On Fear: Why do we feel it and what can we do about it?

Today I had a call with someone for a potential internship opportunity. During the call I was very nervous, which led to some awkward moments and it didn’t let me relax and say everything that I wanted to say. After the call I sat down with my phone still in my hand and I wondered why the hell was I so nervous? This was a call for an internship opportunity that I was not really expecting until a couple of days ago when this person emailed me out of the blue. The opportunity is very interesting and I would really like to work with this person so I understand why I would be nervous but it still doesn’t make sense. What am I afraid of?

I know that I am not afraid of this person because I’ve talked to them before. I know that it’s not really a big deal if I don’t get because I didn’t know about this opportunity last week. Yet, I was still afraid. But why?

While doing some research on this I came across this article that cites some research indicating that:

“Economist Julie Nelson argues that the experience of fear has become highly gendered, a problem that she applies to theory and practice in the field of economics. Men learn to fear fear because they associate such emotions with a dangerous lack of control over the self and world.”

This economist suggests that this has led men to seek activities that are more logical and analytical in order to avoid talking feelings. Although I am not sure about the validity of this theory, I do think it is an interesting argument on how emotions like fear can be influenced by societal expectations around certain events. In any case this still does not address my initial question. Why do I feel afraid?

After doing some more research I started to understand the different things that one can be scared of. For example, I could be scared of:

  1. Authority
  2. Rejection
  3. Death
  4. Threats

There are more factors that can cause fear but when I started writing them down one of the factors jumped out at me: Fear of Rejection. I think this is something that I am aware of but that I hadn’t thought about intentionally and in regards to something that’s directly affecting my day-to-day. I can dedicate many essays just to the fear of rejection (and I might revisit this topic in the future) but right now I think that what I should do is try to better understand my relationship with rejection and it’s twin brother failure. Once I feel more comfortable dealing with these two I will revisit this question of being afraid to be rejected.

If you have thought about this before please feel free to reach out and let me know about your experience.

Note: In this essay I don’t mention the “neuroscience of fear” including the hormones that get released when you feel fear (e.g. cortisol) or the areas of the brain that are the most active when you feel fear (e.g. amygdala) because that is not the focus of this essay. I understand that X makes me afraid and that then causes a release of Y and brain activity in Z. In this essay I wanted to explore X.