August 21, 2014
Not so long ago I had a conversation with a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen for a while, with our only interaction over the last 10 years or so being via social media. We were talking about how life had changed since having children and looking back at some of the reckless things we did when we were younger.
She said “I guess you have always been quite fearless” and I agreed, taking it as a bit of a compliment.
But that phrase has stuck with me, because I often say to other women “What’s stopping you, what are you afraid of?” yet in all honesty I am generally quite fearful most days.
When I sign up for a race I fear I won’t finish it
When I write a new blog post I fear nobody will read it
When I launch a new venture I fear it will be a flop
When I meet new people I fear they will find out I am really a freud
Yet it never stops me from doing any of these things. Why is that?
I guess it’s because when I was little I believed my life wouldn’t amount to much (I was told that often enough) so when I finally reached the point where I could make things happen myself, my greatest fear was that my doubters would be right. So whenever I saw a new opportunity I gave it a shot, even if it did scare the hell out of me and even if I did fear that I would fail.
- Going away to University
- Buying my own home
- Deciding to run a marathon
- Launching a new business
All massive risks which felt hugely scary at the time, but paid off in the end.
After the drama that was Sunday’s Tough Mudder I have really been thinking about the things I am scared of, and the list is quite long
- The Dark
- Confined Spaces
- Letting people down
- Being laughed at
There were so many moments during those four and a half hours where I truly was petrified, the kind of fear that has your heart rate racing, your brain whirling and your legs wobbling…yet I carried on from one terrifying obstacle to the next.
What was it that drove me on? Knowing that others would be waiting to hear if I had failed or not? Letting other people down? Or my fear of not achieving something I had set for myself?
There were two key moments for me that day where I was hit with complete fear. The first while climbing a wall knowing I didn’t have the upper body strength to get back down safely, I wobbled at the top saying I couldn’t do it…a member of my team convinced me I could, even though he didn’t know me and had no idea if I could get down safely. The second occasion was jumping off a platform into murky water with an audience of hundreds. As I queued to get to the top of the platform there was a lady at the top paralysed by fear, she kept saying “OK I will go next…no, no I can’t” and then she would chicken out and move behind the next person, she was visibly shaken and on the verge of tears. By the time I go to the top she had decided she couldn’t do it and climbed back the way she came. I was scared, I was really scared. My legs felt like jelly and everything was moving in slow motion but I knew I would do it one way or another. I waited for a guy on a mega phone to count me down 3-2-1 and I just closed my eyes and jumped. On both occasions my body felt the fear, but my mind overruled it and pushed my body into automatic and just got the job done.
So is this grin and bear it attitude to fear healthy?
I tested this idea on Tuesdays #AskFatty Twitter chat with the topic being that of facing fears and it was interesting listening to the ladies various fears, everything from being compared to others, coming last in a race and the most popular fear…being laughed at or abused.
When ladies told me they were prevented from achieving their running goals because of their fear, things like signing up for a race or joining a running club I posed the question “Whats the worst that can happen?” and it made them think about the real worst case scenario, which most of the time could be tolerated, with the end goal still worth taking the risk in the long run after all.
For some types of fear, facing it helps to minimise it for next time round but for others its just amplified…childbirth for example…wow…I know if ever I have another child the fear of going through what I went through first time will play on my mind, likewise for another Tough Mudder.
The fear never seems to go away…its ever present in my life. I wonder if it will always be this way or whether there will come a point where I stop setting myself such huge challenges, and opt for a quieter life.