I began writing this on holiday, where I often get new insights with the refresh I feel physically, mentally and emotionally. We have been in Madeira, attracted by the climate, the amazing scenery and the promise of delightful walks. So why the subject of fear? Two incidents on the first two days of our holiday that had me genuinely scared.I will recount these briefly to give some context.
“Are you driving a getaway car?” I often ask hubbie, who is not known for his patience in planning our route to anywhere! This was no exception a quick tap into the sat nav, missed turns and before we knew it we were driving down the road shown in the photo below.
The following day, we decided to do a Levada walk, starting just up the road with Levada Moinho linking to Levada Nova. We didn’t even have to get in the car, which was a relief. For someone who has just written a book on needs analysis and using data, you may be shocked to hear I had not researched the route very much. If I had I may have read the warnings about steep drops and lack of handrails. By the time I reached the sections with a 500ft drop and no handrails we were well over half way around. No going back……
The picture below was on a relatively tame stretch ……..
Seeing two guys walking a dog, one with flip flops on, strangely comforted me. “ The walk must be easy from here on in” I thought to myself. I am extremely scared of heights and having walking poles helped to some extent, it helped steady me, though I could only use one as the path was not wide enough for two.
With each precipitous section I would steel myself and sing “The sun has got his hat on” (heaven knows why!) and marching tentatively to the rhythm of the song. Other times I would swear…… badly and other times pray.
I got through it, but the feeling of fear has stayed with me and got me thinking. Got me thinking about how at times I have been fearful and overcome that fear anyway. Got me thinking about times that fear has prevented me from being who I really am. Got me thinking about when others have said that I am brave.
So times I have been fearful and overcome it:
- As a graduate engineer working on partially constructed gantries hundreds of feet up in the air. Had a job to do and just got on with it
- Same job, getting into small, dark, enclosed spaces (another fear). Had a job to do and just got on with it.
- Moving from engineering to IT training when I used to get panic attacks just presenting, found my love of helping people to develop. The fear melted when I felt the interaction grow and that I was conversing with individuals not a whole room of people.
- Speaking to a large conference audience over 200, I survived by doing what I know I do well, having a clear plan, audience participation and a sense of fun
- Selling over 2000 valentine cards to raise money for tsunami victims (I had only asked for 100!), I found resources I never knew I had.
There are many more stories I could add but all the stories have different learning points about fear and how sometimes it has a point and at other times just holds me back.
‘Feelings of fear are engendered by dangerous situations’ says Frederic Neumann. Fair enough, your fear may have a genuine reason for it. In situations where your life is threatened it’s essential so that you don’t go too far and lose your life. Other times the fear is not rational and hence can be a hinderance.
Here are some of the things I have learned so far about fear:
- Fear can keep you alert when in dangerous situations and focus your mind on staying alive. In those situations, it has a clear purpose.
- Overcoming a HUGE fear of public speaking led me to the most delicious career I could have chosen, it was worth it. Removing the fear allowed me to see and experience something I may not ever have thought I would enjoy.
- I often have exceeded my own expectations, surprised myself, because a fear may have held me back even from believing I could achieve something. So, the fear does more than stop you, it limits further belief in yourself.
- People have called me brave, for starting my own business, for writing a book, but in all honesty in those particular situations I have not been fearful, so was I brave?
Whatever your experiences of fear, at times I think it helpful to reflect on which type of fear you are experiencing. Is it ‘staying alive’ type or the ‘holding me back’ rational or irrational type? Once we have identified the root, in my experience we can then decide whether it is worth getting over it or just going with it.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be a lot more conscious of my fears, just because of this reflection and hoping that I can be wholly me, no holds barred. There are still a few little corners here and there littered with ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’ so worth the effort, I think.
So I am curious……which fears are serving you well and which are holding you back I wonder…… ?