Friday, July 1, 2016

Moving Past Fear

Dictionary.com lists the first definition of fear as

a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

For a long time I let fear control much of what I did. Many of the fears I had involved others and what they might say or think about me as I was trying whatever task was at hand. I stayed way too long in a crappy situation because of my fear of being labeled a failure and because of my own belief that if I couldn't fix things then I was a failure. I'm not sure where this fear came from, and why I was so driven by what others thought of me (perhaps my own struggles with my self esteem?), but I was afraid to try so many things.

Then there were some fears that didn't have anything to do with other people. For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of thunderstorms and heights. My mom swears that my fear of thunderstorms comes from the day I was born. It was an unusually hot and humid day (which means it HAD to be bad if it was unusually hot and humid for a PA summer!), and that evening our area experienced some of the worst storms my mom can remember. It didn't matter what stories or scientific facts my parents told me about the thunder and lightning, if there was a storm I was sleeping on their floor. While I'm getting better as I get older, some storms still get my heart racing.

I'm not sure where the fear of heights came from, but it's pretty bad in some cases. I have a really hard time walking up steps with open backs. I can't stand on somebody's loft in their house and look down over their first floor. I love flying and roller coasters, but please don't ask me to walk up the steps inside the Statue of Liberty or get up on a ladder. Or on a step stool, really. Yeah - it's that bad.

I've had a pretty long bucket list to which I've kept adding instead of crossing off. Many of these items remained on the list because I've been too afraid of the task itself or of what people would think of me while I was doing it. Two examples include doing a mud run and going zip lining. My thoughts ranged from, "What would people think?" to, "I'm too big to do a mud run," to, "Zip lining sounds fun, but I'm too afraid of heights so I'll never do it."

Well, low and behold, with the right motivation I am discovering that I can overcome, or at least work through, my fears. When asked by an amazing young lady, I very quickly signed up for and completed a challenging mud run. It wasn't about competing, it wasn't about going fast, it was all about helping Sarina meet her goal. And with that single-minded focus I didn't really care how I did everything or what anybody else said, our group just made sure Sarina finished.

Zip lining wasn't quite so easy. There was no other person to focus on as I completed the tasks of climbing up onto the platforms, crossing the bridges, and jumping out into the forest. It was all about me, my willingness to trust that I'd be okay, and to not worry about what others might think. So as a special celebration for our birthdays, my friend and I signed up to go zip lining at Refreshing Mountains. My friend knew I was scared and offered to cancel, but I said no way. He constantly asked if I was okay and cheered me on as I completed each task. Our guides couldn't have been more supportive, nor could the family of five that were with us in our group. These three kids and their grandparents could have easily made fun of the lady who was chicken, but instead they celebrated each of my little victories, including the first time I stopped hugging the tree in the middle of the platform! Each jump and landing helped me build more and more confidence until I was able to complete the final task with just a little nudge from our guide. I'm still in shock that I did it, but I actually think I want to go back and try it again. We'll see. 

The fact is this: I crossed both of these items off my list. I did it! I still am afraid of heights, I still am not super confident in myself. But each little victory helps me believe more and more in myself and become more and more willing to try things that I once never thought I'd be able to do.


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