I recently finished reading a book written by a friend with whom I went to high school. The book, Between Fear and Love SELF-WORTH: The Tie that Binds, was an interesting read. I didn’t know much about it when I started except for the description I had read, and it actually turned out to be a very different book than I thought it would be. I knew Lauren was working on her Ph.D. in psychology, and I think that’s most likely what led me to believe this was going to be more of an academic work. Instead, what I found was a highly readable and highly personal book about Lauren’s own journey through life and what she’s learned.
To begin with, there is a good bit in the book that I don’t agree with, mostly when it comes to issues of metaphysics, the universe, and god. Although Lauren does tie these into her main thesis, they don’t have to be necessarily connected, and I think her main idea could still be supported very well without some of these notions.
What I found most valuable was her thesis, which I take to be somewhat Aristotelian in nature, that the virtue of self worth lies somewhere between extremes of fear and love. In order to truly move forward with our lives and achieve success and happiness, we must develop self-worth. The majority of the book details her own path to discovery, and at the end, recommends some general strategies that others may take.
At this point in my life, the thing that stands out most to me, that got me thinking the most, was the notion of the powerful role that fear can play in our lives. During the same time I was reading this book, I ran into some of the same ideas about fear while I was listening to a Jillian Michaels podcast when I was working out. Jillian said that when we consider fear and its ability to prevent us from acting, we have to ask ourselves this question:
What is the worst case scenario that could happen if I try, and what is the best case scenario that could happen if I try?
She used the example of a guy she knew who was too afraid to ask someone out. What was the worst thing that could happen if he tried? The person he asked would say no, and he would probably feel bad for a bit, but he would essentially be in the same position he was already in. However, imagine the wonderfulness of the situation if he tried and succeeded. If we try to take that sort of approach to all of the situations where we feel fear, it can start to make fear feel a little bit silly in a lot of situations.
From an Aristotelian perspective, some amount of fear is necessary and even healthy, because it prevents us from doing insanely dangerous and stupid things. They key is finding that balance and making sure we don’t let the fear control us. The way this ties back into the book, and into most of our every day lives is that we often will not put 100% of our effort into something, because we fear that if we fail at something for which we strove our hardest, it will devastate us if we don’t succeed.
And I can tell you, this thought, even if only at a subconscious level, can hold back even the most confident and intelligent people. The important thing to remember is that failure is never as devastating as we think it will be. More and more we learn that the most successful people throughout history are the ones who have failed the most – and then learned from those failures and tried again.
Fear is what allows us to sit down and watch a few hours of television instead of working on that book we’ve always wanted to write. Fear is what allows us to go out for ice cream instead of going out to the gym. Fear is what forces us to hold back. But there’s no reason to hold back. This is our life, this is our chance, and we have to decide every day: what do I want out of this life? How much am I willing to put in to achieve that?
How much do you think your life would change if you stopped being afraid and put 100% into achieving what you really want out of life?