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On Dealing with Fear: Stop Judging Yourself and Be

Spider

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” ~Pema Chodron

I’m arachnophobic. Last night, a large spider took up residence on the wall in my room. The shock of seeing its dark mass seated comfortably against the stark white of the paint made the blood drain from my head.

I have ways of dealing with my fears. Sometimes I ignore them and plunge in head-first without thinking; sometimes I avoid them altogether and run for the hills. When it comes to spiders though, I humanize the situation.

I gave Richie, as I named my new roommate, the same courtesy I give to all animals.

After a bit of careful planning, I took a deep breath and eased Richie into his temporary residence, ready for relocation to the floating garden. He was evidently more terrified than I was, although he had no reason to be. Even though he felt mortally threatened, I treated him with the same kindness and respect that I show my pets.

I realized then I needed to do the same for myself. I needed to give myself a little kindness and accept that my fears aren’t necessarily based in reality.

You see, I’ve recently come off a bout of depression.

When I’m badly depressed, I stop entirely. I have an obligation to care for my animals, so I drive myself to feed and clean them, but that fails to apply to me. I don’t eat, I don’t sleep; I don’t do anything other than sit and gaze blankly at my surroundings.

My laundry piles up in a corner. My desk becomes smothered in books, papers, and DVDs. I think it’s the same feeling you’d get if you were witness to a horrific event or accident; life stops and everything is painfully numb.

Daylight becomes unbearable as does the natural world around me. I don’t want to be around anyone, let alone talk to them. Most of the time, I skulk off back to bed to stare at the ceiling and sob. It feels like my life is over and the only thing left to do is vanish.

The grief I experience during a depression is overwhelming but never has an obvious cause. It’s not like I can figure out what’s upset me and try to patch things up. But I don’t like to think I end up in this state because of nothing; my depression comes about because of life.

It’s been tough and I struggle a lot emotionally. I’m sensitive and a chronic worrier. I’m frightened and lonely. Big things to admit, but this is my draw in life and I try to make the best of it.

Being depressed is something I dread because I know how difficult it is to climb back out of that hole and worst of all: I don’t have any control over it. I can’t say when it’ll happen, how long it’ll stay, or how bad it’ll be. I have to brace myself.

The truth is I’m not just afraid of being depressed (though I am); I’m afraid of letting people down and being judged.

I don’t like to think that I’m afraid of what other people say, I like to pretend I’m a rebel (in part, I am) and that emotionally, I’m tough as nails. In reality, I’m a bit of a softie and open to getting my feelings trampled.

But I’ve come to realize this: we often create fears based on past experiences and blow them out of proportion. They’re not always grounded in reality as it is. Even when they are justifiable, they’re not the things that create us—we create ourselves with what we tell ourselves and how we act.

By believing that our fears are real and irrefutable, we crush ourselves under the weight of their burden.

Every now and then someone comes along and shows you people won’t always act as you feared they would, just like the way I spared Richie instead of squishing him.

Sometimes people will make snap judgments when you’re openly struggling, but we don’t have to join in and judge ourselves. Everyone has their challenges. We might not all deal with depression, but no one is without struggles and sometimes we need a break.

Sometimes I need a break to take care of myself before I can engage with the world.

Sometimes I push myself too hard to become what other people expect of me—people who think I can just up and change into someone who doesn’t deal with depression.

The truth is that I don’t want to be cured. I want to be free to be who I am. And I want to face and release my fear of being judged for that, which I can only do if I stop being so hard on myself.

Sometimes you have to take a deep breath, look into yourself without judgment, and just be honest with yourself about what’s really scaring you. It’s the only way to identify irrationality, learn what you need, and change how you think and act.

We can challenge and overcome our fears if we’re willing to take power away from them. They aren’t as powerful as we think they are.

The world isn’t waiting to squish us. We definitely shouldn’t squish ourselves.

Photo by Nightskymun

Avatar of Sam Russell

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.

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  • Anonymous

    I don't really know what to say here other than… Thank You. This is so wonderfully written, and so completely spot on. As someone recovering from my own experiences with depression and anxiety, I can't help but admire your success at putting into words many of the thoughts and feelings I have a hard time expressing. So, thank you for writing this and sharing it.

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    You are most welcome, friend. I hope that you're able, with time, to reach the stage I have, and I hope I've helped you on your way to that.

