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Fear: The Social Penumbra

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

The worst thing or maybe best thing about fear is that it is based on our perception of things.

Fears are formed from past experiences, memories, or just random knowledge that we pick up about things or even people. When we encounter something that we are afraid of, we are either frightened because we do not know what it is and the power it has over us, or because we know exactly what it is and what it is capable of. 

This may sound confusing at first but take a look at this:

From a young age, we have been told that snakes are venomous, poisonous, and dangerous creatures and at the first sight of them we automatically have a repulsive reaction. On the other hand, a person with no prior prejudice or knowledge about snakes may not react the same way that we do.  (This does not rule out the fact that snakes can be dangerous and you should be cautious!)

Our interpretation of people is based on either the few contacts we have had with them or what we have heard about them. As humans, it is natural for us to judge others since it is an essential part of our survival instincts. But most of the time, our judgements of people are wrong. Every day we learn something new about people that not only changes the way we see them, but also how we interpret their actions. We judge people based on the decisions they make, without considering what choices they were offered – and when we do eventually learn about them, we start to see the bigger picture. This can either be positive or negative.

We also judge people on what we have heard about them and sometimes we do not question the sources. Just as in the case of the snake, this does not rule out the chance that we should not proceed with caution when making certain decisions about people; what this means is that we should be more open to questioning what we know and feel about them.

Most times we encounter people who seem so happy and may come across as doing quite well, but behind the shadows, we do not notice the various burdens they carry. We may meet a person of a certain physical appearance and immediately rule them as not being worthy of our time or likewise, rule ourselves as not being deserving of their attention. We make this judgement without ever having a single conversation with them to partially understand who they are.

This is something I have encountered frequently in Education City. There was a situation where a friend of mine found this other person interesting and spoke about how they would love to interact with said person. But my friend was too scared to reach out because she considered herself not ‘cool’ enough for them. Meanwhile, when she got to have a conversation with them, she discovered that they too had always wanted to talk to her but were scared to do so. 

We may be afraid of reaching out to someone because we feel like they might not like us or want to have a conversation with us. However, the truth is that we do not know how the other person feels, so we can not fully make decisions on their behalf. This situation is a classic example of how we project our own insecurities in the world and see them reflected through other people which hinders our interactions. What most people fail to realize is that other people are just as insecure as we are. Just the same way that we are afraid of coming across a certain way to them, they too are scared of that.



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