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Fear, Change, and How We Learn from It

todayApril 20, 2022 9 1

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By Lea Mercado
Web Content Assistant Manager

It seems like everyone is going through some sort of change these days. Spring really is a time to reset and prepare for what the rest of the year has to offer. For some of us, we’re getting ready to graduate. For others, it can be a big move somewhere new or just generally dipping into the vast pool of uncertainty that accompanies young adulthood. Regardless, the anxiety is thick in the air.

Prior to this year, I always felt ready for change. In high school, I raced through the 4 years and graduated early because I thought I knew enough about “the real world.”  In college, the cycle repeated except this time, I don’t know that I’m ready.

While college is certainly an educational experience, it is also a humbling one. An experience that teaches you that there is a lot more uncertainty in the world than you’d think, but we are encouraged to explore that uncertainty. After all, how else is one supposed to learn?

Regardless of how you rationalize uncertainty and risk, it is still frightening. As I prepare to leave San Marcos and begin a career, the fear of failure still runs around my mind. Perhaps it is heightened by my own expectations of success or pressure to make this life investment pay off, or maybe it is just being human. Though as isolating as fear is, it is also something that binds us together.

Everyone has gone through massive changes at different points in life and chances are, you have to. Whether it is from one grade to the next, moving out of your childhood home, or beginning a new job, anything that rocks our precious sense of stability can often feel earth-shattering. When we look closer at these scenarios, apprehension is perfectly valid. Making new friends and wondering, “will they like me?” or navigating leases – all of these things absolutely can evoke anxiety and stress. But with a slight shift in mindset, these things can be a lot less scary.

Instead of framing these events as change or transition, framing uncertainty as a growth opportunity can be one of the most liberating adjustments you can make. You may wonder, “how is that liberating?” Well, in his book of poems, Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman puts it beautifully,

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)”

Whitman was always well known for being unapologetically himself, often landing him in trouble, but what he illustrates throughout his poetry is that people are meant to grow through change, and it can be a beautiful and vulnerable process. Everyone has the capacity to contain multitudes, yet we silence our truest selves out of fear that it may not go over well or lead to our greatest successes. This leads people to learn to habitually stop themselves at any alert of uncertainty much like stop yourself from behaving the way you would around friends when you’re around someone new.

But if you can shift into a growth mindset, you create a space for all the complexities and caveats that have been suppressed, and in that space is where your greatest potential lies. While simple, the first step is still difficult, which is relinquishing your own self-expectations.

This is hard because to some extent, we are all attached to the image that we have of ourselves. But the truth is the person that you have in your head who seemingly has it all doesn’t exist – at least not yet – because that person has been planted there. They are rigid and unchanging, so naturally, in pursuit of our ideal life, we mimic that behavior. But when we release our own expectations of ourselves, we are able to freely grow into whoever we are intended to be through our relationships and experiences.

There is no doubt that these big changes are still absolutely terrifying, but if anything, they should also serve as a marker that you are heading in the right way. I know everyone says this, but the advice never resonated until recently. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The best part of growth is when you falter because you can always recover and show all you’ve learned.

Featured Image by Lea Mercado 

Written by: Autumn McGowan

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