger they may pose. I don’t even know if “bald” is the politically correct terminology. (Maybe they prefer “hair-follicle challenged?” I’m getting angry emails either way.) Honestly, I don’t even know that many bald people. (That’s a much better icebreaker game! Make a list of all the bald people you know. Extra points if they are in the room!)
All I know is that whenever I see a bald person, I think of that scene from The Mummy when High Priest Imhotep opens up his mouth and millions of bugs fly out, and the eight-year-old inside me starts to cry. (Metaphor alert: there is not actually an eight-year-old inside of me.)
That long and slightly (or very) obnoxious ramble was to demonstrate that in order to face our fears, we must first identify them. We may do our best to not think about our fears because that requires admitting they exist. (Fear of fears? Meta!) But it is important to be aware of what we fear. It allows us to understand ways in which we have been crippled or controlled by our fears, and most importantly, it reveals our true values. And that brings us to this week’s advice:
DO: Know your fear.
DOO-DOO: Hide from your fear.
Without properly understanding our fears, we are more prone to being controlled and held captive by them. (If you replace “fears” in that sentence with “robots with lasers,” this article gets much more interesting.) As mentioned in past articles, I entered Stanford with a negative perception of Stanford students and culture. I imagined everyone to be the rich, pompous elitists so expertly portrayed by the satirical twitter handle @stanfordDOUCHE. (I had a good laugh when someone sent this to me. If I understood the Twitter, I would follow or subscribe or twit-attack or whatever it is that you do on the Twitter.)
I was so scared of being lumped into this negative image (which doesn’t even really exist) that I actively went out of my way to be perceived as “non-Stanford” as possible. (For the first half of freshman year, when people asked where I went to school, I would answer “a small school up north,” and when I then had to answer “Stanford” to their follow-up question, I looked like the pretentious asshole I was so afraid of being.) Worse, I missed out on a lot of the opportunities provided by the school.
We can also be crippled by our fears. I’ve talked to plenty of students who are stressed about choosing their majors. (There’s that less-than-half-truth floating around that your major determines your job, which determines the rest of your life.) At the root of their indecision were different types and degrees of fear. “I’m scared I might make the wrong decision” actually means “I’m scared I may not have a job,” or “I’m scared of what my parents will say,” or “I’m scared I won’t enjoy it” or any combination of any other possibilities. Especially at a place like Stanford, hyper-concerned with researching and knowing the facts before making a decision, these fears can be paralyzing.
I’ve recently been exploring the possibility of co-terming in…something. Only more recently did I identify this false ambition as a response to my fear of failing as a screenwriter. It’s a tough industry, and if I don’t make it, I would at least have a degree to fall back on (besides the religious studies degree that I know EVERY company is looking for). Identifying this fear of failure doesn’t make it disappear, but it does allow me to consider the situation more fully. What do I value more: security and stability or creativity and passion? And is it worth the risk of failure?
Take some time this week and ask yourself, “What am I so afraid of? And why? And is it worth the risk?”
Are you scared of emailing Chase at ninjaish “at” stanford “dot” edu? Don’t be. (Well, only if you look a lot like Kate Beckinsale. Bald people and everyone else, don’t waste your time.)