The Fear of Taking the Leap
Does fear keep you from living your best life? Is there something you want to do with your life but you feel stuck, unable to take a step forward? Read on to discover how fear can keep you from living a full life.
Fear exists because it’s useful. It’s part of your life from the day you’re born to ensure your survival. These days, however, most people don’t live in a forest full of predators. Most of the things that people are afraid of these days aren’t things that actually threaten their survival. Nor are they things you can escape from by running away. Today, we’re going to discuss one of these more modern, abstract fears: the fear of taking the leap.
In her study titled Fear and its disorders during childhood: prevention and educational intervention [translation from original Spanish], Spanish researcher Maria Dolores Pérez argues that fear is a normal response to real dangers or threats. It can become maladaptive when it manifests in situations that are no longer dangerous, although they might have been in the past.
So, fear becomes maladaptive when instead of “saving” you in a potentially dangerous situation, it inhibits you in situations where there’s nothing to fear. Think about people who’re afraid of public speaking. Is their life in danger? Will speaking in public endanger their life? Although the answer is obviously no, their bodies react as if they were in real danger.
When Fear Gets in the Way of Growth
It’s completely normal to have maladaptive fears like the ones we’ve already mentioned. There are many more, of course, like the fear of losing money, losing your significant other, or losing social status. None of these things constitute an actual threat to your life.
The fear of taking the leap is one of those fears that only exists in your mind. Whatever danger it appears to pose will never actually come to fruition. It’s so incapacitating, however, that instead of living the life you want, you get stuck and frustrated. Instead of growing and making progress, you stay where you are and your light and passion fade over time.
The fear of taking the leap is related to people’s expectations of you. Let’s suppose that everyone around you expects you to buy a house and settle down, but all you want to do is get an RV and travel the world. Those expectations make you doubt yourself and your plans. You’re ready to take the leap, but you can’t make yourself do it.
“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.”
-Henry David Thoreau-
Do You Live Your Life or Let Others Live it for You?
Psychologists often talk to patients who spend their lives making decisions for others. You become a lawyer because your parents were lawyers, you find a steady job because that’s what you’re “supposed” to do. Your grandma wants grandkids so you decide to have children instead of pursuing your career. But what about your aspirations?
These kinds of expectations aren’t always overt. Your parents might not explicitly say that you have to do something, but the message is there. You know how others see you, and you base your decisions on what you think they’ll approve or disapprove of.
Maybe you wanted to study something else or get a different kind of job. However, you know that other people admire you for your prestigious job or the career you chose. This social approval has a strong influence on the decisions you make throughout your life.
Taking the Leap or Staying Put
There are really only two options to deal with your fear of taking the leap: take a risk or stay where you are. If you decide to move out of your parents’ house, you probably won’t see them as much as before. If you change jobs, you might not like your new job.
Sure, these kinds of changes might have negative consequences. But they’re also opportunities for growth and chances to leave your comfort zone. If you don’t do it, you’ll always wonder “What if…?” These what ifs have the potential to be painful and incapacitating. They can stunt your personal growth and prevent you from living life to the fullest. As Helen Keller wisely said:
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”
However, the feeling of being suck is just an illusion. After all, there are far fewer obstacles than you imagine. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have real limitations or problems, but you can always adapt and change in order to make progress.
If you never try, your anxiety will grow and you’ll feel aimless. Your true purpose will get lost. Don’t let your fear get the best of you. Overcome it, and see how taking the leap towards what you want will make your life worth living.