In life, everyone has things that they fear. That they avoid or deflect because of fear. Some people may struggle with this more than others, but I think everyone has something. Something that stops them dead in their tracks. I have a lot of these. I used to have even more. One of the things I have been learning about myself over the last couple of years is where I have allowed fear to stop me. I have a mentor who used to say to me almost everyday, “Do what you fear and fear disappears.” Like a mantra. And I tried to live by this. I thought I was living by it. But what I found is that there are still a ton of things that I don’t do because of fear, and I didn’t even realize it. The reason this is so important for me to share is that I know others can relate and I know there are people who may be looking for help with this. There may even be people who don’t think they are doing it, but actually are and maybe could benefit from hearing about fear.
Really, what is fear? Quite literally and scientifically speaking, fear is a response to danger. We often hear the term fight or flight. Psychologytools.com defines the fight or flight response as this: “The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee.” Our body responds to fear in certain physical ways that are beyond our control. Everyone has different things that trigger this response. The thing is that a lot of the times that we are avoiding something or deflecting something in our lives, it is because of fear. We may not even be aware of it. Something I have been learning is how to recognize when I am feeling fearful and maybe want to avoid something and then looking at it and saying to myself “Why am I afraid to do this?” and then finding ways to make myself do the task at hand that I am avoiding. I tend to avoid important conversations. I avoid conflict so I keep my thoughts and feelings to myself, a lot of the time. This has not served me well in my past. Fear kept me in a toxic relationship far too long. Fear now affects my current relationship. So, I need to address this in my life. I am learning and growing and taking steps to better myself for the people I care about, for my relationships, for my future and success. For me. I need to do this for me. I am really finding that being outdoors and getting into these types of activities and this lifestyle is truly helping me with this aspect of my growth and healing.
As a woman, we are kind of conditioned to live in constant fear. Maybe not everyone, but I feel that this is something that comes from society. Not just parents. It comes from every direction. We are always told that we are “the gentler sex” or that we are vulnerable. That we need protection. While I do believe this is true to a certain extent, I think when we hear this all the time we begin to believe it. We believe that we are always in danger of being victimized. We feel weak. While I think we should be mindful and careful not to put ourselves into dangerous situations (that really goes for anyone, that is just survival) I think we need to take back the power. We can be strong and powerful. It’s more of a mental game than I physical one. But we need to be the one driving our lives and not relying on other people, men or women. I always thought of myself as pretty independent. I was an only child so I value my alone time and personal space. This makes me pretty independent most of the time, but there are times I find myself saying “Well, I wouldn’t do that alone.” or I’ll think “I wish someone would take me out to do x, y and z.” Now I am taking myself out. Doing the things I want to do. Sometimes I take my kids and sometimes I just go out on my own to have a good day with myself. It helps me in so many ways. While I don’t think you should go into the woods completely alone or do anything that would be truly dangerous, I encourage you to take a day to just go out on your own. I like to go to the lake to fish and I go alone, but there are always people around. Always be mindful and aware of your surroundings when you are in nature, but don’t let fear stop you from going out at all. There are things you can do to be safe. But don’t avoid activities that you love or just being in nature because of fear.
Some things that help me, is first, just to decide to do it. Recently I was talking with my daughter and I was saying that I really wanted to go camping just the 3 of us (me and my 2 daughters) and instead of just talking about doing it, in that moment I went online and booked the soonest available day and just said “We are doing it! I’ll make it work!” I have never gone camping without someone else. Without a man around. When I booked the reservation, I did make sure there were campsites on either side of us so if there is an emergency we won’t be completely alone in the wilderness. It’s a public camp site right on one of the lakes that I like to fish. (I do plan on sharing this adventure here so stay tuned for that.) You just have to decide to do something and take the first steps to making it happen.
Now, when there is something that scares you and you get those physical reactions that maybe normally would stop you from taking action, there are some things you can do. The important thing is to first think about something that really scares you, but maybe that you want to do, and notice what happens in your body. Does your stomach turn? Do your hands shake? Do you get a lump in your throat? Maybe you feel a tightness in your chest or you start sweating. Whatever that physical reaction to fear is… Take note of that. Then when you come across a situation that scares you, that maybe shouldn’t (like just speaking your mind or sharing your emotions… These are not truly life threatening) you can recognize it and calm yourself down. So if you feel anxious, stop and say “why is this scaring me? What am I afraid of?” and acknowledge it, but then you can change it and either come up with a way that would make it easier for you to face or you can just build yourself up and know that you can do it. Even if it scares you. The important thing is that you need to redirect your mind to stop the physical response so that you can move in a direction. Any direction.
Courage isn’t the lack of fear. Courage is doing something even if it scares you. Even if your voice shakes and your palms sweat. If your knees are weak and your stomach is tied in knots. Take that first step. Then the second. Courage is not allowing that fear stop you. Everyone can do this. It isn’t easy. This could be a life long battle, but there are tools that you have to over come and work through these moments.
Being involved in outdoor activities (like fishing or camping) really helps to build up my own confidence and inner strength. I know that I am capable of things now I didn’t think I could do just a few years ago. Every time I go out I try something new and I do something different so that I know that I can. This helps to empower me in my life. I am taking my daughters out and teaching them this too. I hope they learn earlier in life than I did what they are capable of. I still struggle with anxiety and fear, but it gets easier with every new adventure because I know that no matter what I have the ability to figure it out. To find a way or just to change the plan. Sometimes things don’t go as planned so you have to figure something else out. Problem solving and creating solutions in fishing, camping or hiking really does allow me to know that I am fully capable. If I am capable of finding solutions in smaller tasks, then I know when something bigger in life comes along, that I am capable of solving that one as well. It’s a process. It’s growth. We never stop learning or growing.
So… If there is something you want to do, but have been afraid to do it, take the first step. Plan the day. Book it or take the day off and decide to do it. Then, go out and do it. And have fun! Make it a good day. Be your own hero. Because you deserve to have a life without fear.