Do you Know Fear's Disguises?

Do you Know Fear's Disguises?
Alicia Escaño Hidalgo

Written and verified by the psychologist Alicia Escaño Hidalgo.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

It’s not always easy to tell when we’re afraid. It may feel like the shudder that runs through our body at times is a sign of weakness. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Being afraid is one of the most natural parts of being human, and one of the most beneficial in terms of survival. If we didn’t experience this unpleasant but useful emotion, we probably wouldn’t be here today. It is precisely this emotion that challenges us to be brave and stops us from being reckless.

Although everyone experiences fear, it’s still hard for us to normalize. We’re afraid that fear is a sign of weakness and that people will look down on us because of it. 

Few people are empathetic with people who are afraid. However, we’re really all afraid of something. We just prefer to hide it because we don’t want to be judged negatively. We don’t want to appear weak or less valuable. So we mask our fear and push it away. Many times, we do so by refusing to face situations that we find scary.

The result is that fear disguises itself and just gets stronger. It gets much more difficult for us to overcome situations we don’t want to face. If you want to know how to recognize fear’s disguises, read on.

Fear’s disguises: laziness… “I don’t feel like it”

When we’re afraid of something, sometimes we choose laziness as an attitude to free us from the effort involved in facing our fears. Laziness gives us a way to hide our fear. It’s an excuse to avoid the fear-inducing situation. The “I don’t feel like it” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” is just part of fear’s disguise. Basically it allows us to dodge the possible negative consequences of facing our fears.

If we want to strip away this disguise, we must change our attitude. We must cultivate the ability to move towards our goal, even if it gets hard, scary, or inconvenient.

Fear’s disguises: boredom… “I got bored”

One of fear’s disguises that’s very common is boredom. If we have a problem we perceive as very dangerous, whether it really is or not, it’s much easier and more comfortable to say we got bored with it than take the risk of fighting it.

Fear's disguises: laziness.

For example, if I’m afraid to give a talk about a topic that I’m familiar with because deep down I fear criticism, it will be easier for me to say that I find the topic boring (even if I actually am passionate about it).

This way, I have an excuse for not giving the talk and not showing my fear. To put it another way, I will not be judged as negatively or pressured as much as if I had said that public speaking gives me anxiety. Sadly, we admit to the former more readily than we do to the latter.

We can fight fear’s disguise of boredom by focusing on how much we enjoy what we do. Pay attention to the positive and get the most out of each experience.

Fear’s disguises: “Well, no one will notice”

The purpose of this lie is to get away with the consequences of having made a mistake. It allows us to put on a face that — we believe — will be more readily accepted. So, though we don’t use this lie very often, it’s an escape route that actually feeds fear.

When we lie, we portray a part of ourselves or our life that is not authentic and people come to know this made up part of ourselves. 

Wearing a blindfold.

Hiding that something terrifies us and lying about it or making excuses helps us in the short term. It keeps our anxiety from coming to light, allowing us to feel more relaxed. The problem is that, as in the previous cases, in the long term we don’t overcome the situations we need to overcome.

If you sometimes use fear’s disguises, you may realize that you’re making it harder for you to face your fears and move forward with your life. The most sensible, though difficult, thing to do is to accept that we all feel fear sometimes. Acknowledge your right to experience it and stop covering it up with laziness, boredom, or lies. Do you dare undress your fear?

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.