by Christy Gualtieri
“The difference between jealousy and envy is kind of like this,” the young friar told me. “Imagine you’re building a sandcastle next to someone else, and you think their sandcastle is better than yours. Jealousy is wishing you had made their sandcastle. Envy is hating their sandcastle, walking over to it, and tearing it down, destroying it until there is nothing left.”
I am convinced that all the world’s hatred, confusion, jealousy, and envy in this world stems from one thing only: fear. It’s easier to spot in the bigger picture – bullies torment other children in an effort to “fit in” with their peers; xenophobes want to build walls, and racists hate, both out of fear of the Other. Religious fundamentalists commit horrible crimes against humanity out of the fear that if they don’t, they’ll be rejected by their god. Even FOMO, “fear of missing out,” become a sort of a joke that would be funny if it wasn’t so prevalent.
It’s easy to see fear all around us. We see it on the nightly news broadcasts; we scroll by it on our newsfeeds. It’s less easy to identify in ourselves.
And it seems easy to dismiss our fears as trivial, like they don’t matter – but they do. The actions that each of us express make a difference, good or bad, and affect those around us. Think about someone you know who is stressed out all the time, whose anxiety is almost visible, it’s that strong. When you’re around them, how do you feel? Now think of someone who makes you feel wonderful every time you see them. How are you affected by them?
Sometimes, when I think of all the things I’m afraid of, it takes my breath away. There are so many things to worry about. But sometimes the fog lifts and I realize that living a life of fear is no life at all. In those moments of clarity I try to remember that life is made up of more than just one worry following another. In those moments, I try to soak up the freedom I feel in feeling so unafraid, and I try to remember them the next time I feel like I’m drowning in my anxiety.
One of my favorite books, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, features one of my favorite literary quotes: “Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. It means you’re scared, really scared, badly scared, and you do the right thing anyway.”
In my experience, love is a good antidote to fear. Fear turns us inward; we obsess when we’re afraid. But when we find time to love, our eyes are opened to more than just the things that frighten us. We find we don’t have time to obsess over the things that could happen. When you’re caught in the fear trap, try to find some way to break out of it by loving: have a conversation with someone you can trust, maybe, or find a way to help another person who needs it, even if it’s something small. Try to find a way to find more time with your pet, or visit a friend with one if you don’t have one yourself – playing with animals can do wonders for a worried soul!
Finding a way to love outside yourself will help your fear and will help you find the courage you need to get through it. I don’t know what fears you’re struggling with as you read this, but maybe you can feel encouraged in this moment to know that you’re not alone. And although I wish I had something to say that would stop your worrying problem entirely, there’s not too much I can offer besides the words that life really is beautiful, and more than just one problem after another.
Until next time, be well!
Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and son, blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com, and tweets @agapeflower117. Follow PghPsych on Facebook and Twitter for daily updates, inspirational quotes, articles, and different events and causes related to good mental health!