Sometimes I Worry: Thinking for the Worst

Nathaniel Marroquin, Reporter

One of the lessons that teachers often tell students is the importance of learning as opposed to getting the right answer or that asking questions is a sign of intelligence. This lesson is meant to encourage students to participate in the class without fear of being made fun of or belittled, but to me, this hasn’t ever made me fully comfortable to answer the teacher’s questions.
I understand the teacher’s motivations for doing this and I don’t blame them for teaching this lesson because it does make sense to a point. If the teacher says that they won’t judge a student for a wrong answer, then that should reassure the students to participate in class because they wouldn’t face any judgment. We devote a lot of time in school thinking, whether consciously or unconsciously, about being judged, sometimes to an unhealthy degree.
Because of this preconception with status, I don’t blame the teacher’s for doing this and I respect them for it even if it feels like we don’t always follow their teaching. Sometimes, it feels like teachers assign a spectrum to what mistakes we are allowed to make. This makes sense to a certain extent since there are some mistakes that students shouldn’t be making due to how extensively teachers attempt to prevent making them, but this exception kind of places pressure on me. I don’t want to make a mistake that the teacher deems unworthy of making. Because I don’t want the teacher to think I don’t know the material, I avoid speaking, since I really don’t want to make the teacher mad.
I bring all of this up because it touches on a problem of mine which is my fear. In the most unserious of situations, I fear that what I say to someone will make them annoyed or offended. In the classroom and around my teachers, it is the underlying fear that they believe I don’t pay attention in class and don’t know the material. I tend to avoid talking to new people because I have no idea what their first impression of me is. Because of this thought process, I fear taking risks altogether due to me not knowing the aftermath of my actions.
Fear is dangerous like that because it always keeps us safe at the cost of never taking actions that go against our preexisting beliefs or comfort. Because fear is necessary to our survival, our brain makes sure to prioritize it often at the cost of risk-taking, and once fear is established, it can be hard to break depending on how we choose to feed it.
This isn’t to say that fear isn’t completely unfounded at times. It is what keeps us alive and for that I understand its value. However, that doesn’t mean that we should rule our lives through fear. Risk-taking is necessary sometimes and can be rewarding, while not every situation or choice we fear is that important.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your teacher gets mad at you answering incorrectly or has their own preconceptions about you. Unless they’re really mean about it or you want a scholarship from them, you’ll think about it for a day before it gets shoved to the back of your mind as a memory.
Instead of living by fear, I am trying to learn how to live with caution instead. Living cautiously is better than living fearfully because caution allows us to take risks while keeping in mind the benefits and negatives of our choices.