    Kudos

  • Mcdarkntwisty

    This is great! Thank you for that!

    I really made my way out of this deep hole, but everytime I think I'm fine, it hits me, and there I am again. But now I know better than I knew a few months ago that it will be shorter this time. The hole is not as deep and the way out is easier to find. I'd like to never be there but you are so right: It seems that it belongs to me somehow. Probably there is some kind of benefit I get from it, and I will find out one day, which!
    Thanks a lot!

  • Powtricia

    As a victim of depression myself this article really hit home in many ways.Especially the isolating. I went on an RX prescribed by my Dr.. Lexapro has saved my life.No bouts with depression for almost 7 yrs.I highly recommend it.I took my life back.

  • Anonymous

    Having been hospitalized for two weeks the beginning of this year for depression, your words rang so true to me. I ended up there because of the same symptoms you described, plus. Realizing in hindsight it was due to not stopping and saying, “Hey it's ok not to hold everyone up all the time because that's what's expected of me!” It drained me and I'm still in progress of “forgiving” myself for being “weak”. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • artemis133

    Articles like this help me realize, that as a person with anxiety and depression myself, that I'm not alone and others have some of the same experiences. People in our situation tend to think that we're the only ones that feel the way we do at times. Thank you!

  • fleshwound

    Feels like I could have written that myself. I suffer from severe panic disorder, agoraphobia and depression. A few weeks ago I realized that my whole life is lived in fear and that my fears are holding me back. No amount of therapy or prescriptions have helped thus far and I've been feeling hopeless. I finally told myself “ENOUGH!” and wrote down all my fears, even the inane ones that seem trivial. I then wrote logical, reasonable responses to them and why they are just plain silly. It has helped and everyday I tell myself, NO MORE FEAR.

  • SL

    Some big admissions here and probably a hard post to write. I too am just coming out of a crappy 8 months. I've been dealing with relationship issues, stress, and an ineffective boss. I'm lucky in that I know exactly what's causing the problem but I still am not sleeping or eating and spending most of my time writing computer code, which is at least productive.

    I think we all worry/think that society will judge us negatively for being depressed, having doubts, or thinking negatively. Just like society has created this ideal physical person, the barbie, we have also created the ideal emotional person who has no fears, no doubts, is always happy & confident. That simply is not the case and every single person has had some doubt or negative thoughts at some point in their life. I'm finding being open and honest about the issues I'm having is helping a lot and has made me much closer with a friend who happens to be going through some very similar things, but hadn't admitted it to me.

    I've found the keys are:
    1. Be strong
    2. Recognize the problem and fix it
    3. Know that you, and everyone, deserves only the best
    4. No one, for the most part, is out their to maliciously hurt others, there are simply miscommunications and differences in opinions/goals/outlook.

    I hope that helps somone,

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    First of all – I love the name you've posted under! Is it a Grey's reference?

    Thank you for reading. I'm pleased to see that this is ringing true with so many people who are in different places. I've found that there's no point in trying to avoid the holes I often find myself in because that often leads to either ending up in a deeper one of being stuck in the thing longer.

    It's better for me to accept what's happening rather than try to fight it. I don't know if you've found the same?

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Thanks for reading SL

    Your advice is spot on – recognizing the problem is half way to sorting it out. Too many times I've refused to see that something is going amiss in my life and all too often I've suffered because of that.

    I'm dedicated to being honest about my mental health now, but without letting it become my sole defining feature. As you've said, many people go through similar things but have never opened up about them. All the more reason to be a beacon, don't you think?

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    fleshwound,

    I deeply sympathise with you. When I first went down the proverbial plug-hole, I suffered with panic disorder too – it was dreadful and pretty much ruined my life.

    But. I promise you that there are paths that lead away from it. Don't rush. Explore what you're going through and decide which way out is best for you.

    I did a fair bit of work with an occupational therapist who helped me learn how to manage my anxiety and also how to stop panic attacks from trashing me. It took a good few months to put into practice, and I'm by no means free from the anxiety or panic, but I can now stop those things from controlling me.

    I don't appreciate public spaces or crowds either. I still stuggle with this aspect today, even though I've made positive improvements in my life. I've accepted that those things are always going to make me feel uncomfortable and exposed, because that's who I am. I don't want to change myself because others tell me my behaviour isn't normal.

