When you’re really afraid of something, it’s not that you’re actually afraid of that thing, it’s that you’re afraid of the aftermath.
You’re afraid of what comes after: how it would make you feel, how other people would react, what it would mean for your future, and so on. Mostly though, you are afraid because you assume that it would, in some way, annihilate you. That it would end life as you know it, never to be recovered again.
We think this way because our most fundamental fear is of death, and when we cannot cognitively process that, we often apply it to things we do understand, such as the social death that is losing your reputation, or security death that is losing a job.
Then fear disrupts our reasoning process. When we aren’t scared of something, it’s because we can think through a problem to a reasonable conclusion that doesn’t end with the world flipping upside down. When we are scared of something, it’s because the climax becomes the conclusion; the big, horrible, nightmare moment becomes the sum of our lives, forevermore.
There’s one affirmation that can truly pull you out of this pattern of worrying, and it is this:
“… But it will not ruin my life.”
Because most of the things we really worry about?
They aren’t life-ruiners.
Nothing has the power to annihilate you but you.
You can be hurt, sad, scared and in grief. You can fail, lose and be set back. But not one of those events or circumstances has the power to define your life unless you let it.
Unless you sit around worrying about how you’d be rendered powerless the minute you’re confronted with an uncomfortable feeling. Unless you abstain from life because you don’t want to deal with the dark parts. Unless you erode the majority of your days that are supposed to be filled with ease and joy and flow with endless, unchecked worry.
Life will probably break you at some point or another.
And then you will move on.
If you don’t believe me, write a list of the thousand things you swore you’d never get over… and then you did. You know, the old relationships, the job you were snuffed for, the grades, the school, the friend group, the role in the play.
These disappointments happen to us all. These setbacks happen to us all. Loss happens to us all — everyone dies, and so does everyone we know.
But to ruin us? That we must consent to.
That, we choose.