Face your fears

Darkness.

Heights.

Water.

Caves.

Earthquakes.

Lizards.

These are just a handful of things I’m afraid of. There was a time when I couldn’t even look at a body of water at night.

I’d imagine that darkness and water would join forces and swallow me whole.

I’d close my eyes when walking over bridges (‘coz then it was a triple whammy of height plus water plus darkness!). It was foolish. And I don’t know where I acquired such paranoia, but it was debilitating.

As I grew older, I learned how to mask my fear … but internally I was still crying, “Help me!”

A couple of years ago, as my husband and I were on one of our post-dinner walks in Iowa City, I tugged at his hand a little stronger, closed my eyes, and tried to stay in step with him. He turned around and asked what happened … I shook my head, opening my eyes ever so slightly and mumbled something about this being romantic.

“Romantic?!?!?!”

He was on to me. “What are you hiding? Are you afraid of something?”

I nodded meekly, still not having the courage to acknowledge my surroundings. We were on a bridge — let me be more specific — smack dab in the middle of a bridge. All I wanted was to cross it.

He insisted I open my eyes. Having known him long enough, I knew he wasn’t going to budge. We’d spend the night here.

So, I figured if I continued holding on to him, I’d be fine. Slowly I opened my eyes, focusing intently on his face. “There,” I said boldly. “Now can we walk?”

He shook his head, “No. Look around you.”

Grudgingly, I did — empty streets, moonless night, a couple of stars mocking at me.

“Now, let’s look at the water,” he said approaching the stone wall of the wretched bridge.

Here I was, a two-year-old in the body of a 20-something woman. If only I could disappear.

I knew he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Feigning courage, I peered over the wall and looked at the gushing river beneath.

Black water. So alive. So agile. It could leap up and take me with it in a flash.

I felt his hand around my shoulder. “So, what’s scary about this?” I couldn’t put it in words.

There I was. Looking fear in the eye. And the more intently I gazed at the water, in this darkness, from 10 feet above, the less fearful I became.

The idea of “fear” was more concrete at that moment, than the fear itself.

A couple of months later on our first vacation to Honolulu, we decided to take a moonlit stroll on the beach. All the fearful ideas came swarming back. But as I lay under a starry sky, feeling the wind in my hair and the sand between my toes, I stared into the vast blackness of the ocean.

For the first time in my life, I saw beauty. I could look at the shimmering water, the silver surf, the oneness of the sky and sea, this whole mass of black — and not be afraid.

I still wouldn’t agree to swimming in the ocean at night, but I won’t entirely run away from the idea of taking a dip in a well-lit pool. 😉

As with darkness, heights, and water my other fears are simply figments of my imagination. Seeds that were sown sometime in my childhood, perhaps. Seeds that grew into full-blown trees that took root in my mind. Gripping me strongly.

I’ve learned that the first step to overcoming one’s fear is to acknowledge it. Just doing that takes a lot of courage — it’s a reflection of one’s weakness. Vulnerability. Lack of control.

But once you’ve accepted it, you can take steps to overcome it. It all boils down to what you want: to live a life of fear and regrets, a life of limited experiences; or a life full of opportunities waiting to be grabbed.

I want to be able to enjoy snorkeling. I want to taste the freedom that comes with paragliding. I want to marvel at fireflies in caves. I want to know what it feels like to be on top of the world — literally.

I want to escape the security of a nine-to-five routine. I want to embrace the unknown. I want to be free!

Life is too short and I am in the sweet spot where my desires far outweigh my fears.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Face your fears

  1. Nice Mansi, Fear can be very hard to overcome & I agree the first step is to acknowledge it then the best way I’ve found is understand where it came from…usually from our parents or other adults when we were a child saying things like “Watch out that bridge could break & you could fall into the water” They don’t realize they’re instilling fear they’re just trying to be protective…but that’s how it starts.

    I’ve written about fear before so many of us live our lives in so much fear that we don’t enjoy the life we have….let go of the fear & live a joyous life!!

    Hugs,

    Bill

    • That’s very insightful, Bill. Parenthood is filled with responsibilities, and there are so many things we say or do as parents that can have a lifelong impact on our kids, despite good intentions. I just hope to be able to overcome these irrational fears and be a stronger person for it.

  2. Well done…actually the only way to overcome your fears is to stand up and face them, else they will keep haunting you 4ever!

  3. I don’t have many fears (at least those I know of) but I really do not know how to face them. Maybe it will take time, but for now I do not come very often across things that scare me, so I guess it is fine. For now.

  4. Lizards don’t scare me, they disgust me somehow by their looks.. and I am not afraid of any of the other things u mentioned.. one of my fear is of loosing my loved ones.. and just the thought of facing that is unbearably painful..

  5. I have one too many fears, but the good thing is that we don’t have to face them all at once. We can learn to overcome them one step at a time. I hope you will conquer your fears & get to do all of those things you mentioned! 🙂

  6. Congrats for facing up to your fears! I know it can be one of the most difficult things to do.

    Thankfully, I don’t have any that have been crippling, though I don’t really like heights that much. That being said, it’s more a fear of heights when I have nothing to support me than anything else. I’m fine if there’s a nice wall to look over, down at the ground 300 stories below.

    An open railing? Ummmm, not so much.

  7. I can really relate to what you are saying here. Yes, unless we face our fears, we can be held captive by them.

    I am very afraid of spiders! Yet, I love to fish, to hike, walking in the forest, climbing in the mountains – just about anything outdoors when it’s warm. Yes, this equals spiders. So, this means I’ve had to learn to do my best in order to enjoy the things that I love.

    Now – if they come into my home, that’s a whole different story. LoL

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