Taking risks and putting yourself out there for the world to see is an incredibly terrifying thing to do. The feeling of not knowing what’s going to happen is enough to bring anyone down to their knees. In this blog post, we’re going to be diving into the fear of the unknown. We’ll be looking at how it manifests itself and how to replace the fear of unknown with curiosity.
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What is the fear of the unknown?
The fear of the unknown also known as Xenophobia occurs when we have irrational thoughts about unfamiliar situations. We see these events as ‘threats’. Humans are very special in the sense that we not only think about immediate threats but also about perceived threats in the future.
The threat doesn’t even have to be physical. In fact, today most of the future threats we perceive are psychological. What will happen if I lose my job? How will I ever pass that test?
Thoughts like these tend to trigger an impending sense of uncertainty causing our fight or flight response flair up. In response to this threat, our heart rate spikes. Breathing pace increases. We start sweating as we stress out. It’s all around not a good time. However, these are the more obvious signs. Let’s look at the subtle ways that the fear of the unknown manifests itself in our lives.
How does it manifest in our lives?
Difficulty accepting change
I’m someone who always had a strict routine. I usually have a plan for how I want my day to go. For the longest time I thought that this was a good thing. However, upon further reflection, I now realize that I was placing myself in my own personal prison.
I became so used to my cell that when anything negative outside of my control happened, I would spiral into negative thoughts and anxiety. The unwillingness to let go of control is a classic sign of fear of the unknown.
Not wanting to take risks
So many of us like to play it safe in life. Why take unnecessary risks if you don’t have to? This mindset is another sign of fearing uncertainty.
I realized that the reason I was so risk avoidant was because I was so focused on the worst outcome. I couldn’t envision the risk working out in my favour because it violated the safety of my prison cell. This is another sign of the fear of the unknown.
Fear of failure
The final sign of the fear of the unknown is perfectionism. We believe that if things are perfect, then failure is impossible, and then we won’t have to face an uncertain future. I was a perfectionist for many years, and I have first-hand experience of how this type of thinking leads to an unhappy life.
Being so afraid of failing meant that it took me forever to actually get started on any tasks, and when I did get started, I was never satisfied with the outcome. I kept telling myself, ‘If I can’t be the best a this, then who am I?’. This comes from a lifetime of tying academic accomplishments to self-worth.
So how do we deal with this fear of the unknown? By replacing it by curiosity.
Replace fear of unknown with curiosity
Instead of trying to avoid the fear of unknown, we need to return to our infant days and become curious. There are a few benefits to this:
Opens up opportunities
Once you start taking risks, and entering the unknown, you may start to discover new things about yourself. Personally, the creation of this blog was a huge risk for me. I have two business to run as well as a Ph.D. to finish. Initially, I was incredibly afraid to start. I would delay buying the hosting of the website by spending hours deciding on a name, font, etc.
It wasn’t until my curiosity for self-development finally overcame my fear, that I actually got going. Now that I’m here, I’ve discovered my love for writing. Never in my life did I think that I would enjoy writing for hours every single day. By replacing the fear of the unknown with curiosity, I was able to open this new area of opportunity to express myself.
Gain a perspective on failure
A huge part of curiosity is changing how you see failure. When we were incredibly young and at our most curious, we had absolute no fear of failure. I remember thinking that I was invincible at some point growing up. Nothing could stop me from getting what I wanted.
Somewhere along the way, that curiosity gave way to fear of the unknown. What if it doesn’t work out? Why should I try if I might fail? Is it worth it? Thoughts like these filled my head and I became an incredibly cautious person.
To combat this, I suggest that we go back to our childish ways. Failure isn’t something to be feared. It’s something to embrace. So many great inventions started out as failures. What turned them into huge successes is the fact that their inventions maintained their curiosity after each disappointment. They were willing to keep going no matter what. That mentality is the difference between success and failure.
The fear of the unknown can be extremely crippling if you allow it to control your life. It manifests itself in very silent ways. Difficulty accepting change. Perfectionism. Being risk avoidant. You’d never suspect it was creeping up on you until you were fully engulfed by it.
To come out ahead, one must replace the fear of the unknown with curiosity. By being curious about all the unseen possibilities in life, we’ll open new possibilities that we never could have dreamed off as well as getting a new perspective on failure. So today, make sure to take one risk. Start that business. Message that person. Go on that run. You never know what could happen.
What do you think? Have there been times where you’ve given into the fear of the unknown? How curious are you as a person? Let me know in the comments below. I want to know!
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