Former first Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, famously said that we should all “Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You”. It’s a quote that’s often plastered across Instagram accounts set to inspire us, but why should we be pushing ourselves to do things we find unpleasant.
Fear causes us a great amount of anxiety, surely facing them every day will only make the days tougher to deal with and certainly wouldn’t attribute to a happier life. It’s true, staying within your comfort zone will certainly make for an easy life, but I think that would be a life with limits. Avoiding situations which might cause us fear and anxiety means you’re not truly living life.
There was a short time in my life where my fears stopped me doing simple, things like going out with my friends. The overwhelming fear and anxiety was so hard to cope with that it was easier to stay in and do nothing than have to confront those seemingly uncontrollable emotions. Over the years I have learnt to deal with those emotions, and now more than ever I possess this stubbornness to not let fear hold me back.
Stepping out of our comfort zone makes us more productive and more prepared for new and unexpected changes in life, because let’s face it there are so many things that even the biggest control freaks out there can’t predict. Change only comes about by pushing boundaries and challenging the norm; if your norm is a fear you will only change that if you push right past it and even stick a middle finger up at it on the way if you like. I bet you feel so good afterwards, I promise.
I am scared of heights. Not an unusual or irrational fear (impending death definitely worth avoiding), however one that does hold me back. My legs go to absolute jelly walking over bridges where you can see plummeting depth below, hyperventilating as I have to walk past a floor to ceiling window in a sky scrapper meeting room. Not so life limiting you might think… but then again, I’m a rock climber.
I love rock climbing and yet I have been reduced to tears by fear 20 metres up and I have seen my progression grind to a halt by my inability to move past this terror. It’s strange, it creeps up on me, I can be climbing just fine but all it takes is one challenging move and I just can’t go any further. It’s frustrating and I get annoyed at myself, I’m roped on, where do I think I’m going to go? Yet I feel sick, my thoughts race with the only thing I can think about being safely back on the ground.
Some days I deal with it better than others and I am able to push through. The rush of pushing past that fear, getting to the top is the best feeling in the world making me feel like I can do just about anything. Other days I can’t push past and I know ultimately I don’t climb more difficult routes because I’m scared of coming off the wall. It’s a battle that I will continue to have with myself. The important thing is that I keep trying to push past this fear. The feeling of winning over my fear by far out weights that of being scared.
To keep going back on the wall again and again knowing that I might be scared or fail to get to the top makes me more determined. That is something that I take with me beyond the climbing wall. Facing my fear has helped me to separate myself from the possibility of humiliation that comes with failure, not just with climbing but in many areas of my life.
When faced with new opportunities do fear rejection or failure, try to jump in with both feet because I guarantee you will experience great satisfaction from succeeding. And even if it doesn’t work out you will have put another brick in that wall of resilience around you so you can bounce right back and go in again stronger.
So whether deciding whether to apply for that new job that you’re not quite sure if you’d be good at, or talking to that person you see every day on the bus but never quite say hello to, just go for it. Because who knows, something great might happen, but I sure as hell know it won’t if you continue to let your fears control you.