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The Benefits of Being Scared

The Benefits of Being ScaredBeing scared isn’t always a negative. You can be scared in many different ways.

There is the “scary movie” kind of scared, where you don’t know what’s going to pop out on the screen. There’s the jumping out of a plane kind of scared, where you fear real death and your adrenaline is pumping loudly. Lastly, there is the taking a chance kind of scared, where you have to address someone or something that’s anxiety-producing and you don’t know if the outcome will be favorable.

Now, with a scary movie, we look forward to being scared. We want it; anticipate it. We set the mood. Shut off the lights, grab the popcorn and get ready to be entertained.

When jumping out of a plane, we are excited about the experience even if it is anxiety-producing. It gives some people a huge rush to look death in the face, which later can make you feel invincible.

The taking a chance kind of scared is a little different. This is the kind of fear we don’t look forward to. We avoid it at any cost and dread it all the way through. It’s no surprise that public speaking is the no. 1 fear of most people. Why? Because you are willingly putting yourself out there for others to judge you — and who wants to do that? However, this kind of fear, I believe, is the most rewarding and can help teens build self-esteem and confidence.

This type of fear shows vulnerability. The long-term payoff is far more rewarding than watching a scary movie or jumping out of a plane. Why? The honesty required is raw and real. It provides growth and it also involves approval from others. This is real fear! People can judge, laugh, shun or embarrass you for your words.

However, after the interaction you feel relieved, elated and maybe even invigorated. These experiences build upon one another. After your first scary interaction, the next one isn’t so bad. You then take bigger chances, with bigger payoffs, along the way.

Remember that typically, the actual experience is never worse than how you have imagined it in your mind. It probably is quite the opposite. It could go terribly well and leave you feeling heard, appreciated and accepted. We need to teach teens to take a chance and get scared like this more often.

Teens: Run for class president in front of your school. Try out for a sports team for the first time. Tell a friend how you are honestly feeling. Embrace the fear.

Parents: You can help, too. Start kids out early. Have them answer the home phone, ask a sales person behind the counter for help or place the family order at the drive-thru. For a 10- or 11-year-old this can be scary. It helps them grow and build independence.

If these types of actions and interaction become commonplace, then the fear is gone. They will be less self-conscious, less likely to overthink situations and more likely to just “do it” the next time. Then, they can move on to scarier (age-appropriate) actions in high school, college and even within their careers.

When was the last time you did something scary?

The Benefits of Being Scared

Dr. Carol Langlois

Dr. Carol Langlois is a former University Associate Provost and Dean, trained therapist, researcher and writer. Her book, Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image is a compilation of interviews with teens girls on the topic of self-esteem which also offers an effective and practical system designed to RAISE (Resilience, Attitude, Independence, Self-Respect and Empowerment) teen self-esteem. Check out the book trailer for Girl Talk: Boys, Bullies and Body Image. In addition, an adaptation of her book has been put on stage by Suze Allen and 3Girls Theatre Company of San Francisco. You can find Dr. Langlois on Facebook and Twitter.

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APA Reference
Langlois, D. (2018). The Benefits of Being Scared. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 20 Oct 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.