Yeah I’m afraid. So what?

Everybody’s afraid of something. More accurately, everybody’s afraid of quite a few things. Some of those are obvious survival instincts, such as startling when something flies toward you or extreme heights making you nervous. Some of them are understandable even if usually unnecessary, like how I’m afraid of spiders. But sometimes we’re afraid of things because they feel threatening in non-physical ways, like public speaking.

Being afraid, in itself, isn’t bad. It’s actually a fairly neutral skill, like color vision. It helps us navigate the world around us a little more carefully, and often keeps us safe. Not being afraid of anything would be wildly unhealthy. Of course, it’s also unhealthy to let oneself be ruled by fear, or to allow a fear to escalate to the point of being debilitating.

The fact is a lot of aspects of growing up and taking on adult life are intimidating. Buying a car, going to college (let alone paying for it), dating, getting a job, renting or buying a home, trying to figure out finances. Most of that stuff isn’t taught very clearly, and most of us end up feeling like we got thrown into the deep end.

Myself, as well as many other emerging adults I know, often feel a pressure to act like we’ve got it all together and aren’t fazed by anything when in fact we’re terrified.

So let me be honest: All of this stuff freaks me out. The amount of things that need to be handled, the sheer lack of instructions and prior experience, the variance in each option and potential path, and the significance a lot of these decisions carry has got me all wound up. And I’m really tired of pretending that I’ve got a solid handle on this when, at best, I’m just handling it.

The good news about confidence is that faking it really does help boost how you feel. But it can also be exhausting, and creates a harmful cycle of false impressions where all of us emerging adults feel behind the curve from our peers who look and act like they’ve got it together, so then we act like we do too, but really they’re also just pretending. Most days I’m just trying to manage one thing at a time, and often figuring out what that looks like on the fly.

Being afraid doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The important thing is to keep going and learning and trying in spite of the fear. And hopefully in time, the stuff that freaks you out now will seem less intimidating, so you’re a little extra prepared when new challenges inevitably rise up.

What helps you move forward even when you’re afraid? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. As always, thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

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