Much like perfectionism, but even more so, xenophobia is truly the enemy of a life less ordinary.
Commonly interpreted as a fear of the unknown or of anything foreign, xenophobia is often blamed for the irrational hatred of a race, gender, culture, or sexual orientation that is not our own.
While having a touch of xenophobia is a common human trait, giving into it severely limits the person and the experiences he or she will have. It may stop a person from traveling to other countries or make them extremely miserable while they are there.
The old cliche of the tourist who’s upset that life in a foreign country is not exactly like home is a classic example of xenophobia, but it’s certainly not the worst.
If we take the word xenophobia to mean “fear of the unknown” rather than “hatred of the foreign or foreigner,” I experience xenophobia quite often, especially when I travel.
I just booked a trip to China. The itinerary is quite extensive, and after the initial excitement of booking this trip wore off, I began to experience mild panic. Mostly about the sleeper trains, on which I will spend four nights. People seem to get packed in like sardines…how will a claustrophobe like me survive?
Answer: I will see a psychologist and a physician, if need be–anything to finally combat this silly claustrophobia once and for all. There’s no way I’m letting it ruin this dream trip! (However, I’m not sure if anyone can cure my fear of the stinky, messy squat toilets on those trains…yikes.)
Here is my cure for xenophobia:
Confront: Ask yourself what’s really bothering you, what you’re really afraid of. You may be able to resolve the fear just by thinking yourself through it.
Immerse: The best way to get over xenophobia is to immerse yourself in whatever you’re afraid of. If you’re right in the middle of it, it won’t be the unknown anymore, will it? I have a certain older relative, who shall remain nameless, that occasionally protests that the entire world now seems to be gay. I am guessing that if she made a few more gay friends, she really wouldn’t care as much. A simple example, but it works–if you love someone, you’re not afraid of them. And you certainly don’t feel hatred for them.
Just do it: Afraid of finding your way around a congested city where no one speaks English? Put yourself in a situation where you have no choice, like I just did by booking this trip.
The more you face your fears, the stronger you will be. And the better person you’ll become for it. Of course, if you’re experiencing a true phobia like my claustrophobia, with the lovely resulting panic attacks, you may need professional help. Which is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of.
Have you ever experienced xenophobia? How did you overcome it?