Fear is a topic that has recently presented itself into my conscious realm. We all have fears, right? Sometimes, we’re aware of them (e.g. flying, driving with a backseat driving uncle, lettuce after an salmonella outbreak). Sometimes, we become aware of them when we’re face to face with them – here’s a ladder, climb up 100 feet. No, thank you. Sometimes, we have no idea they exist and we subconsciously label it as a non-preference (e.g. I won’t like that _____ (insert anything, new food, new way of doing something, new places, etc).
I’ve been contemplating fear lately. Where does it come from? What fears do I have? How have these fear been holding me back?
I used to fear heights a lot. I avoided overcoming this fear even when presented with opportunities to do so in the past. A number of years ago, there was a four unit apartment building I was working with my significant other, at the time, to rehabilitate and she went right up to the roof on a ladder from the ground level. My fear was more directly related to the very steep angle than height. Fear still had a grip on me in that moment. I would still say, yikes to that one! In my last job, I was presented with a few opportunities to overcome that fear. I was in a fear smashing frame of mind and tackled it with vigor. The ladders were not a 100 feet (30 meters) high but they were high (30 feet, 10 meters) and on top of office buildings with lots of noisy, scary equipment. That’s not an environment for a natural introvert who prefers quiet libraries on the ground floor. But I did it.
Sensing the fear and knowing other people would do the same and have done the same in the past helped me overcome my fear. People have been on this earth for thousands of years and built some very large things. If they’re human and did it, why can’t I? That was my thought process in the moment that helped me challenge myself to push past the previous boundaries of comfortability. It felt really good to overcome that moment. Having pushed past it allowed me to keep pushing past other fears as well in the day. It helped build a momentum that helped me overcome more of my social anxiety as well.
One time, when I was in Egypt, I was presented with a fear I didn’t know I had. There was a tour that went inside a pyramid. Deep inside. Huge, massive, ancient blocks of stone on each side of me, below me and most critically — above my head. I could die any moment in there! That was my critical inner voice during a few seconds of the tour and once I was able to recognize it was merely a thought and I don’t have to believe it or listen to it, I was able to let it go and actually enjoy the moment. Putting myself into action by moving was the only way I overcame that one. There were so many people outside of the pyramid and I wonder now if some of them were struggling with fear. It can be debilitating.
Coming out of the pyramid, I felt like I had conquered more than just a tour. I had conquered more of myself. By letting a thought just be a thought, recognizing it, seeing it there, acknowledging it and having the awareness that I did not have to react or act based on that particular thought helped me push through. Coming out on the other side after a self-guided tour of a hot, ancient, confined space, I felt alive (see blog post photo for 1,000 words of that feeling).
Whenever my knee jerk reaction is to say, no, I do my best to question myself by asking why. This is the part of the example where it’s sometimes an unconscious label. Is it because we, “know” we won’t like trying it? Is it because we, “think” we might not like to do that? Is it because, any other reason or rationalization thought we can come up with to avoid doing the thing? Perhaps. I used to say this a lot about food related opportunities. I used to despise mushrooms when I was a little boy. I might still be a little boy and now I like mushrooms.
The ladder on the house is one example of many more that I can’t readily recall. Because I did not meet that fear with courage, I was presented with many other challenges that year and subsequent years and it affected many facets of my life. I can’t know with certainty that I wouldn’t have had a divorce a year or two later, but it does affect our behavior in how we continue to stagnate or grow.
I believe we will continue to experience the same fear in different ways until we overcome it. It is for our highest evolution of ourselves and the whole. Had I not overcome the ladder at work, there would have been another challenge. Since, I did overcome that fear, I was presented with numerous other fears in my life personally and professionally that I needed to address. For me, this is one small sampling of life. Life presents us with so many opportunities to grow, learn and be our best selves.
Fear can drive us to new heights or decimate our desires. For me, I just need to remember – less thinking, more doing.
What will you do to overcome fear today?