Ironically, fear can be somewhat of a funny thing. And I don’t mean something to laugh at. When examining your fears, you often realize many fears exist in your head. There are certainly things to be afraid of, yet there is really no reason at all to be afraid.
I will never forget the day that one young girl I used to coach stood up on the high beam for the first time, her face painted with fear. Shaking legs, ghost-white skin, scared out of her mind. Even with a hand to hold, she wouldn’t budge.
Gymnastics can be like that though. It’s not always easy. A lot of the time, it can be downright terrifying. But really, that’s the beauty of it. Fear is an awful feeling. Yet overcoming fear can be the most amazing feeling in the world.
Other than the obvious – scared of trying something for the first time – I knew I had to pinpoint exactly what it it was that had this girl so frozen with fear.
“What are you afraid of I?” I asked her. “Falling,” she stammered. Mindful of the other kids in the class who were itching to move, I knew I had to tackle the situation head on, and fast.
“Jump down,” I urged. And there she went, down onto her feet onto the mat. Perfectly okay, and I reminded her of that. “You see? Falling can be scary, but a lot of the time you have to practice the things you’re scared of too.”
After carefully getting her to climb back up again, slowly but surely, she began to walk. Anytime she started to freeze up, I’d signal her the okay to jump down again.
While the other girls continued to move through their basics, this girl continued to push through her fear of walking – and falling – from the high beam. Instead of working on perfecting her walks to prevent her from falling, we worked on just the opposite. We did exactly what she was afraid of, and conquered the fear head on.
As her mother captured the moment on video, I did everything in my power not to tear up. After all, she was only doing a simple walk across the beam. Why was I getting so emotional about it?
I later realized it was so much more than that.
“What are you afraid of?” I began to ask myself. At the time, I was working on the publication of my second book. I knew it was important to get it out there into the world…yet, there was a part of me that was so incredibly scared about what people would think of it.
I began to think of all of the very real but unreasonable fears that often tend to hold people back. Fear of putting ourselves out there. Of judgement. Fear of what others will think. Fear of falling, of getting hurt. Fear of failure. Fear of being alone. Fear of the unknown.
In examining this young girl’s ability to face her fears in a matter of minutes, I realized the subtle act of tackling one’s own fears. That if we truly want to get rid of our fears, we have to identify them, and then keep doing what it is we’re afraid of it. Eventually, we realize that the only thing holding us back – the fear of the thing – is absolutely a block that only we’ve created for ourselves.
Because in life we WILL fall. We just have to get back up and try again. We have to put ourselves out there, or our goals may ever happen. We often experience some trouble before we finally succeed – so long as we don’t run away and hide and let the fear take over. We at least have to try.
And with that, I leave you with a few words of wisdom from the master fear-facers, and the hope that you too will practice what you think you cannot accomplish, and master it with ease.
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.”
– Helen Keller
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”
– Marcus Aurelius
“Our greatest glory is not never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.”
– Japanese Proverb
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt