Not All Fear Is Created Equal
There are literally hundreds of different kinds of fears. I mean legitimate, real fears.
If I had a serious case of claustrophobia, I would be a little offended by the use of this term to describe a small room in your house with a paint color that’s not to your liking.
“This room feels claustrophobic”.
Rooms can’t be “claustrophobic”. This is a word that can only describe a person. A person suffering from actual claustrophobia can’t get on an elevator without going into panic mode and might struggle inside a darkened movie theatre.
Rooms don't feel anything.
Specific fears aside, psychologists have a list of five basic fears that every human being faces: Extinction, mutilation, loss of autonomy, separation, and ego-death.
Fear is complicated. And I’m not a psychologist.
But from a creative leadership perspective, I see four kinds of fears that we have to deal with on a regular basis. None of these fears are created equal.
Fear of a tiger in the bushes
This is a fear you should probably listen to if you’re in a jungle with tigers. I don’t worry too much about tigers here in South Carolina, but I do check for copperheads while walking my dogs around the creek by my house. If a tiger does come bounding out (or a snake shows up in the grass), fear and the corresponding fight or flight response is not a bad thing.
Fear of bombs
This the fear that results from trauma. One day when I lived in Mongolia, I rolled a Land Cruiser full of people. No one was hurt. But to this day, I cringe on the inside when my car hits a bump a certain way and I look away in movies when a car rolls. Some people who’ve experienced combat can’t be around fireworks. I cringe on the inside when I see someone who looks like a person who’s caused pain in the past. Fear of bombs is a fear worth talking to somebody about.
Fear of making a fool of myself
This is being afraid to do something because I don’t want to look like an idiot. And there’s a side of this which is good. It’s what might keep you from actually doing idiotic things. On the other hand, this fear might be what’s keeping you from doing your most creative, profitable, and important work. This is a fear you must punch in the face. Overcoming this kind of fear might mean hitting publish on your blog or posting your art on Instagram or starting a conversation with a stranger. Ego is the enemy here. And you will probably not look foolish at all. At least not nearly as foolish as the picture you’ve drawn in your head.
Fear of an unknown path
This is a good kind of fear. It’s a fear that invites. It’s a fear that should be followed. It’s the fear you feel when starting a new career or writing a new book or beginning a new relationship. This could turn out terrible. This could also turn out beautiful. Hoever it turns out, this path will be an adventure, and it’s a path that adventure is calling me to take.
That’s a fear you might consider following.