A Season of Firsts: Conquering Fear
At the end of last year, I got this crazy idea. What would happen if I made an effort to try several new things for the first quarter of the year? Part of me did it so I could survive winter (seriously folks, February is my least favorite month). Part of me did it because I wanted to expand my horizons. But most of me did it because I like to fight fear. I want to show you how to deal with fear.
Fear. All of us have our own definition of what it means to be afraid. For some, it’s completely crippling. Others need that rush to feel alive. I fall somewhere in between. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about fear, it’s that it is the single thing that holds us back in life, no matter what the obstacle is.
Exposure Therapy: Facing the Fear of Falling
I’m a rock climber, well, of sorts. Heights and I fight an ongoing battle. Long drops cripple me in an instant. As a result, I’ve been glacially slow to progress as a climber. Four years in and I decided enough was enough. Before I could think twice, I enrolled in a whip therapy course where all I would do was take lead falls for two and a half hours straight.
Exposure therapy (no pun intended) is a bold way to kick fear right in the face. Take a deep breath and expose yourself to your deepest fears over and over again. It takes gusto to force yourself to face that fear, but once that initial shock wears off, you’ll find yourself craving that feeling. When we conquer a dark place in our minds, we open ourselves up to growth.
Stare Fear in the Face and Try Something New
New activities keep us on our toes. Sure, it may be scary, but the thrill of the unknown teaches us to face our innermost fears. Perhaps we feel unable to rise to the challenge. Or maybe we don’t know if we will like a particular challenge. You’ll never know if you don’t try, so stand up to the fear of being the new kid in town.
Ice climbing was a new endeavour for me. Instead of focusing on the fear of being new, I focused on how to enjoy something different. I didn’t go in expecting to send crazy routes, but I did go in expecting to learn something new about myself. When you try something new, keep an open mind and latch on to what you enjoy, not what you are challenged by.
Learn from Others: Facing the Fear of Being Inadequate
Sometimes we say no to opportunities because we don’t think we are worthy of them. A group of friends ask you to join them on a really tough hike, but you say no because you don’t want to hold the group back. That fear stems from our own anxiety to perform.
Recently, a friend asked me to go on a backcountry hut trip. I’ve never skinned up miles of the backcountry with overnight gear on my back and the people I traveled with were all stronger and more experienced than me. But, I said yes. Instead of allowing my fear of keeping up hold me back, I let go of my anxiety. Instead, the weekend will be a learning experience.
Letting Go: Facing the Fear of Missing Out
One big twist in my recent exploits has been splitboarding. I am not new to this sport. In fact, I’ve been snowboarding for well over 20 years. However, the last few times I’ve been on a splitboard, I’ve been dead miserable. Skinning up the hill isn’t so bad. I like skinning trails and enjoy being outside. But dear god, the downhill is terrible. Shocker: it’s supposed to be the fun part. I can’t get the board to turn, I posthole, often punch through streams and generally have a shitty time. I’ve realized, much to my disappointment, the sport simply isn’t for me.
This came as a surprise since I agreed to go on my first backcountry hut trip here in two weeks. But you know what? I’m ok not liking it. It’s ok not to love everything you try. It’s even more ok to let go of the need to be “hardcore” in the outdoors. The point is to have fun out there. I’m still going on my hut trip, but I let go of all my expectations for the trip.
Like a many-headed hydra, fear rears its head in a variety of ways. When we say yes to fear, we say yes to growth and new opportunities.