Pushing Past Your Fear
May 25, 2016 by FlexPro
A number of years ago, there was a TV show called Fear Factor in which the contestants competed against each other by performing scary, dangerous and often disgusting stunts. In order to win they first had to get through the designated stunt (not everyone did), then they were graded on how well they performed it (fastest time, farthest distance etc.). Stunts were often outrageous and tested the participants both mentally and physically. They could be asked to hang off of a helicopter, immerse their body in a box of snakes or eat live bugs. I’m sure they were fully aware of what they could be asked to do when they signed on, but I doubt even the bravest of them could have fathomed sitting in a tub of spiders or rats. It’s amazing what someone can get themselves to do for a $50,000 prize.
For the rest of us though, it’s highly unlikely that we’re being offered large sums of money to overcome our fears. Most of us have “something” that puts us on edge – something that we fear. It could be in any degree from something that makes us mildly uncomfortable to something that is completely debilitating. Some of the most common anxiety causing phobias include the fear of heights, flying, spiders, snakes and germs, with dogs, injections, social situations, thunderstorms and closed-in spaces rounding out the top ten. Chances are at least one of these items might make you a little squeamish. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 10% of adults are affected by some sort of phobia.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a fear of water and only learned how to swim at age 33 when my kids started swimming lessons. As much as I dreaded it I knew I needed to be able to hold my own in the water, as least as well as my kids – for their safety and mine. I was able to pass the private lessons test at the “Y”, but have continued to foster my fear by avoiding actually having to swim. (And yes, I recognize the irony of the pool in my backyard.) I’m perfectly happy poolside, dipping my toes in and wading as long as my feet can touch bottom. Fast forward to my latest family vacation where we booked a charter boat snorkeling trip that would take us to four different locales to snorkel. The first place we dove was probably a little too rough for someone with my trepidation, but I jumped in anyway. I ended up having to be rescued by the captain and getting a bit cut up on the rocks. For obvious reasons, I opted out of the next two stops and enjoyed the view from the boat instead. The final stop of the tour was a cove with much calmer water. I desperately wanted to be able to enjoy the experience as much as the rest of my family so I made the decision to try it again. With the extra help of a noodle, and the captain in the water as my snorkel coach nearby, I did it! Though I was still afraid, and was not the most graceful snorkeler, I was able to experience the joy of seeing sea life and now understand why people love snorkeling so much. Thank goodness for perseverance, determination and the strong desire to overcome my fear. I’m so thrilled to have been able to be a participant and not just a spectator!
One of the motivators for me to stand up to my fear was a book I recently read again called “Feel the Fear…and Do It Anyway”, by Susan Jeffers. Generally, I’m not a dare devil, jump out an airplane (or off a boat) type of person, but I was reminded of Jeffer’s book and decided to give it another read. I love her advice to tell myself, “Whatever happens to me, given any situation, I can handle it”, which is a great affirmation that helps to conquer any fear. Jeffer’s explains, “… I know that some fear is instinctual and healthy and keeps us alert to trouble. The rest…the part that holds us back from personal growth…is inappropriate and destructive and perhaps can be blamed on our conditioning.” Throughout the book she offers insight and techniques regarding overcoming our fears and not letting them hold us back.
In life and in work, we are often filled with fear about something. It can be worry regarding switching jobs, public speaking or driving on the expressway. It really doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is what you do with it. Do you shy away from the feelings, avoid all situations that could trigger anxiety causing episodes or meet these challenges head on? I’ve always been afraid of the water, I’m conditioned to feel this way. But why? I can say I know how to swim now, and while I’m not the best at it, I know I can handle myself in the water. On my snorkeling trip, I stood on the back of that boat, felt the fear, and jumped in anyway! And after having to be rescued, I jumped in again! My failure wasn’t having to be helped out the first time, it would have been to never have tried at all. In the end I DID succeed and it felt great. And I look forward to having the chance to improve my snorkeling skills next time. I now look at the deep end of my pool with a sense of calm instead of fear. What’s six feet of pool water in my backyard compared to the deep ocean?! I can handle it!
What you tell yourself is very powerful. Read Susan Jeffer’s book and let me know what you think!
-Lynn Faughey, FlexPro COO