"But I’m scared of heights" was what I heard repeatedly this weekend.
Two of my little sisters came to stay and we decided to take them to Go Ape - an obstacle and zip wire course in the tree tops of Wendover Woods.
I knew the 15 year old was scared of heights and I still took her.
I may be a very bad sister.
12 years ago I did a bungee jump, 12 years ago I also jumped out of a plane to do a skydive. I remember being terrified, convinced that I would be the exception to the rule in all the safety statistics but being acutely aware that there was a coachload of people waiting for me to do it so I felt like I had to do it as much for them as me. I didn’t want to let them down and the fear of the embarrassment of not doing it beat the fear of jumping/falling. I did them both and I remember the level of adrenalin I experienced, I had never experienced anything like it before and I haven’t experienced anything like it since. It was incredible.
The problem is that I’ve got older now and that fearless 20-something that I was before seems to have been left over in New Zealand, somewhere between sambuca shots whilst dancing on tables and trekking across a glacier. I wouldn’t say I was now scared of heights but as I clambered up each of those rope ladders this weekend, I was counting the points that something could go wrong and my sister would be proved right.
My fearlessness was having a wobble.
It got me thinking, can we grow out of our fears and overcome them so they don’t overtake our lives? And can we develop fears that we didn’t have as a child?
15 years ago I was in the bar of my boyfriend's football club and the whole room started chanting my name, they were trying to make me stand up and sing karaoke. I froze, I couldn't move yet the chanting continued. They wouldn't stop, I was dragged up to the front and a microphone thrust into my hand, I was shaking, I did the worst, and probably quietest rendition of You're the One that I Want that you've ever heard.
There was my fear. Gelotophobia - the fear of being laughed at.
I still don't like large groups of people, I still have a constant worry that people are laughing at me if I'm not in on the joke but the fear has subsided.
I imagine that's confidence, growing up, maturity. Fear isn't irrational, it's non-rational. Mostly, it operates to save our lives, and inspires rational thought and behavior, unless it overpowers you and it becomes panic. I am by no means saying that everyone can overcome fears, not at all. Everyone reacts differently but some people and some fears can be managed.
Check out this article for some suggestions on how to do that. Hopefully my sister’s fear is transient and will pass with time, Children are less motivated to overcome their fears, they don’t need to, their parents are there to protect them and will often provide a workaround. (It would appear that older sisters are less focused on that...)
When you reach adult life, yes, you are more in control of your own destiny but adults are also more aware of the impact that their fears are having on their lives and are so more motivated to find a solution.
I may be a very bad sister, but she did it, we all did. And for me that is one step further to not letting our fears stop us. It is so easy to stay in your comfortable world but being scared is a sign that we are stepping outside our comfort zone and taking control.
Being scared is our head and heart telling us we are doing something challenging and more often that not, it’s worth it. Do something every week that scares you.
FEAR IS NOTHING MORE THAN OBSTACLE THAT STANDS IN THE WAY OF PROGRESS. IN OVERCOMING OUR FEARS WE CAN MOVE FOWARD. STRONGER AND WISER WITHIN OURSELVES.