    But what I do want is to be able to live my life the way I want to. I encourage you to do the same. What others may suggest is purely that: suggestions. Do what's right for you and you will be ok, as you're already finding out!

    Keep facing your fears.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    artemis,

    Feeling like you're alone is a major contributing factor to depression, so I'm glad that I've helped to dispel that feeling for you.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    As strange as it sounds, living with depression has made me see the benefits of being selfish – not the negligent kind where you don't give a damn about anyone else, but the kind where you start to put yourself first. After all, if there is no 'you', what is there to share with others?

    You can only bend over backwards so far for people, then you have to stand upright and concentrate on yourself. Other people's opinions come and go – if they're true friends, they'll not only understand but also help you make positive changes.

    Don't beat yourself up for being weak. For me, weakness is the message we've been ignoring for too long.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Powtricia,

    I'm glad that you found something that works for you!

    I personally never got on with medication so decided to take an alternative path, but I don't knock other people's methods, especially when they're a success.

    Kudos

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  • eunice

    thank you. very honest, insightful, revealing, and evolving. why not look at what is there, what is frightening, judege less, and taake care of our being.

  • Carl

    This article is a well-written portrayal, and I believe I am getting better but it is so difficult avoiding beating oneself for the multitude of defects that can be side effects of depression.

    It is a poignant Catch 22 for me – Depression puts a blanket over me and I cannot do what I need to do or barely accomplish what I need to do, and then I beat myself for failing which seems to aggravate the depression. How can you feel OK about yourself when you are accomplishing 1/4 of what you believe you can do? I struggle

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Carl,

    I've found that I need to stop being so hard on myself. Whether I'm feeling okay (like today) or feeling like I shouldn't even exist, I need to make allowances for myself. I meet the same problem: I always believe I can do more when I really can't.

    It's hard to accept but maybe accomplishing that 1/4 is all that you can do for now. Maybe that's good enough for you. Are you trying to acheive more because YOU want to or because you think others want you to?

    Start off small Carl, build yourself up, and if you find that you keep slipping, then don't worry, take a few steps back and review the situation.

    Do YOUR best and do it well.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    no problem eunice!

    Taking care of ourselves is essential. Without us, what else is there?

    Kudos

  • janeonthemoon

    Thank you for writing this article. You have so well described the experiences that people close to me are going through.

  • Mcdarkntwisty

    Yeah, you're right. I use the nick for all my forums and posts.
    Actually you're right, there's no point in trying to avoid the holes, they come anyway. And then I blame myself even more. So I am learning to be good to me, I think that's the best.

  • jet

    Thank you for this. I have nothing to add. You've said it all

  • Macspacester

    Thank you. What you said about being afraid and being judged is exactly how I feel, along with the needing to be seen as being tough. I too am afraid of letting people down and being judged. I think that is part of my upbringing, to not complain and get on with life. The last decade has been really bad for me, every time I feel like I am getting to a point where I can be happy and get on with my life, something else happens. I also feel like what I have gone through is never as bad as what other people are going through and therefore I should suck it up and “get on with it”. Like I said, part of my upbringing. It's not that I want to wallow in my unhappiness or have all kind of people say ” oh poor you” I just think that in order to get through it I need to acknowledge that my unhappiness/depression is valid and then I can work my way through it.

  • http://twitter.com/nikkifaith nikkifaith

    Love the “Squish” metaphor. Namaste.

  • saumitra yadav

    Good article. Mostly the term fear is attached with losing. it might be life, situation, friend, money or respect. Being in state of fear is an natural phenomenon . There is nothing wrong in it. It is not unnatural when one is fearful but one should not be coward or a prisoner of inaction due to fear.

  • Nikola

    Have you ever considered that you may be bipolar Sam? Creative people often are. If you had periods when your mind was racing with ideas, felt little need for sleep, had uneven sleeping cycles, well that is the manic part. Often depression follows when you are done with that, and feel a need for a new project or a new anything to keep your mind engaged in the way it was. You start becoming a recluse in the hope that something will come up, thinking that other people and everyday life just stands in the way. If you find yourself in this lines then you are a manic depressive, always cycling between the two states, maybe sometimes finding an oasis of peace in between, but not for a long time. You must find the balance between the two and find that oasis of peacefulness. Try slowing your thoughts down with meditation until you have only one thought in your head at once, and as you have realised, try to free yourself from your fears and anxiety with the realisation that those things are not really based in reality. Try to think back and see what fear was rational and grounded in facts and you will see that most of them are not.

