Friday, May 16, 2014

The only thing to fear is fear itself?

'The only thing to fear is fear itself', as President Roosevelt famously announced. But is it? I think there are plenty of healthy fears we can have - for me, I have a healthy fear of big hairy tarantulas (not quite a phobia I'd say), and a healthy fear of big drops (again, not heights per se, it's the drops that worry me more!). 

Recently I've been enjoying watching extreme sports on Red Bull TV (currently my favourite channel by a long long way) - people with seemingly no fear climbing up and jumping off buildings, extreme snow sports, insane mountain biking.. All things that are well beyond my comfort zone. I definitely don't have the killer instinct to do that kind of stuff! 

I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to play it safe - possibly even a natural bias. I'm not the natural risk taker, adrenaline seeker that you see on Red Bull TV. That's not to say that I don't like pushing myself and I've completed my fair share of triathlons and less extreme sports events in my time. A few months ago I finally dusted off my road bike and went cycling with a friend for the first time in about three years. I've had no problem keeping fit in the meantime (I've been doing a solid amount of running while my bike was hibernating), and all was going ok on the ride to begin with. The flat sections were fine, we even climbed up Clent, a very steep and long local hill, which went really well. 

Unfortunately I discovered that I had a problem when we got to the top. The problem was this - I'd completely lost my guts for going downhill at anything more than walking speed (hard to do on a roadbike built for speed). It was embarrassing, and it was a shamefully slow ride down. I've been wondering quite how to regain my cycling mojo ever since. I need to build my confidence up again, and regain a healthy relationship and trust in my bike and bike handling skills.

Notwithstanding my current lack of mojo for cycling down hills, in general as I've grown more and more into my skin in the last decade or so, I've felt more able and empowered to take positive risks. As I reflect on it, I think that often the fear of what other people may think of me has held me back, along with the fear of the unknown. Perhaps being more secure in myself helps me to make decisions more consistent with who I believe I'm made to be, rather than who other people think I should be.

None of us are exempt from fears, and whilst I'm not necessarily seeking a cure for my fear of giant tarantulas (I see Dudley zoo offer 'hands on' sessions to overcome this.. No thanks!!), it's often the everyday fears that delay us making a decision or doing something we should.

Something I've found helpful on a day to day basis is asking myself (often but not always at work) the question: what would I do if I wasn't afraid? I find this helps me get a sense of perspective, to step to one side of what I may or may not be feeling, and take positive action. Sometimes the answer is to make a phone call, speak to someone, put something 'out there' - I find the question a helpful way of overcoming roadblocks in my thinking or doing. My gran used to say 'the sooner you face up to your problems, the sooner they go away', which is a good point! 

While I don't think that the *only* thing to fear is fear itself (big hairy spiders and big drops being valid in my opinion), I do agree that fear for its own sake can be debilitating. For me, knowing the love of my God, my wife, kids and family has made me happier in how I'm made, and more able to face those fears and take those positive risks to be the best expression of 'me' that I can be. 

Maybe, like me, you need to rebuild your confidence with something. I literally need to get back on my bike and face some (smaller) hills. What could you do today, this week, this year if you weren't afraid? Maybe asking yourself that question will help you to take a sidestep around roadblocks in your mind and heart to find a positive way forward.

Thanks for reading, I'd love to hear your comments, or any stories you may have of overcoming your fears. 

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