We are all afraid of something! Everyone of us. It is ingrained into us, we are supposed to have fear in our lives, it is what keeps us alive. And it is passed on from one generation to another, we have evolved to be afraid of certain things, because we might die if we don’t listen to our instincts in some situations.
For example – being afraid of the dark. As a cave person you were likely to be entering the home of something that is planning to eat you, that is a very good reason to stay away from there and your brain tells you this by making you feel uneasy, anxious and the need to leave. (Fight, flight or freeze) As original humans, we would have been far more in tune with our instincts and paid attention to our basal brain and stayed alive for another day at least.
Some of our fears can’t be explained, and that is ok, it is a very personal thing and not something you should be ashamed of. That fear is in you to keep you alive. Something happened once, that your brain and body didn’t like, so it won’t let you put yourself in that position again. Our brain is really smart, it will always try to keep us alive over everything else.
How a person can deal with fear tells us a lot about them, I think. We can’t judge and have a generic way of dealing with fear as none are the same and we all have different coping mechanisms for these situations. Personally, I am terrified of sea creatures and deep water, yet I can swim really well for a long time in a pool. Don’t even get me started on sea life centres!! There is no logical reason as to why I am afraid of tiny things bobbing around in a body of water, but my body just goes into overdrive; sweating, fast heart rate, dilated pupils, arms folded in across my chest, on overwhelming urge to run away or be as small as possible, tense muscles and tears, lots of snot bubbles and general messy face times.
I have decided to use this year as a turning point, and set myself challenges to complete each month, with the aim of achieving growth and focus, learning to love me again and figure out who I want to be. This has involved doing some scary things, but by far the most terrifying thing I have done was walking round a sea life centre. Luckily, I had 2 wonderful humans to support me through my voluntary torture. How they weren’t rolling in the isles at my ridiculous antics in the shark tunnel I will never know, but having them beside me, actually that is a lie they were mostly in front of me, helped me to feel brave. Reminding me that I need to breathe and focus on what I am doing, where I am and that I am totally safe. It took me a long time to do it but I managed to walk through the shark tunnel and go past all the other things, I actually stopped to watch for a minute as the big fish swam around and saw the peaceful majesty that everyone else can, while I was frozen to the spot shaking life a leaf, but standing there in my worst nightmare and being totally fine was a huge wake up call. Most of the time the thought of the thing you fear is a lot worse than the actual thing itself.
One of my wonderful friends is an expert at dealing with anxiety and she was so patient with me and gave me words of wisdom all the way round, the other was a complete tool and kept trying to make me laugh and ease the tension. Both were exactly what I needed and managed to get me through something that I found particularly distressing.
Some of the words of wisdom that were given to me;
- “your body is telling you to be small and hold your arms in front to protect you, try to breathe and open up, you will feel more powerful and in control” – it really does work. Standing still, taking a couple of really deep breaths and taking your arms away from your chest. It helped me take steps forwards towards the tanks
- “try and stay where you feel uncomfortable, until it doesn’t feel that way anymore” – again, it really worked. Realising that nothing bad was going to happen and I was totally fine made it so much easier to watch the fish swim by
- “if it gets too much, it is totally ok to take a step back to where you were last ok and start again” – this had never crossed my mind, I have always been a dive in and hope for the best kind of girl, it is going to suck so just get it done. It works in most situations, but not over coming your fear. I managed to do it, with my friends advice. Just take a step back to where you felt ok, refocus and go again
I wouldn’t say that I was happy about being in the sea life centre but by the end, I was ok with standing and watching the big ones swim around and seeing their beauty. I would probably say that I am looking forward to trying again and actually having a nice, educational experience rather than trying to climb the walls to get out. I was so proud that I had managed to complete the walk around and actually watched the fish swim around, I feel completely unstoppable now.
I know that we don’t all have the same fears, but we can all learn something here. Just following the advice, I have jotted down above, it could help you to try to face yours and feel the sheer power and pride from facing it head on.
- Breathe and open up
- stay where you are until you feel ok again
- If it gets too much, go back a couple of steps, and wait
Some people are terrified to step foot into a fitness centre, they know they need to change and go there but there is no logic behind why they can’t, they just freeze. For others it is public showers or just being vulnerable in a public space. Now I have been through this exercise myself, I believe that I am in a much better situation to help deal with these fears of others. I have much stronger understanding of what they are feeling and how my friends helped me to feel better so I can impart this knowledge onto them and at least try to make it bit easier for them to cope.
It is ok to have fear and be aware of it, but it is not ok to be afraid and make decisions based on that.
What are you afraid of?