Be Afraid – But Not Very Afraid

It’s Halloween weekend so now seems as good a time as any to discuss fear. 

First of all, the natural wariness we have as humans is actually a helpful built-in safety feature.  If a toddler’s fearless attitude and regular A&E trips prove nothing else, without fear there would be a lot more injury and death in the world.

We need a little bit of fear to make sure we correctly judge a situation for safety.  Also, in small amounts it can even be fun, like a rollercoaster ride or a scary movie.

It can be fun to gently frighten others…

…And be frightened by them.

Being scared can be a good thing; if I’d have stuck to my own comfort-zone I would never have watched the brilliant Haunting of Hill House recently (which I thoroughly recommend  …as long as you’re not alone at the time obviously, and maybe put ALL the lights on after).

One thing that I’m less keen on is when your Dad insists we watch a scary film and then 3 seconds into it he falls fast asleep and leaves me watching it effectively alone.

The problem with wariness is that it can sometimes tip over into a more unhealthy restrictive fear, as any parent of a 7 year-old who won’t go to the toilet alone in case “Metal Sonic” gets him will tell you.

It’s not just children, sometimes grown-ups are afraid of silly stuff that isn’t perhaps as frightening as they immediately think it is.  Failure for example, a lot of grown-ups are unduly afraid of this, myself included.

Failure isn’t a barrel of laughs admittedly but outside of a health and safety setting it’s never actually killed anyone.  The great thing about failure is that it’s only a temporary state, and often it’s actually one of the necessary steps on the road to success.

As Nelson Mandela famously said

Full disclosure, if you previously read my post entitled Wildly Cautious you will already know that I am in fact a massive wuss and scared of lots of things and a big fan of the phrase “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean I’m not being followed.”

All the same, my Halloween message to you is: it’s good to let fear of death stop you doing something stupid, but don’t let fear of failure stop you doing something you love.

 

Marriage

Ok, so there is still time for a late divorce, but your Dad and I have been together for 27 years this December.  No, no applause please – after this length of time Stockholm Syndrome would have set in sooner or later anyway.

Following the recent royal wedding now seems like a good time (from a marketing perspective at least) to impart some tips for a successful (or at any rate, lengthy) marriage, so here goes nothing. 

Firstly, never take each other for granted.  Life as a couple involves a certain amount of shared work and admin; renewing the car insurance, mowing the lawn, pretending to like each other’s friends.  Remember to thank the other person for all that they do.

Secondly, there’s an old saying “compromise means neither side getting what they want” and there is nowhere that applies more than marriage.  However when any two people live together, whether they be room-mates or the love of each other’s lives, compromise has to be involved, otherwise you end up with a relationship like Grandad’s.

Constant compromise doesn’t work either, you can’t go through life painting everything magnolia because you can’t agree on a colour – although we do paint every thing magnolia but that’s because we both like magnolia, and anyway it’s called Antique Cream so shut up.

To avoid the resentment that can build up from day-to-day compromises, make sure you both regularly get your own way over something.  Even if that’s just by eating a whole Toblerone to yourself, whatever floats your boat.

Thirdly, communicate, don’t point score.  You are team mates, not opponents.  Discuss everything, listen, find out details and talk towards resolution of any disputes.  If you find your discussions contain phrases like “Yes, in your face!” or “told you so” then you’re off track. 

If your discussions contain gossip, and irrelevant tangents, it’s probably a good sign that you are friends first, right?  Right?!  Friends with ADHD yeah, but still friends. 

For more detail on communicating see my earlier post Tell Them.

Lastly, and most importantly, ignore everything I just said because there is no magic formula to relationships.  Perfect people don’t exist, it’s how they fit together that counts. 

ALL people will drive each other crazy sometimes, and in their own unique, special, individually awful ways.  You know you’ve found the right one when you realise you can both put up with all that crap, in exchange for keeping the other one around.

 

Other People’s Thoughts?

Should you care what other people think about you?  I mean, have you met other people?!   

Let me tell you a little something about other people.  Other people like that TV show you think is stupid.  They like that popular book that you think is dull.  Other people think specifically is pronounced “pacifically”. 

Ok, yes, SOME other people, but if you extrapolate those results to include all the other nonsense in the world that you disagree with, like say fruit teas, I still think it’s safe to say that other people’s opinions, en masse, are no useful measure of anything.

Ok, so we’ve established that you SHOULDN’T care what other people think about you, but to be honest you already knew that didn’t you?  No one is sat around wishing that they cared more about what other people think.

Nobody likes the idea that someone else might think badly of them; it’s not a fun feeling.  As humans we are hard-wired to care what other people think, it’s a survival tool left over from times where you could be murdered on a whim.

Everyone cares at least a little about what other people think, but it is still better for your mental health if you can learn to care a little less. What you’re aiming for is to take the caring well below the red line of obsession, whilst still keeping it well above the blue line of psychopathy.

There are two things that have helped me to stop caring what other people think about me quite so much, and I’ll share those with you here.

Firstly, the realisation that other people seldom think about you, and when they do, it is short-lived.  I can promise you other people spend most of their awake-time thinking about their own lives, not yours. 

Secondly, people who really know you won’t judge you unfairly, and people who don’t know you, aren’t in a position to judge you.

It really is mind over matter, or as Dr Seuss so brilliantly put it:

I once had a “friend” who told unpleasant lies about me, in whispers, to our social group.  When I found out I was devastated and embarrassed initially, until I realised that anyone who really knew me had known immediately that the lies were untrue as they found me and told me so.   

This one incident in my life, which seemed so small and petty at the time, completely freed me from caring about what other people think.  It really hammered home the point for me because a couple of people did believe the lies and I discovered for myself that I honestly didn’t care, because I realised that they didn’t know me at all.

It is SO much fun to be yourself, don’t let people who don’t matter take that away from you.  Please resolve today to not let what other people MIGHT think stop you from being you. Instead, do what you choose, say what you feel and be YOU.

Brave People

Personally, I’m not that brave, I’m really more of a filter-less complainer.  If I have something wrong with me EVERYONE gets to hear about it.

I do know a few brave people though and they really are wonderful.  In fact there is only one thing they are bad at and that is asking for help when they need it.

Some people choose careers where they need bravery every day.  Those people amaze me and I’m so thankful they exist, because I am NOT that guy.

Even so, people in careers where bravery is compulsory, still sometimes end up witnessing something that they can’t un-see or un-hear and therefore struggle with.  Being in office-work myself this is less likely to happen to me, unless gross crimes of personal hygiene count.

What I’m trying to say is, sometimes bravery is a reaction to bad stuff that happens to you, stuff you can’t control.  I have friends who are in pain every day, sometimes physical, sometimes mental, sometimes both and their bravery amazes me.

The only thing that amazes me more is how they beat themselves up for not being brave enough sometimes, or being the “wrong kind of brave”.  For the record there is no wrong kind, there is only dealing with what has happened in the best way you can, by any definition that is bravery.

If you ever have to be brave about something, please know that being brave doesn’t look like Bruce Willis in Die Hard (although that is a great look).  Real-life bravery can sometimes involve a wider range of emotion (no offence to Bruce).

I know that brave people often don’t expect, or ask for, help but that doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes NEED help.  Where possible don’t be brave on your own.  Let people who care about you know that you are struggling – they won’t always be able to do anything about the problem but at least they’ll be by your side.