  • Nikola

    As aspirin or morphine are not cures for a pain, just numbing agents, medications like antidepressants are not a cure for the underlying condition. People should take them if it is a current dissability or to help them avoid doing something irrational, but if you stop taking them the condition is still there, waiting to pownce on you. It is also a symptom of something even deeper. I would advise you to seek your own cure, by realising what the true reasons for your depression are and start eliminating them. You can run from your problem, or choose to stand and fight. Running often exhausts us.

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  • Carl

    Nikola, I think that type of assessment is extremely dangerous. You can't stand up and fight against a biological defect – It's like banging your head against the wall. The type of depression you are describing is everyday variety that all humans experience, but if someone has biological depression, your advice might just kill them.

  • http://whollyafool.wordpress.com/ Michelle

    Wow. I have dealt with (and still deal with, although I don't often like to admit it) depression & anxiety issues for much of my life, and your openness about it here is really inspiring. I've been hesitant about it and haven't mentioned these issues on my blog at all, thinking people would just take it as a cry for attention or sympathy. But you've showed me that there are ways to relate my personal experiences without coming off that way. Thanks so much for writing this, and for being so honest with us. And congrats on being so nice to a spider – I can't say for sure that I would have done the same (and I'm even a vegetarian!).

  • http://www.ourfemaleperspective.com Natalia

    I know exactly how you feel when depressed. As someone who also struggles with this constantly and knows how terrible the feeling is. I'm very happy to have found this posting as it has really given me something to think about.

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  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    No problem Natalia, I'm glad that I've helped

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Michelle,

    I decided earlier this year that I wasn't going to hide my mental health issues anymore. Everyone at some point will experience it, with varying conditions and degrees of severity, so why the shame? Why the hush-hush and the attitudes that, just because you're struggling or a bit un-hinged, you're not as good as anyone else?

    Never be frightened to express yourself.

    Thanks for reading!

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Bi-polar is on my cards Nikola, but I don't like to place myself in a box.

    Never mind having a finger in every pie, I'm up to my elbows in them. However you're spot on in suggesting that I need to slow down. This is something I try to practice regularly, along with grouding myself but sometimes it's not enough – sometimes I prefer to be detached from reality because reality sometimes does more harm than good to me.

    Thanks for taking the time to read!

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    Macspacester,

    I know exactly where you're coming from when you say that you feel your experiences are never as bad as other people's. Whilst this is true in many ways, that doesn't mean your experiences aren't valid.

    People used to tell me to suck it up all the time, then I got sick of it and told them to 'go away' – although not as politely as that!

    What you've been through is no less damaging, no less worthy of being listened to than the experiences of others who have been through their trials. Everyone is different and everyone deserves the opportunities to feel better and have a better life.

    So you're right – acknowledge your grief and manage it in the way that suits you.

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    I agree with what you've said Carl. Whilst I've personally refused meds even though doctors have insisted I would benefit from them, I would not advise anyone to make their own decisions based on my experiences or what I believe in.

    The way I manage is personal to me, not everyone. If meds work for you, great. If you can eventually manage without them – that's ace, but I certainly wouldn't recommend going it alone if meds are of benefit to your health and your safety.

    Let's keep the psychobabble out of this sphere, hmm?

  • Carl

    I'm not sure where the psychobabble is. My only point is that to “stand and fight” is not good advice, and taking medication for a biological problem is not “running from a problem.” It's actually doing the opposite and there is nothing bad about it.

    I agree that many may be better off without medication, but there is nothing wise in condemning medication for all cases when one does not even know the qualities of the patient.

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  • http://drusillah.wordpress.com Drusillah

    I found this article and I am very fortunate that I did. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I felt like you were describing me. I also struggle emotionally, and I’m sensitive and a worrier. I don’t know how to stop them, to eradicate all the negativity from inside. Maybe it’s not possible to do. But I want to be calm and free. I know in theory that we mustn’t put down ourselves and I realized that I do it, but then how do you stop it? Thanks for the article, I wish you to achieve the life you desire.

