What is fear? Dictionary.com lists it as: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” So. It’s just an emotion. Is it a necessary one? When is fear helpful? I suppose it might put us in a heightened state of attention if we’re alone in a dark parking garage and hear someone behind us. But does fear lead us to make good decisions in dangerous situations? Generally not. Without control of fear, we tend to surround the evolutionary fight or flight response with panic and fast breathing, which depletes our brain of necessary oxygen to make smart choices quickly.
Learning to control fear through intentional slow breathing, visualization techniques, and power over our minds, helps us in every single area of our lives. We all have our own unique fears. I can stand on top of the highest building, highest ledge, or hang out the door of an airplane 3,000 feet above ground (close enough to still see details and perceive the height), and feel only thrill. But if a roach crawls across my foot, or if I have to give a presentation to a group of people, I’m a quivering mass of nerves. No matter how brave we might be in one situation, another one will come along that will turn us into a scared child. ALL of us need to practice conquering fear.
For myself, the experience of becoming a licensed skydiver, was the most helpful in learning calming, fear-fighting methods. Heights and airplanes have never scared me, but landing under a parachute certainly does. I have over 350 jumps, and I had to overcome landing fear on every single skydive. At around jump 60, I broke my femur with a bad landing. I knew there was no choice but to get back up in the air as soon as possible. Some of my friends questioned my sanity then, thinking that my fear was proven right – that danger can and did happen, therefore, it was obvious I could never jump again. I found that logic extremely faulty.
Setbacks in life are a sure thing. None of us escape mistakes, injuries, accidents, or bad decisions. We are not perfect, and no one else is either. Being human means we will not have a perfect life, nor will we have perfect experiences all the time. If we allow a setback to stop us from enjoying the things we love in this life, what have we done? We’ve limited ourselves. And we can keep on limiting ourselves until we’re wrapped in a bubble in a padded room with no visitors…or…we can dust ourselves off, and get back to living the way we’re meant to live.
My first jump back after my femur break, was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever experienced. I was sick all day. I wanted to run away, I prayed for rain, and I shed a tear or two. But I left myself no other choice. So I did it. My landing was pretty messy, but the elation I felt after, was like no other. I had won. And what did I win? The knowledge that I could do ANYTHING. That I was stronger than my fear. My fear was greater than any other obstacle I could imagine, and instead of letting it stop me from doing what I really wanted to do – I kicked its ass.
My choice to experience adventure in many forms has given me…well…I can’t even put into words what it’s given me. Had I let fear keep me from all the joy, bliss, purity, and shared memories with absolutely extraordinary people…I would be a lesser being for it. Conquering fear has allowed my spirit to grow. It has made me a better, stronger, more independent, confident person. There’s no excuse for letting fear win. What fear will you conquer today?