In our society, there is an epidemic of fear. Fear of social rejection, fear of mockery, fear of being cast as the odd one out. The crippling concern many have for judgement inflicted on them has left a number of bright minds silenced. It’s time we put an end to this epidemic.

We have all seen it before: A good friend with a brilliant idea, too scared to share it with the world. They will voice their informed opinions but only from behind closed doors. They speak where they feel safe or where they have no fear for disdain. At this point, the issue isn’t that people are afraid they will be shunned for where they stand on hot-button issues. The problem is more so that people are worried the world will associate them with the groups and causes they support.

Earlier this week, our opinions editor discussed a recent guest column published in the Alligator with a friend of hers who also happens to write a column for the section. The piece in question was about offering 24-hour access to the morning-after pill, more commonly known as Plan B, on the UF campus. She and her friend cooed about the idea presented in the column and agreed that giving women at UF the ability to obtain the pill at all times would help to further ensure unwanted pregnancy.

The conversation continued, and her friend revealed although she thought it was a marvel idea and something that should be discussed more often, she probably would not feel comfortable writing a piece about it with her name attached to it. “I wouldn’t want people to read it and assume I’d taken the morning-after pill,” she said. Despite the fact she’d never taken it and that there is no shame whatsoever in doing so, the fear of judgement remained.

This anxiety held her back. And it continues to hold plenty of others back from sharing their opinions as well. Even when people do share their ideas, they often revert to prefacing their opinions with disclaimers like, “I’m not gay, but I support gay rights,” or, “I wouldn’t get an abortion myself, but I do think women should have the right to choose to have one.” These clauses offer little aid in expressing one’s opinion, and, in fact, they often stifle the message they try to get across.

When people distance themselves from a cause or a group of individuals, they offer a directive which insinuates they have diminishing respect for the groups they discuss. They want them to be happy and live freely but do not want to be thought of as a part of them. Not only is this practice disrespectful, but it often weakens people’s opinions in the process.

If we are ever going to effectively communicate our ideas in a way that will ignite change and make people listen, we need to lose the element of fear.

We understand this is something easier said than done. It’s human nature to worry about the way you are perceived, and it’s something each of us struggles with. Nonetheless, change will never happen if we muzzle our opinions by alluding to the shame we assume accompanies certain groups of people. And it definitely won’t happen if we stay silent entirely.

Please, dear reader, find your courage. If you have an opinion, it’s worthy of being heard. It’s as simple as that. Stop worrying about the way the world will see you, and instead focus on crafting competent and powerful messages that don’t further unreasonable stigma.