One of the things that stops us from being ourselves is when we think that the world is out to get us. Or not even just the world. The people around us. Our coworkers. Our neighbors. Members of our family. Truly, if you live in a state of fear of those around you, it’s going to be pretty hard for you to spread your wings and be all that you need to be.
Now, I want to make a clear distinction here: it’s when we think the world/coworkers/neighbors/family/friends/etc. are out to get us. Now, if you believe this inherently, stop and think deeper for a moment … are they really out to get you?
Although I can’t speak to every individual situation, the vast majority of the time the answer to this question is NO. They’re not out to get you. There may be other reasons why you might be in potential danger and need to protect yourself, certainly. But most often this does not spring from a direct desire to harm you. Rather,
- You have something another person wants;
- Something you are doing is perceived as bothersome, hurtful, or harmful to someone else;
- You may be perceiving incorrectly what the other person’s motives are.
The thing that underlies all this when fears come about is lack of good communication. The other person that you think is out to get you in reality is not thinking about you – they are thinking about themself, their wants, their needs, and so on. But because of the cloud of inherent mistrust that hangs over one or both of you, there is no way to figure this out between you. So naturally, as a protective mechanism, many of us default to assuming the worst as a precaution, just in case we are in danger.
This is a useful strategy to a point when we have proof that we are not supposed to trust someone – for example, a coworker with a reputation for messing with others, or a narcissistic family member. But on the whole, in many situations, this level of vigilance harms more than it does good. Constantly thinking/acting as though you may become a victim creates and sends out a lot of negative energy – more than is warranted considering how often people actually have harmonious self-interests that they can work on together. By remaining in a closed, fearful mode of thinking, we miss out on all that.
Of course, there are many good reasons why we fall into being afraid of others. Bad past experiences, inability to feel safe for one or another reason, not to mention the fact that modern society’s media and communication channels are chock full of stories about horrible things that are happening every day – crimes, violent attacks, scams, disasters, and the like. That shit gets magnified way out of proportion to its actual everyday impact on people’s lives, which means we give it more space inside our head than it actually deserves.
There is nothing wrong (in fact, there is everything right) with a fine-tuned, nuanced vigilance that does take actual dangers into account. For example, in a neighborhood with higher levels of robberies and muggings, don’t wear expensive clothing, or flashy jewelry, or anything else that shows off wealth. But this kind of situational adjustment is very different from the generalized notion so many of us carry around that wherever you go, whatever you do, you should be afraid, because they might be out to get you.
Let’s turn this subject around for a second.
Have you ever thought about how many potential friends you have out there? People who, if they saw you doing something constructive, something to better your life or the lives of others, would support you and cheer you on? This is how fundraisers and solidarity drives work. Have you ever looked at those people that embark on far-flung projects and wondered how they are able to attract the support they get? Just where do all those people and resources come from, seemingly out of thin air, that enable these people to do things like travel around the world, or start some kind of business or nonprofit in some unusual place, opening up opportunities you could never see unless you dared to look beyond your current horizons?
Sure, it’s true that you’ll get into bad situations with people sometimes. But the [often unspoken] flip side to this is the following: if we know that there is a good, healthy, healing way to interact with another person, nobody but the most insane of us would choose to interact otherwise. That is a law of human interaction that you can count on.
If you aren’t feeling the truth of what I’m saying here, maybe you and those around you aren’t communicating well enough to figure out better ways to interact with each other. Or maybe you have a few too many insane people around you! That can happen sometimes. But that means it’s time to change who’s around you, rather than shutting down.