As a young boy, to put it lightly, I certainly had my quirks. While not a “bad” kid by any means, I was certainly rather offbeat; I said unusual things, had weird interests, and was afraid of stuff that no one else was. What was one of my odd phobias, you ask? A “LeapFrog” toy; you know, one of those educational, electronic toys that helps little kids to learn their letters. For whatever reason, possibly stemming from a nightmare I could’ve had, I was terrified of the toy when it shut off automatically and said “goodbye for now!” Call me crazy, but the mere thought of that pixelated frog waving at me from his little screen and saying those three words in his low-tech voice used to make my skin crawl. Once I developed the fear, I remember refusing to go anywhere near that toy, making sure I would never hear that oh-so-horrible phrase from it again.
Just about everyone has experienced a time in which they absolutely dread an upcoming event in their lives. Whether it be a major exam one needs to take, a speech one needs to deliver, or in my case, a “scary toy” saying something in a way that didn’t sit well with four-year-old me, many are petrified by the thought of something terrible happening, at the idea that one’s whole world will come crashing down should things go even slightly wrong. As such, our fears of the unknown are often irrational, as was especially the case with the letter toy, which I knew couldn’t hurt me, yet still had a panic attack if I were to hear it turn on, bolting out of the room with my ears covered tightly and trembling in utter terror while hiding in a safer space.
This particularly became an issue around the time my younger sister, seven years my junior, was about a year-and-a-half old. That’s right, I was afraid of a baby toy when I was eight! Anyways, my parents gave the toy to my little sister as a hand-me-down in order for her to start learning the alphabet early. Obviously, I just wouldn’t have that, so I hid the thing in a deep, dark corner of our basement, where I hoped no one would ever find it. Deep down, however, I knew that it was only a matter of time before someone found it, and I would have to face my fear. Regardless, it definitely makes sense as to why I did what I did; delaying the inevitable is a common “knee-jerk reaction” amongst individuals forced to deal with an anxiety-inducing situation. It is seen when one procrastinates on studying for their midterm until the night before, when they let their classmates present their speeches before they do their’s, or when one tries to avoid hearing three simple words from a machine.
The thing is, however, what typically happens when a person puts something off until later? They end up regretting that decision. For example, because I kept running away from my fear, however silly it may have been, I didn’t actually end up overcoming it until I was eleven. Yes, ELEVEN! As one may expect at this point, my twin sister eventually found the toy’s hiding spot, and made sure I overcame my fear; by “made sure”, I mean she pinned me down against the floor in front of the toy, leaving it on and forcing me to hear it say those dreaded words. I recall struggling and screaming for help while she did this, and for the first time in years, I heard that 8-bit frog say “goodbye for now!” My initial reaction: “That was it? THAT’s what I was afraid of?!” I remember hugging my sister afterwards, thanking her for “torturing” me. It’s funny, I had spent so much time under anxiety for that moment, yet in a matter of seconds, the toy had lost all fear, and I remember wishing I had faced it sooner, much like, say, someone who bombed a test due to putting off studying.
I see this sort of phenomenon quite often, in which one worries intensely about an upcoming event, possibly avoiding anything having to do with it as a defense mechanism. However, once said occurrence has passed, regardless of how well it went overall, one thing many individuals often notice is that the event itself was not as bad as they had dreaded it would be, feeling as if a longstanding, giant weight on their shoulders has abruptly vanished into thin air. As one of my high school teachers once told me, “anticipation is always worse than realization”. Given past experiences, these words really resonated with me on a personal level, and I truly hope the same can be said for others. In most cases, excessive worrying about a situation before it actually happens is unproductive. It not only blows things way out of proportion, but I’ve also found it to actually ENCOURAGE procrastination on the matter, which in turn, will only make matters worse.
While I’m certainly not saying that one should be too laid back and not worry about anything, what I do wish to convey is that, if anything, most worrying should be done after the fact, when they have actually experienced the situation in reality, as opposed to in their minds. If a person learns to believe in themselves, take things in the moment, and not let doubt cloud their judgement, then I am certain that they can not only face their fears, but take great chances that will lead to exceptional outcomes!