Life Choices · Mindfulness

Second-Hand Fear

I am sure most of you have heard of second-hand smoke (SHS), which is when nonsmokers are exposed to smoke exhaled by a smoker. Here are some alarming facts about SHS.

(1) Non-smokers who breathe in SHS take in nicotine and toxic chemicals the same way smokers do; (2) There’s no safe level of exposure for second-hand smoke (SHS); (3) Second-hand smoke is known to cause cancer; (4) SHS is linked to the following in children: lymphoma, leukemia, liver cancer, and brain tumors.

While it is undeniable that SHS is extremely detrimental to one’s health, have you heard of second-hand fear (SHF)? My guess is that many people are unfamiliar with this phenomenon and how it might be affecting their daily lives.

So, what is second-hand fear (SHF)? And how can you prevent it from influencing your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?

Second-hand fear is the act, conscious or otherwise, of allowing, accepting, and adopting other people’s limitations, anxieties, and fears as one’s own. Like SHS, SHF can have a deleterious effect on one’s well-being.

Lurking beneath what appeared to be concern for my happiness, finances, and security was second-hand fear.

Earlier this year, I decided to take two months off from work to prepare for a state licensure exam that would, when passed, boost my income significantly. After not seeing me in the field for several weeks, I started receiving texts, phone calls, and emails about my well-being, for which I am grateful.

Most of those communications had good intentions. Some, however, were clearly communicated in a manner to make me second guess my decision for taking so much time off just to study. Grant it, those two months meant I would be losing ~$32k. So it was understandable why some folks would try to convince me that taking eight weeks off would be a huge mistake.

Lurking beneath what appeared to be concern as it relates to my happiness, finances, and security was second-hand fear. You see, for those individuals working in my field, many of them understood the value of being certified. They knew that to become state-cert meant earning an additional $50-100k a year. But in their minds, they could not mentally bridge the gap between taking time off (the present), and the financial advantages being certified brought with it (the future)

One person told me emphatically: “Dude, you’re crazy. I can’t afford to lose that much money.” Another person said: “My wife would kill me if she knew I entertained such thoughts.” Someone else said to me: “Can’t you just work and study, that way you don’t lose out just in case you don’t pass the test.”

Logically, those concerns made sense. The risk did seem to outweigh potential benefits or rewards. Even so, because I knew how I learned, I understood that I would not be at my peak level of cognitive functioning after working ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week. And studying one day a week simply would not suffice.

The reality is, good intention is often shrouded in and accompanied by second-hand fear (SHF). And unlike second-hand smoke, SHF is often unrecognizable and goes undetected. Although these individuals might have meant well and had good intentions, they were unwittingly projecting their insecurities, fears, and undesirable feelings/emotions onto me.

Perhaps, you too have experienced people [mis]placing their fears and doubts onto your life. How did you handle or overcome those situations?

Here are definitive steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of second-hand fear.

Love yourself. “Don’t ever allow yourself to forget how incredibly special you are, even for a single second. Without you, the world would not be as magnificent. Let yourself remember to love again, starting with you loving you.” –Miya Yamanouchi

Be kind to yourself. “Respect, Love, and Value yourself. Always remember to be good to yourself by taking care of yourself. Make yourself a priority and know that it’s okay. Don’t feel guilty for loving yourself, first! You’re just as important as anybody else.” –Stephanie Lahart

Know your value. “Know who you are. Know what you want. Know what you deserve. And don’t settle for less.” –Tony Gaskins

Don’t settle. “Don’t settle for mediocrity. Take a chance. Take a risk. Find that passion. Know what you’re really worth.” –Anonymous

Dream bigger. “If you have the audacity to dream big, then you must be prepared to do the impossible.”

Live life on your own terms. “The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins.” –Bob Moawad




12 thoughts on “Second-Hand Fear

  1. I have inhaled SHF many times and, as in my intermittent smoking days, I’m sure I dished it a few times too (though thankfully, not to my children). I’ll bet SHF is also masking a bit of envy, and ego-protecting in the form of excuse-making in those exhaling it.

    What a wonderful post! Your shields/tips for avoiding being the victim of SHF are so inspiring! You sound like such a hard worker and future-thinker/planner. My husband is the same in those regards. I really admire that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you, Nadine! I think it’s safe to say that we have all had our share of both inhaling and exhaling SHF. For many, it’s our upbringing and environment that exposed us to the harsh realities of SHF. And unless it’s brought to our attention or we become aware through education, the cycle of toxicity keeps on repeating.

      Kudos to your husband for prioritizing his priorities. I’m sure someone very close to him had a role in that…lol. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are super kind with that last statement. I honestly loved it so much and it warmed my heart. But it was probably his mother. 😄

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Years go by, yet your words still inspire me.
    Thank you for sharing
    & thank you for reminding us of who we are.
    You are appreciated
    & I hope all is well Josiah.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Elaine! 👋🏽 I trust that you are doing fine and living your best life. 😊 I appreciate you and your kind words. And yes, all is well in my sphere…staying upbeat and positive.


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