After four years of high school, I think I’ve identified humanity’s greatest enemy. This sly, manipulative adversary sweeps through high school shattering success, impeding growth, and stifling relationships, all while masquerading as comfort and reason. It is the single most powerful success killer and opportunity annihilator. The name of this enemy is fear.
Fear of the unknown is the adversary that robs extraordinary opportunities and fosters unnecessary anxiety—often towards things that never actually manifest. How many events have I declined because I wasn’t sure if my friends were going? How many sleepless nights have I endured, fixating my mind on things that never even came to pass?
Fear of rejection dulls spontaneity within human interactions. It ends meaningful friendships before they start. It dissolves brilliant plans before they are proposed. It extinguishes occasions to impact and influence others.
Fear of failure blinds us from our own potential. It embellishes our defeats and dims our victories, stimulating lies that we can never succeed. It suppresses people in a permanent state of mediocrity, so afraid of failing that they never even try.
Almost two years ago, I came face-to-face with my biggest fears. Forced to move states half-way through high school, I became submersed in a world void of all former comfort, where every social interaction required courage. Each morning before school, my stomach filled with butterflies as worries raced through my head. Would I find my classrooms? Who would I sit with at lunch? Would I be ignored during conversations? It was then that I learned a crucial fact about fear: it can be defeated.
Through repeated confrontations with my fears, I watched them vanish one-by-one. Initiating conversations with strangers, joining clubs without my friends, attending new events— none of my former fears generate the same level of crippling anxiety attempting to suffocate me two years ago.
However, stay alert! Fear is a tricky enemy. It creeps into our minds impersonating logic and security. “You’re too busy to join the basketball team, too tired to attend the party, too bored to speak up in class.” If we ever hope to escape enslavement to fear, we must first acknowledge these seemingly rational excuses for what they actually are: fear in disguise.
Next, practice courage. Courage is not an inborn trait but rather a skill. Invite the acquaintance you like out to lunch. Volunteer to present your project instead of waiting to be called on. Create a mental image of what you want to happen rather than what you’re afraid of happening.
These apparently small choices form lifelong habits. Will you develop a habit of choosing courage or succumbing to fear? Fear produces too many dissatisfying experiences and unfulfilling lives. It is the greatest obstacle between you and who you want to become. I challenge every reader to escape mediocrity and choose courage.