Fear is a primal emotion. Everyone has been scared. Even in adulthood, everyone is scared of something. People try to couch their fears inside rationality—nest them in a space of solace—so as not to have to realize them. This doesn’t mean they are fearless, it means they are protecting themselves.
There is only one known way to be fearless — be a child.
Children are not inherently fearful. They don’t know how to be. Think about it. Think about what scares you as an adult and why it scares you.
Perhaps you’ve lost something—or someone. Perhaps you’ve been fired, or cheated on, or experienced a near-death event. Perhaps you’ve seen one too many Jason Voorhees movies. Whatever the case, something scares you. It is something you’re aware of—aware of enough to implement protections against it.
But as a child, most haven’t seen fear. Some have. Unfortunately there are always those that have been raised in an environment based on fear, even if unintentionally by the parents or guardians. For most children, however, they don’t know how to be fearful nor should they.
A child will jump off the countertop for fun, not realizing that he or she is risking the bone integrity of their ankles in doing so. A child will call a fat person fat, not understanding that the person may take offense to this, may feel shame, or may react in a retaliatory way. There are countless other examples.
Because most children haven’t experienced true fear, they will try virtually anything—say virtually anything—do virtually anything, until they experience an emotional repercussion.
This is the saddest part of all childhood. When a child becomes fearful.
We should be free to do or say or think whatever we want. We are, politically…but also we’re not. And we all know it. We know what scares us and it isn’t an arbitrary life form from a bad childhood memory based on a movie—like an alien or a murderer or a whale—it’s from a real-life event that manifested in an inherently disappointing way and the emotion, not the event itself is what scares us. It’s not a fear of a thing, it’s a fear of a feel.
It’s shame or remorse or guilt or anger or betrayal or something similar. That is what scares us—our emotional reaction to a stimulus, a reaction which we predict based on our experience.
Children don’t have this, they learn it.
All children will learn it. It is inevitable. Everyone is fearful in their own right in time. Just like children aren’t born as racists or misogynists, fear too is a learned behavior based on environment and emotional experience.
Young children are fearless. Learn from them while you can, because they grow up to be just like us. And that is something to actually fear.