“I’m scared every time I go into the ring, but it’s how you handle it. What you have to do is plant your feet, bite down on your mouthpiece and say, ‘Let’s go.’ ” These are the words of Mike Tyson. To think about it, that’s what it boils down to: ‘Let’s go.’ Action is the most potent antidote to fear.

If you look around, you’ll discover that most people spend their entire lives in fear. Many are plagued with the fear of loss, of rejection, of failure, some also have the fear of getting old, but this not what I’m talking about. I’ve observed there’s a fear that easily dwarfs all these put together. And, no, I don’t think that the fear of death is the greatest fear, it may be the most inevitable but we don’t live our lives constantly worrying about death. Do we? Sooner or later, everyone accepts it.

In fact, I once read an interview by a doctor who worked in a hospice. He said what amazed him the most was that in his career spanning 40 years, he never saw fear or struggle in the eyes of a terminally ill patient. They lived in acceptance and their faces had the peace and glow of a sleeping child, especially in their final moments.

The base fear I’m alluding to is not instinctive, it’s not innate, we are not born with it, it’s something we learn, subtly, steadily, slowly. It is so powerful that over a period of time it becomes a part of our nature. If life was a language and each type of fear was a letter, the one I’m referring to would be the alphabet — it contains all other fears.

It’s the fear of happiness. Yes, that’s our primary fear.

From the moment you are born, you are weighed on a scale of comparison. Teachers, parents, preachers, relatives, peers, friends, society — sometimes with all the good intentions — constantly remind you of your shortcomings. We are eternally analyzing ourselves not against our own progress but against the capabilities of others.

He dances better than I do, she’s more intelligent, he’s stronger, she’s prettier, he’s richer and so forth. This comparison is rarely inspiring and mostly demeaning. It makes you feel you belong to the lowest rung of the ladder. We live in a world where not effort but attainment is rewarded.

If you score a second place and miss the first by the tiniest possible fraction, it’s not good enough. You are unlikely to be congratulated for your individual performance, instead you are consoled that at least you got the second place. This comparison makes you feel that you are not quite there yet. That your effort wasn’t good enough. And this has an incriminating effect on our well-being.

With the passage of time, this feeling — I’m not good enough — prepares a perennial battleground of two opposing forces, fear and self-affirmation. On the one hand, we try to console ourselves by way of self-affirmation that I can’t be that bad, at least I got the second place, I deserve some happiness too. It makes us touchy and it makes us edgy, we become averse to even constructive criticism and put up a wall of defense to protect ourselves, effectively shutting out many good things in the process.

On the other hand, the fear of happiness makes us feel I can’t possibly attain the success I used to dream of, I can’t be worthy of such pleasures and joy, of so much love and care. When good things do happen, we think it’s luck, or plain fluke, that we couldn’t possibly deserve this goodness. This is the fear of happiness. And, it stops most people from chasing their dreams, it’s the obstacle to realizing their full potential because after being put down for so long, they begin to believe that they are not the candidates for happiness.

Don’t let this happen to you. It’s normal to have disagreements, it’s fine to even have arguments sometimes, but it’s not okay to be dismissed. If you want to rise above the fear of happiness, so you may live your life to the fullest, don’t allow anyone to belittle you. And if they do, they shouldn’t be a part of your life. Distance yourself. Find a way.

The fear of happiness comes from not believing in yourself, it comes from taking yourself for granted. And, if you allow others to treat you a dump, to take you for granted then let me tell you, they will take you for granted. Observe the successful and happy people around, and you’ll discover a common trait: they treat themselves with respect. They are not afraid of being happy, and you won’t be either if you learn to love yourself. Very few people enjoy happiness, most are afraid of losing it, and in that fear, they almost always lose it.

A priest was waiting in line at a serviced gas station just before a long weekend. The attendants were trying their best but there were just too many cars. Finally, his turn came.

“Reverend,” said the attendant, “I’m sorry about the wait. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”
“Tell me about it,” the priest quipped. “It’s the same in my business.”

What are you waiting for? Life will go on, time will continue to tick, if you don’t put aside your fear of happiness now, you may never muster the courage to do it later. Gandhi once said, “The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” If you let the enemy walk over you, they will do it. Fear instills a feeling of contempt and hatred, what’s worse, fear makes you either obsessively self-conscious or obnoxiously self-critical; either way, it makes you feel inadequate.

You deserve every ounce of happiness life has to offer. Why? Because the fact that you are breathing and living means Nature wants you. Universe wants you. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone screws up at some point, it doesn’t mean you are a disaster. Let not anyone drill fear in you by making you feel any less. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Don’t be afraid of your immense potential, your happiness; go claim it.

Bite down on your mouthpiece and say, ‘Let’s go.’