Fear is the most primal response we have. It’s the anxiety caused by the anticipation of bad stuff going down before it actually happens. It’s an evolutionary gift handed down to us from our earliest ancestors to keep us alive and making babies. In animals without discernible higher processing ability, we call the response ‘negative-stimuli avoidance‘ behaviour. In animals that show higher processing, we call it fear/worry/anxiety.
Nowadays, fear serves less purpose for survival than it used to. We’re rarely stalked by things that can eat us and we rarely risk life or limb to microwave a hotdog. So the species replaced fear for the sake of gene survival with fear for the sake of loss; loss of health, loss of stuff, loss of dignity, loss of people, etc. As early as there was a barely bipedal hominid wondering why bad things happen to good H. habilis, there was another barely bipedal hominid making bullshit up to make his buddy feel better. Beyond instinctual survival-based fears (heights, oceans and things with large teeth), most of our fears come from bad information and made-up crap. Information our traditions, superstitions, and media feeds us.
Living fearlessly doesn’t mean jumping out of an airplane or drop-kicking a traffic cop. That’s living badass and the topic of a different entry. Living fearlessly means never worrying about stuff that will probably never harm you. The easiest way to fear absolutely nothing is to be aware of the actual probabilities of bad things happening. You’ll find that most of what we think can hurt or kill us is statistically very unlikely to happen. Unless you live in a warzone or moonlight as a drug mule, you’re likely going to die in your old age in a hospital bed. A baby born in a western democracy will likely hit 80 years old. Just that alone should tell you that you’re probably going to be alright for a long time. If you’re one of those guys who freaks out over everything you read in the news about pig flu, plane crashes and random stabbings, you need to bro a life insurance underwriter and read his actuary tables.
The other major fear that folks have is what other people might think of them. I generally don’t give a damn and here’s why. Whenever I mess up, I just remind myself “Not the first guy, not the worst guy,” and move on. Most people’s thoughts are consumed with their own stuff anyways and you’re rarely as important or interesting to other people as you think you are. Everybody’s got their own skeletons, insecurities and prejudices. They just cap that stuff when you’re around. People only show you what they want you to see. So whenever you feel anxious about what some other person might be thinking about you, just remember that there is a high probability that he is at least as messed up as you are.
But bad stuff does happen.
Dude, just because the odds are one in a million, that ‘one’ has to be somebody. And we’re just somebody else to somebody else. Did you really think that you are exempt from the infinite spectrum of probabilities, both good and bad? We all exist in a universe where there is a discrete probability for every single thought, action or event. Every single thing you experience has probably been experienced by someone else already. Everything is just data points in an infinite spectrum of things that can possibly happen. Whatever is happening to you is not the first time nor will it be the last time. By accepting this reality, you remove the assumption that you’re apart from the bell-curve.
And by accepting that you exist on a continuum of probabilities, you simply learn to roll with whatever comes.
That’s living fearlessly.