Fear of Uncertainty Made Me Miserable


"Everything is subjective. We create our interpretation of reality ourselves, it's not indepentent of us, it is only us". - Peter Sage

 

People prefer to take the path of least resistance. I was no exception. The thought of getting out of my comfort zone was scary. Subconsciously, I put myself in situations with predictable outcomes. Secure job with steady income? Check. Stay in the city I grew up in, where I feel the most comfortable? Check. Binge-watch Netflix to pass the boredom? Check. I used to tell myself that I needed to feel certain about something in order to do it. That led to a life of complacency. It had me living on cruise control: safe, easy, and mindless.

If it ain't broke don't fix it, right? I didn't know it at the time, but things were actually broken. The fear of uncertainty just hid it all.

 

  • Scared to fail. Prior to a career in film editing, I used to work a secure job. It was steady income and I didn't have to try that hard. That combination made it easy to show up everyday, but very difficult to give up. Deep down, I wanted to try something new, but knew it would require a lot of work and I didn't want to fail.

 

Failure > My potential

 

  • Scared to be alone. I would stay in past relationships too long. I wanted to get out, but I didn't want to be alone. I would think that there was nobody else out there for me and that I should just settle. I was the asshole that selfishly strung the other person along (I'm sorry). 

 

Loneliness > Doing the right thing

 

  • Scared to be myself. I feared being judged and scrutinized. This led me to "act" like a person that pleased everyone. "What if my ideas aren't what they want to hear? I better not say anything. I wouldn't want to embarrass myself." This acting led me to believe that I wasn't good enough as is. That I had to be someone else to be accepted.

 

People's opinions > Me

 

The fear of uncertainty was holding me back in life. Fear was in the driver's seat and I was being led down a road to misery.

 

 

 

 

There is no certainty in life

I was  certain  the Seahawks would win Super Bowl XLIX.

I was certain the Seahawks would win Super Bowl XLIX.

The big epiphany is that certainty is just an illusion; a false sense of security. The world is constantly changing - there is no such thing as certainty. I assumed that I would live to 35. Then, reality slapped me in my beautiful face (link). Having experienced first-hand the realness of uncertainty, I realized it couldn't be worse than this. All other uncertainties paled in comparison to not knowing whether or not I would live past 35. Uncertainty didn't seem so scary anymore.

 

"The quality of your life is in proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably handle" - Peter Sage

 

In hindsight, the certainty that I was looking for had nothing to do with security, but had everything to do with my inability to do what I wanted. Said differently, it kept me from pushing past my comfort zone. I was using the fear of uncertainty as an excuse not to pursue my full potential.

 

This never would have happened if I feared uncertainty. There were MANY times where I wanted to give up because I felt lost and things were too difficult.

This never would have happened if I feared uncertainty. There were MANY times where I wanted to give up because I felt lost and things were too difficult.

 

Fear of Uncertainty = Complacency = Regret

 

I started confronting uncertainty head on. I accepted an offer for an editing job that I thought was above my talent level. I made the move to flirt with Paulina not knowing how she'd react. I chose to take steps to leave security behind. Then, the most interesting thing started happening: nothing got worse. If anything, things got better. The idea that stirring the pot would make things messy was all in my head. 

 

"People almost always overestimate the intensity and duration of
their future emotional reactions". - Dan Gilbert

 

What I came to learn is that people are bad at predicting their future state (link). When I imagined tackling uncertainty, I imagined Godzilla ransacking my well-kept life. Slowly, I realized that it wasn't Godzilla at all. It was more like Barney. And he wasn't ransacking. He was skipping around and making everything better.

The biggest irony of all is that if I chose a life of certainty, I would have always wondered what could have been. Probably during a mid-life crisis or on my death bed. Instead, I'm choosing to take the path of "what could have been" now:

  • I don't fear being alone. I'm working on developing myself first and foremost. This allows Paulina and I to be in an independent relationship where neither of us are dependent on the other person. It's given our relationship balance, making it easier to make incremental progress.
  • I don't fear failing. As I pursue a new career in camera operating I know I'm going to fail at times. But failure is necessary for progress. As James Clear puts it, "Failure is the cost you pay to be right" (link). Treat failure like a scientist, it's just a data point.
  • I can be myself. Behind every Anger is a Fear (link). When people criticize me or judge me, it has nothing to do with me. It's all a reflection of themselves. Something that I do makes them feel uncomfortable and, to make themselves feel better, their immediate reaction is to judge/criticize. Knowing this makes taking criticism easier to deal with. 

 

Uncertainty = Growth = Fulfillment

 

Knowing that things aren't as bad as I perceive them to be has made me comfortable with uncertainty. I can't completely control what happens to me and that's okay. I worry less and I'm able to take on new challenges with, dare I say, a little excitement.

 

 

 

 

THE GAME CHANGERS


Anger - How We Transfer Feelings of Guilt, Hurt, and Fear (link)

Forecasting the Future (link)

Treat Failure Like a Scientist (link)