There’s ‘healthy fear’ that keeps us from doing extremely dangerous things. You could argue that it also keeps society sane – where people don’t drive crazy or walk in the middle of the road for fear of dying; where people don’t steal for the fear of being caught and punished; and where people actually maintain better standards of hygiene for the fear of falling sick. Without these healthy fears, we would probably end up with a chaotic society where people drive crazy, jay-walk the streets, steal from their neighbours and pollute the environment. Sound like anywhere you know?
But that’s not living in fear. That’s just fear that shows up at the ‘right’ times to keep us from doing things that could be detrimental. Living in fear is unhealthy. It is when fear shows up not at the right times or the wrong times, but ALL the time and paralyzes you from doing anything worthwhile. It is therefore important to realize when that is the case with you, so that you can immediately start working on breaking free from it, to be able to take worthwhile risks and do something meaningful with your life.
Here are 5 signs you’re living in fear. There, for sure, are more signs than these. Different people also have different experiences and expressions. But these are the more general ones that apply to almost anybody.
You Are Too Religious
I know we cannot worship God too much, or pray too much. We’re actually advised to pray without ceasing, but there comes a time when it’s clear that you’re doing all of those activities out of fear.
The Bible even talks about how Job would always pray over his sons and sanctify them every time they went out partying because he was constantly afraid that they might have done something to offend God. Always making atonement for sins of omission or commission out of fear that he would lose God’s blessings. At the end he still had to confess that “the thing which I greatly feared has come upon me.”
It is easy to find solace in religious rituals when you live in fear. You ‘anoint’ your clothes before you wear them, you soak the whole roads and cars in the blood before you commute; vanquishing all the “blood-sucking demons” too. And then you pray for the literal death of your relatives back in your village, who somehow managed to cover your glorious star with the biggest basin ever, at their backyard.
That’s not a healthy way to relate with God. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t want our relationship with Him to be driven by fear. He’s a God of love. In fact, he is love. And perfect love casts out fear!
You Are Too Careful
The fear of failure and of making mistakes can drive you to become too careful. Then you lose every sense of adventure you ever had and become this lacklustre killjoy that never wants to leave their comfort zone. People begin to avoid you at this point because you’re that person that always shoots down their dreams and ideas. They may only come around you when they want to take advantage of you. They know you’ll be a very careful babysitter, for example, so they’ll come drop off their kids with you while they go on the adventures that you wouldn’t go.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? That’s a question you should be asking yourself often, checking to see if you’re being paralyzed by this fear. Being too careful prevents you from trying new stuff – even trying new food – and you end up being stuck in the old world you probably built up as a kid, when you still had a healthy sense of adventure.
The fear of failure comes as we grow older and garner more life experiences. When we experience failure in certain areas, we tend to quit trying and jump to the conclusion that nothing is ever worth the risk. Just do the bare minimum – work, pay bills and die. Everything else is an ‘unrealistic’ pipe dream that we should be careful not to dream of.
You Are Controlling
The fear of the unknown is the main driver behind a controlling behaviour. You’re afraid of the outcome so you try to control the whole process in order to ensure that it’s the outcome you have in mind that eventually comes to pass. The bad news is that nothing is guaranteed in this uncertainty called life. So being controlling is an exhausting, time-wasting process to be engaged in.
Here, we see bosses that find it hard to delegate tasks to their subordinates. They want to do it all by themselves because they believe their own process will guarantee the safest outcome. Even when they do delegate, they stand over the shoulders of the employees watching their every move and offering their constant suggestions. We also see helicopter parents who are in every aspect of their children’s business, close-marking them right up to their adult age when it becomes hard to let them out the house to go get married. They would like to choose the spouse, and be involved in every aspect of the dating process, courtship and marriage. We see controlling spouses or relationship partners, who monitor the phones of their significant other, who can’t let them out of their sight for one second and constantly worry where they are at each moment, who they’re with and what they’re up to.
This is very unhealthy. It is physically, emotionally and mentally demanding. It also drives people away from you, and the tiniest give-aways should be addressed quickly. We have to let go and let God sometimes. Actually, most times if not all the time.
You Are Self-Deprecating
You’ve probably heard people call themselves names, like “oh I’m so stupid”, “I know I’m the dullest student in this class”. Some people even say things like “I know I can never be as rich as he is…” Seriously? How do you know that though?
Those who think less of themselves are usually afraid of what people think of them, so they make sure they talk bad about themselves first, before others beat them to it. So you see people who are overweight constantly referring to how fat they are, so that just in case you were thinking the same, you would know that they have already given you the permission to think it. They call it taking away the power from you, but I call it being scared of what people think.
I had to caution a friend of mine at some point. Whenever he attended a job interview and was telling people about it, he would always preface his story with “I know I won’t get the job but…” He was afraid of what people would say if he eventually didn’t get the job, so he would always make sure he let them know he knew beforehand that he wasn’t going to get it. I had to let him know that constantly being in that mindset would certainly guarantee that he didn’t get employed. It took him a number of years to learn and, not surprisingly, it also took him a number of years to finally get employed.
You Are Lacking in Excitement
This is just like the self-deprecating people. You always caution yourself not to get too excited when things are going well for you because at the back of your mind it means something will soon go terribly wrong. There are people who actually believe that if things are going well it definitely means that something terrible is about to happen.
In this state of fear, you can never enjoy anything good. You don’t get excited about your new relationship because you fear you might soon lose him. You don’t get excited about your engagement because you fear he might call off the wedding. You don’t get excited about marriage because you’re not sure you’ll have babies (you even tell people you want to wait to have children, you know, just in case you end up struggling in that department), you don’t get excited about your pregnancy because you fear you might miscarry.
This isn’t a healthy fear. It is very burdensome and reduces you to a cynic. It makes you very close-minded, very suspicious of those around you and very doubtful of your own capabilities. And, trust me, that’s no fun way to live.
So there are the 5 signs of living in fear that I thought of. Being: too religious, too careful, a control freak, self deprecating and being an unhealthy skeptic. Do you show any of these signs? If not, have you noticed any other ways through which you demonstrate your fears? And if you don’t mind sharing them, please do in the comments below!