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  • Travelmari

    I have to say that this was beautiful and a great way to learn that we are nothing but spiders ourselves.
    I save all spiders because us humans are spiders ourselves.
    We have eight limbs when we are tide up together making love and we all have a web that sometimes can be seen and other times can only be seen by the raindrew droplets light.
    Thank you for saving the spider and really they will not hurt you if you talk with them and let them know you are just as scared as they are.
    also with depression I have been there and meditation and taking care of yourself is the best way.
    I also found that everyday as I wake up to tell my self how much I love myself in the mirror.
    And remind myself how far I have come in the past few years.
    Life is a journey and journey is a different part of the path everyday.
    thankyou
    may the angels bless you as much as you have blessed and touched others.

  • ac

    Life, it’s a journey from A to B. Logic will allow you to pick the best path. God wants you to stay the course no matter what. For it’s in that course that He will show Himself to you. He will create opportunities for you to grow, and it’s in traversing that path that will give you fulfilment, purpose, and joy. Fear that is of your own human mind, will want you to take the long route instead. It will want you to run away, and wander from the path, in order to avoid whatever it is that you’ve created in your mind to be so terrible and irrefutable. Fear is an illusion. It is not reality. It is something that you create in your mind. It’s arbitrary, yet is has such a big impact on the success and quality of our journey. The only way in life is the path you know you should take, unless you want life to be miserable, painful and each passing moment a drag. That “path” is irrefutable. And you’ll have to take it with or without fear. Take it without fear. Give your fear and burden to Christ. Because fearing something does not make it go away. It’s vain. Therefore let go of it. Whatever situation you’re in will still be the same situation. With fear however, its 1000x worst. So make whatever situation you’re in easier, because whether or not you have fear you’ll have to experience it anyway.

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  • Britt Tanner

    the way we act towards certain situations is almost always what Susan Anderson calls your ‘outer child’
    your outer child is a manifestation of your inner most fears and wounds. your outer child is like a mean little kid always out to sabatoge your diets, your relationships, your career i mean hello look at charlie sheen and lindsey lohan!
    check susan andersons book out TAMING YOUR OUTER CHILD on http://www.outerchild.net also on facebook and twitter @Susan_Anderson_
    its a real eye opener!

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  • Amy

    Thank you for writing this it helped me :)

  • guest

    A great post in deed,kind of describes my current situation
    has helped me a lot, would like to thank you from the core

  • Paul

    Thank you for this posting. I was surprised and in same time relieved to find that a lot of the material in this posting is also something that I have concluded in my own thoughts. Makes me feel better to know that I’m not the only one who’s like this.

  • Shane

    Okay.

    So I realize that this blog posting is years old. But I Googled “inability to enjoy the present for fear of the future” and it brought me here. And I have to say that EVERY WORD IN THIS RESONATED WITH ME.

    I have had this exact same conversation with myself in the past month. You see, I recently got married (for the second time). The reason why it bears noting that this is my second marriage is simple: the woman that I married is the single most thoughtful, loving and compassionate person I believe I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

    And I was scared to death to tell her I was a divorcé because I just knew – KNEW – she’d leave me over it.

    She found out the night before we got married. And she found out because I attempted to hide it, on all things, on our marriage license. Someone else who I forgot I’d told caught the mistake and told me about it. That was when it was all found out. So here I was, literally 14 hours before I was about to be married, having to deal with the backlash of not being truthful over something that she didn’t even care about (as I’d found out that night). What disappointed her was NOT that I’d been married before, but rather that I thought she couldn’t love me because of that, especially when between last year and now, I’d been through a harrowing year (unemployment and all of the things that go with it) and she was right beside me. She couldn’t understand why I would withhold a major life event from her for fear that she would stop loving me when her love for me was so much bigger than that.

    This post resonated with me because I am all too aware of the paralyzing effects of fear. Our minds have an incredible ability to create unrealistic paradigms and treat them as reality, and we live in those paradigms not being able to step outside of our heads and see what might happen. I almost lost a wonderful person because of that. And that alone is scary.

    Another reason why this post resonated with me is because I am really tired of being afraid. I’ve lived with fear for the better part of my life. Fear of moving on. Fear of speaking my mind. Fear of (as the author put it) being myself for fear of judgment by others. I, too, am guilty of being very hard on myself. And mostly, that’s what motivates that fear.

    So yeah, I get it. I know I’ve typed a novel. And I don’t even know if anyone will ever see it. But I definitely get it. Fear is a crippling thing.