Face Your Fear – How fear made me a better person
I started searching for information about how to face your fear because, here I was, just turned 30, and I was too afraid to do anything. It felt like an anchor holding me back and that needed to change.
“I am going to skydive this weekend…” I nonchalantly stated while I was passing a work report to my boss. The look on his face said it all, but what he actually said was “Well, hope you finished all of your work”. He was joking of course, and that was it for our interaction. That wasn’t the end for me though – I was going to face my fears. Here is my journey so that you too can begin to face your fear.
Why I decided to research “Face Your Fear”
For the last 30 years fear kept me from swimming, skiing, rock climbing, kayaking… Basically, it kept me from living my life to the fullest. When I finally realized how much of live you’d miss out on if you didn’t face your fear, I decided I was determined to change that immediately.
A study conducted by the Harvard Medical School, and reported by the National Institute of Mental Health in 2017, found that an estimate 12.5% of U.S. adults experience specific phobias at least once in our life. To understand why to face your fear, you also may need to understand a fear or phobia. They define a specific phobia as an intense, irrational fear of something that poses little or no actual danger. The most common fears include: fear of animals, of heights, of falling, of death or social anxiety. Some could argue that these fears aren’t irrational and are justified, so really it comes down to how your fear is impacting your life. Most of us work around our fears and instead avoid triggering situations in which they may come up. That is what I had been doing.
My life impact
The urge to research “face your fear” began because my husband is a pretty sporty guy. He rides a bike to work everyday, during the winter he’s big into snowboarding, and he loves to freedive. For our leisure time, I was not the best pick as a companion. After reading an article about exposure therapy, I started to think about a DIY cure for my fears: extreme sports. Might sound… well, extreme, but it gets easier if you keep at it.
Exposure therapy – the concept to help face your fear
First, I am not an expert so please be sure to seek professional help to face your fear. This is my personal experience with exposure therapy and I am using my time learning how to scuba dive as my example.
Exposure therapy is the most successful known treatment used to face your fear. We could talk about real or imaginal exposure, either way there are analyses showing a reduction of fear in 90% of the cases when using this technique. The patient is faced with the source of the phobia and, being gradually exposed to it, the anxiety dissipates.
People often give up trying to face an anxiety, thinking that you either excel in that activity or you don’t. I am either good at snowboarding or I am not; so instead of getting lessons, you just quite. I think differently about that concept entirely. For me the key is to figure out how to feel good about the activity. In the instance of scuba diving, since I was a very bad swimmer and terrified about water, I decided to become a PADI certified scuba diver. My rational was that my fear stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t yet a good swimmer, which in turn made me uncomfortable and scared. Diving into full training for a PADI certified scuba diver should give me all the tools I need to become a better swimmer and thus less afraid.
The Journey to Face Your Fear
My first attempt in the pool, and a couple of others after that, where merely me just trying not to burst into tears when I saw the water. Some people dream about diving 40 m or more, I was struggling for 3. But after each session I was so proud of myself, that my comfort level began to get better every day.
I started to feel more comfortable with the environment. I got quicker at putting the equipment on and less fearful when I had to push to the center of the pool. I practiced “scuba diving” in my tub at home, trying not to accidentally drink all the water when my head went under. Eventually, the pool seemed like a routine, any easy every day activity that I could comfortably handle, so we we headed out to the seaside.
Face your fear all over again when details change. Diving in the sea is scary, there are tones of things that could go wrong. To help myself, I made a list of everything I needed to know before going underwater: will we go deep, is there anyone I can rely on if my equipment fails, can I call it off at anytime? And, if so, will someone be available to pick me up and get me back on the sand?
I did my dives, it was fine, nothing terrible happened and I felt 100% accomplished when I saw my certification. I faced my fear.
When visiting Dubai for Christmas, I asked my husband to come dive with me. He was amazed by the progress I had made and the calmness of it all. We dived to 12 m, which does not seem like a lot, but I was focused on what I could see and not on what I could feel. To face your fear it is important to celebrate every incremental improvement.
Can I mark myself cured? Maybe so.
Today I have added being a skier to my list as well. I am slower than a turtle, but with a grin on my face, I continue to make it down the mountain. I manged to skydived and actually found it was fun, after it was scary first however. Rock climbing is fine, but not as astonishing as paragliding. I have been a pilot for 4 years now, although I am still afraid of heights. I tried piloting an airplane and kayaking (not at the same time ).
What I am trying to say is fear is temporary. It can last for a day, a week, a month, a year or ten years. It is up to you to decide if it worth it to face your fear. When addressed, your fear will subside. You only need patience. And a determined heart.